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TBR News July 14, 2020

Jul 14 2020

 

The Voice of the White House
Comments, July 14, 2020” There are small, nervous groups of Senate Republicans meeting here and there in Washington, and other places, to decide on just how they can ditsh Trump and still have the votes of the Republican citizens. There is no doubt this will happen but the methodology is being worked out. Trump is a bye-bye but he is so self-centered that he does not realize it. His screams of rage and disbelief when he is unseated will please many and give spice to the legion of books on the subject of the Decline and Fall of Fat Donald the Groper.”

The Table of Contents

  • The Broken Sword of Langley
  • Tax Fraud By The Numbers: The Trump Timeline
  • Trump’s Money Manipulations
  • Roger Stone should face grand jury, Mueller prosecutor says in op-ed
  • How the Pandemic Hit Americans
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons

 

The Broken Sword of Langley

by Christian Jürs

The first serious, and successful, U.S. direct interference in Russian leadership policies was in 1953. An ageing Josef Stalin, suffering from arteriosclerosis and becoming increasingly hostile to his subordinates, was poisoned by Laverenti P. Beria, head of his secret police. Beria, was a Mingrelian Jew, very ruthless and a man who ordered and often supervised the executions of people Stalin suspected of plotting against him, had fallen out of favor with Stalin and had come to believe that he was on the list of those Stalin wished to remove. With his intelligence connection, Beria was contacted by the American CIA through one of his trusted agents in Helskinki and through this contact, Beria was supplied dosages of warfarin  The first drug in the class to be widely commercialized was dicoumarol itself, patented in 1941 and later used as a pharmaceutical. potent coumarin-based anticoagulants for use as rodent poisons, resulting in warfarin in 1948. The name warfarin stems from the acronym WARF, for Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation plus the ending -arin indicating its link with coumarin. Warfarin was first registered for use as a rodenticide in the US in 1948, and was immediately popular; although it was developed by Link, the WARF financially supported the research and was assigned the patent.

Warfarin was used by Lavrenti Beria to poison Stalin. Stalin’s cooks and personal bodyguards were all under the direct control of  Beria. He acknowledged to other top Soviet leaders that he had poisoned Stalin, according to Molotov’s memoirs. Nikita Khrushchev and others to poison Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Warfarin is tasteless and colorless, and produces symptoms similar to those that Stalin exhibited. Stalin collapsed during the night after a dinner with Beria and other Soviet leaders, and died four days later on 5 March 1953.

Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, in his political memoirs (published posthumously in 1993), claimed that Beria told him that he had poisoned Stalin. “I took him out,” Beria supposedly boasted. There is evidence that after Stalin was found unconscious, medical care was not provided for many hours. Other evidence of the murder of Stalin by Beria associates was presented by Edvard Radzinsky in his biography Stalin. It has been suggested that warfarin was used; it would have produced the symptoms reported.

After the fall of Gorbachev and his replacement by Boris Yeltsin, a known CIA connection, the Russian criminal mob was encouraged by the CIA to move into the potentially highly lucrative Russian natural resource field.

By 1993 almost all banks in Russia were owned by the mafia, and 80% of businesses were paying protection money. In that year, 1400 people were murdered in Moscow, crime members killed businessmen who would not pay money to them, as well as reporters, politicians, bank owners and others opposed to them. The new criminal class of Russia took on a more Westernized and businesslike approach to organized crime as the more code-of-honor based Vory faded into extinction.

The Izmaylovskaya gang was considered one of the country’s most important and oldest Russian Mafia groups in Moscow and also had a presence in Tel Aviv, Berlin, Paris, Toronto, Miami and New York City. It was founded during the 1980s under the leadership of Oleg Ivanov and was estimated to consist of about 200 active members (according to other data of 300–500 people). In principle, the organization was divided into two separate bodies—Izmailovskaya and Gol’yanovskaya  which utilized quasi-military ranks and strict internal discipline. It was involved extensively in murder-for-hire, extortions, and infiltration of legitimate businesses.

The gangs were termed the Oligarchy and were funded by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Israeli-owned Bank of New York all with the assisance of the American government.

The arrival of Vladimir Putin as the new leader of Russia was at first ignored in Washington. A former KGB Lt. Colonel who had been stationed in East Germany, Putin was viewed as inconsequential, bland and colorless by the purported Russian experts in both the Department of State and the CIA.

Putin, however, proved to be a dangerous opponent who blocked the Oligarchs attempt to control the oil fields and other assets, eventual control of which had been promised to both American and British firms.

The Oligarchs were allowed to leave the country and those remaining behind were forced to follow Putin’s policies. Foreign control over Russian natural resources ceased and as both the CIA, various foreign firms and the American government had spent huge sums greasing the skids, there was now considerable negative feelings towards Putin.

The next serious moves against Russia came with a plan conceived by the CIA and fully approved by President George W. Bush, whose father had once been head of the CIA.

This consisted of ‘Operation Sickle’ which was designed to surround the western and southern borders of Russia with states controlled by the United States through the guise of NATO membership. Included in this encirclement program were the Baltic States, Poland, the Czech Republic, Georgia and a number of Asiatic states bordering southern Russia. It was the stated intention of the NATO leadership to put military missiles in all these countries. The so-called “Orange Revolution” funded and directed by the CIA, overthrew the pro-Moscow government in the Ukraine, giving the United States theoretical control over the heavy industrialized Donetz Basin and most importantly, the huge former Soviet naval base at Sebastopol.

The Georgia Train and Equip Program (GTEP) was an American-sponsored 18-month, $64-million program aimed at increasing the capabilities of the Georgian armed forces by training and equipping four 600-man battalions with light weapons, vehicles and communications. The program enabled the US to expedite funding for the Georgian military for Operation Enduring Freedom.

On February 27, 2002, the US media reported that the U.S. would send approximately two hundred United States Army Special Forces soldiers to Georgia to train Georgian troops. The program implemented President Bush’s decision to respond to the Government of Georgia’s request for assistance to enhance its counter-terrorism capabilities and addressed the situation in the Pankisi Gorge.

The program began in May 2002 when American special forces soldiers began training select units of the Georgian Armed Forces, including the 12th Commando Light Infantry Battalion, the 16th Mountain-Infantry Battalion, the 13th “Shavnabada” Light Infantry Battalion, the 11th Light Infantry Battalion, a mechanized company and small numbers of Interior Ministry troops and border guards.

Eventually, responsibility for training Georgian forces was turned over to the US Marine Corps in conjunction with the British Army. British and American teams worked as part of a joint effort to train each of the four infantry battalion staffs and their organic rifle companies. This training began with the individual soldier and continued through fire team, squad, platoon, company, and battalion level tactics as well as staff planning and organization. Upon completing training, each of the new Georgian infantry battalions began preparing for deployment rotations in support of the Global War on Terrorism

The CIA were instrumental in getting Mikheil Saakashvili, an erratic policician, pro-West, into the presidency of Georgia but although he allowed the country to be flooded with American arms and “military trainers” he was not a man easily controlled and under the mistaken belief that Ameriacn military might supported him, commenced to threaten Moscow. Two Georgian provinces were heavily populated by Russians and objected to the inclusion in Georgia and against them, Saakashvili began to make threatening moves.

The 2008 South Ossetia War or Russo-Georgian War (in Russia also known as the Five-Day War) was an armed conflict in August 2008 between Georgia on one side, and Russia and separatist governments of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on the other.

During the night of 7 to 8 August 2008, Georgia launched a large-scale military offensive against South Ossetia, in an attempt to reclaim the territory. Georgia claimed that it was responding to attacks on its peacekeepers and villages in South Ossetia, and that Russia was moving non-peacekeeping units into the country. The Georgian attack caused casualties among Russian peacekeepers, who resisted the assault along with Ossetian militia. Georgia successfully captured most of Tskhinvali within hours. Russia reacted by deploying units of the Russian 58th Army and Russian Airborne Troops in South Ossetia, and launching airstrikes against Georgian forces in South Ossetia and military and logistical targets in Georgia proper. Russia claimed these actions were a necessary humanitarian intervention and peace enforcement.

When the Russian incursion was seen as massive and serious, U.S. president George W. Bush’s statement to Russia was: “Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century.” The US Embassy in Georgia, describing the Matthew Bryza press-conference, called the war an “incursion by one of the world’s strongest powers to destroy the democratically elected government of a smaller neighbor”.

Initially the Bush Administration seriously considered a military response to defend Georgia, but such an intervention was ruled out by the Pentagon due to the inevitable conflict it would lead to with Russia. Instead, Bush opted for a softer option by sending humanitarian supplies to Georgia by military, rather than civilian, aircraft. And he ordered the immediate evacuation of all American military units from Georgia. The huge CIA contingent in the Georgian capital fled by aircraft and the American troops, mostly U.S. Marines, evacuated quickly to the Black Sea where they were evacuated by the U.S. Navy. British and Israeli military units also fled the country and all of them had to leave behind an enormous amount of military equipment to include tanks, light armored  vehicles, small arms, radio equipment, and trucks full of intelligence data they had neither the time nor foresight to destroy.

The immediate result of this demarche was the defection of the so-called “NATO Block” eastern Europeans from the Bush/CIA project who saw the United States as a paper tiger that would not, and could not, defend them against the Russians. In a sense, the Russian incursion into Georgia was a massive political, not a military, victory.

The CIA was not happy with the actions of Vladimir Putin and when he ran for reelection, they poured money into the hands of Putin’s enemies, hoping to reprise the Ukrainian Orange Revolution but the effort was in vain.

And when the Poles, nervous about the apparent speed with which the US forces had abandoned their bases in Georgia, were in the progress of establishing a rapprochement with Vladimir Putin, the CIA moved to prevent this. The top Polish government was slated to fly into Smolensk for a ceremony to mark the killing by Stalin of many Polish officer prisoners of war. Someone, the Russians are sure was CIA, tampered with the landing signals on the airfield so that the foggy landing strip appeared to be at a lower altitude. The plane, with the entire upper level of the Polish government, slammed into the ground, killing all of the passengers.

Elegant diplomacy executed by true gentlemen!  And never let your children anywhere near any of them.

Tax Fraud By The Numbers: The Trump Timeline
by Kenneth W. Boyd, CPA
CPA Tax News

It’s no secret that tax law in the United States is extremely confusing. Even the length of the official tax code is subject to wild speculation; people estimate it to be somewhere between 2,500 pages and four times the length of the complete written works of Shakespeare.

As a result of this confusion, many people are intimidated by this substantial piece of American legislation. It’s because of this wariness around taxes and tax law that accounting has become such a lucrative profession, and it’s why the word “audit” strikes fear into the hearts of business owners.

But what if we could make tax law less confusing? What if it’s possible to break down the thousands of pages and hundreds of sections into something easier for ordinary people to understand?

Tax Fraud By The Numbers

In order to better understand the intricacies of tax law, we should start by examining the concept of tax fraud. After all, by understanding what constitutes a violation of the law, we can obtain a better understanding of the law itself.

And what better place to start than with the President of the United States?

Donald Trump has a long and fascinating history as a business mogul before becoming elected President in 2016. In that time, he has made big waves in real estate and entrepreneurship and has been accused of multiple fraudulent activities in the process. Many of these accusations have been catalogued in a massive exposé published by the New York Times.

Whether or not these accusations are legitimate is up to the courts to decide. This is in no way an indictment or direct attack on the president; all we are attempting to do with these events is construct an educational case study. By analyzing these scenarios, we should be able to establish a working knowledge of tax fraud and, by extension, tax law itself.

So read on to learn about Donald Trump’s tax fraud allegations over the course of 25 years and what they can teach us about the United States tax code!

Trump’s Tax Fraud Timeline

Gift Tax Fraud

Although the accusations of fraud leveled at Donald Trump cover several different areas of tax law, one thing nearly all of them have in common is that they involve circumventing gift taxes.

But why is this the case?

For people who aren’t billionaires, gift tax isn’t a major issue. Any exchange of money or property from one individual to another without expecting anything of equivalent value in return would qualify as a taxable gift in the eyes of the IRS. However, this tax doesn’t need to be paid if the value of these gifts are lower than the annual or lifetime exclusion. As of 2018, the annual exclusion is $15,000 and the lifetime exclusion is $11.8 million.

Here’s an example of how the gift tax works:

If you wanted to give someone in your family a used Toyota Corolla that was worth about $5,000, you wouldn’t have to pay gift taxes on it. But if you wanted to gift someone a brand-new Tesla Model 3 with a base price of $35,000, you would have to pay gift taxes since it’s worth more than the annual exclusion rate.

At least, you would have to pay taxes on that Tesla if you had already given them $11.8 million over the course of your lifetime. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it works to illustrate our point!

In the case of Donald Trump, the amounts of money and property being given far exceed these exclusions. And because of this, all gifts that he received would be taxed to the tune of 55%.

So how did he (allegedly) get around this steep tax? In a number of ways: many of them accomplished with the help of his father Fred Trump, according to the New York Times.

As the Times tells it, Donald took out several “loans” from his father Fred in order to support some of his struggling business ventures. A document cataloguing some of these loans place the total at nearly $5 million in 1979 alone. These loans were open-ended, meaning that there was no set payment schedule. The implication of this is that there was no real pressure or even expectation to pay back these loans.

And this is how Trump’s father gave him a gift of about $5 million dollars without having to give the IRS 55%.

Allegedly!

Securities Fraud

So how did Donald Trump get out of paying back the loans he made to his father? Even though these substantial cash injections into his businesses were essentially gifts from a father to his son, there needed to be some attempt at paying them back in order to avoid the 55% tax bill. And because Trump (allegedly) needed this money to simply keep many of his struggling businesses afloat, there was no way he could actually pay them back in full.

The solution in this case would be to work out a situation where the loans have been paid off without losing any actual money or equity: which is exactly what the New York Times claimed Trump did in the early 90’s by committing securities fraud.

But before we get into the specifics, let’s quickly go over what securities fraud is:

Securities fraud is any kind of fraudulent activity that involves stocks or investments. According to Investopedia, this form of tax fraud “can be committed in a variety of forms, but mostly involves misrepresenting information investors use to make decisions.” Some recent high-profile examples of securities fraud include the Enron scandal in 2001 and Bernie Madoff’s long-running Ponzi scheme that was thwarted in 2008.

Securities fraud isn’t always tax fraud, but it becomes tax fraud when it is committed in order to circumvent paying taxes. And this is the context of the allegations leveled against Trump.

Here’s what happened according to the Times:

By 1989, Donald Trump owed his father about $11 million and it was coming up on time to collect. If the loan was simply forgiven, it would turn into taxable income; instead, Donald paid it back through a 7.5% stake in one of his Manhattan condominiums. This means that both Donald and his father Fred agreed that 7.5% of his property, obtained through stocks, had a value of $11 million.

However, Fred Trump sold this 7.5% stock back to his son just two years later for only $10,000, spread out over multiple transactions. One documented example from 1991 provided by the Times listed a net loss of almost $1 million for just one of these transactions! Nothing drastic happened to New York City real estate prices in order to justify this price difference, so it appears as though the agreed-upon 7.5% was now only worth a fraction of its original value.

In this way, Donald Trump and his father were able to turn a debt of $11,000,000 into only $10,000, paid tax-free, all by grossly overvaluing and then undervaluing the stock value of his property.

Allegedly!

Loans Fraud

Based on the evidence, it seems that Trump has been receiving quite a bit of help from his father in a way that isn’t supposed to attract a lot of attention from the IRS. However, an incident of loan fraud in 1990 seems to be an exception to father and son’s standard operating procedure, at least according to documented evidence provided by the Washington Post.

As the story goes, a man named Howard Snyder acting as Fred Trump’s attorney visited Trump Castle, one of Donald Trump’s casinos in Atlantic City. He then purchased $3.5 million worth of casino chips. Then he leaves without playing a single game.

You might be wondering: if Donald Trump is already receiving gifts from his father disguised as loans, why would he then take out loans from his father poorly disguised as legitimate business transactions?

Part of the reason for this extra layer of deception seemed to be so that Trump could receive this money faster than if conducted through ordinary loan channels. The reason why this particular loan was so time-sensitive, according to the New York Times, is that he needed it in order to make a bond payment of about $18.4 million. And because of that loan, even in spite of the fact that this obvious act of fraud was caught and punished by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, Trump was able to make that payment.

Another reason for this fraudulent act could easily be explained by the way it reduced the fees he had to pay the government in exchange for such a substantial wealth transfer. As we’ve learned, receiving $3.5 million as a gift would require paying an extremely high percentage in gift taxes. However, a loan also requires high fees due to the need for an interest rate.

One of the ways that the IRS differentiates a loan from a gift or taxable income is through the addition of an Applicable Federal Rate (AFR). These rates are updated every year since they reflect the average percentage of interest charged on all loans made by banks and other financial institutions in the country. Consequently, a loan is only considered a loan in the eyes of the IRS when it applies interest in line with the AFR. And in December of 1991, the AFR for a short-term monthly loan was 5.49%.

Here’s a quick multiple-choice question. If you are required to give up a portion of $3.5 million dollars, which amount would you rather pay:

1.55%, or $1.9 million

1.5.5%, or $175,000

1.1.8%, or $65,000

Donald Trump picked option C. When the New Jersey Casino Control Commission charged him with fraud, they fined him $65,000, which is slightly less than 2% of the money he received. And that’s how he was able to receive a loan, tax and interest-free, in time to save his casino from foreclosure.

Allegedly!

Appraisal and Estate Tax Fraud

Before we go any further, it’s important to define some terms:

Let’s start with estate tax. This is more or less the same thing as gift tax and is closely tied with inheritance tax. All three of these concepts are closely interlinked to the point where many individuals mistake them for each other; they will refer to inheritance tax as estate tax and vice versa.

So what’s the difference between these three concepts? Here’s a brief rundown of their definitions:

  • Gift tax is applied when explicitly giving a gift to another person or party. It is paid by the giver, but it can be collected from the receiver if the giver fails to pay. It is a federal tax, which means that gifts given anywhere in the country can be subject to them.
  • Estate tax is applied when determining the value of a deceased person’s property. It is paid by the estate before bequeathment, meaning that the taxes are taken out of this value before it is passed on to the receiver. There is a federal estate tax with its own exclusion rate and a state estate tax that varies depending on the state.
  • Inheritance tax is applied when passing a deceased person’s property onto their beneficiaries as outlined in their will. It is paid by the receiver, meaning that the taxes are charged to the person receiving the money or property. This is a state tax that only applies to Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Now that we’ve defined those terms, we can talk about appraisal fraud. This is when an individual or organization either inflates or deflates the value of a property dishonestly. The reasons for doing so can vary; however, the most often reason for committing this form of fraud is to manipulate mortgage rates, which is why it is also sometimes referred to as mortgage fraud. The FBI has stated that this particular form of fraud was a major contributing factor to the 2008 housing crisis.

So what does estate tax and appraisal fraud have to do with Donald Trump?

It’s important to note at this point that Donald Trump is not an only child. Although it sounds like he received quite a bit of special treatment from his father Fred, the truth is that his siblings also allegedly received substantial gifts and properties as well.

And in 1981, one of Donald’s siblings, Fred Trump Jr., passed away due to complications from alcoholism. This meant that all of his assets would be passed on to his surviving family members according to his will, which would be handled by his estate.

The individuals who were in charge of his estate, by the way, were Donald and Fred Sr.

This is the first instance reported by the New York Times in which Donald Trump participated in appraisal fraud in order to avoid paying estate taxes. Although the Times states that the inherited properties would have been worth over $90 million, a document they obtained shows that the estate (Donald and Fred Sr.) claimed they were only worth slightly over $13 million.

As a result of this, Fred Trump Jr.’s estate only had to pay $700,000 in estate taxes. If they had declared these properties on their estate tax return at their full value, they would have had to pay nearly $60 million according to estate tax rates and exclusions in that year.

The next instance in which the Times claims that Donald Trump committed appraisal fraud to pay less in estate taxes occurred in 1997 when his father passed away. According to another document provided by the publication, Fred Trump’s estate was said to have a total value of around $41 million. However, they then state that Donald was able to sell his share of the estate for $177.3 million in 2004.

Think about those numbers for a minute. How was Donald Trump able to turn a portion of $41 million into $177.3 million in just 7 years? As the Times tells it, he was able to do this by handling his late father’s estate the same was as he did his late brother’s: fraudulently.

Allegedly!

Expense Reports Fraud

As the story goes, Fred Trump Jr.’s passing was a tragic surprise that couldn’t have been planned for in any way. However, the passing of Fred Trump Sr. was of natural causes, meaning there was plenty of time to prepare for the handling of his estate. Because of this, the New York Times claims that steps were taken ahead of time to siphon as much wealth from Fred Sr. to his children before his death in order to further minimize the size of his estate taxes.

One of the ways that this was accomplished was through a company named All County Building Supply and Maintenance, according to the Times. This company was hired by Fred Trump, owned by his children, and used to give them money through expense reports fraud.

But what is expense reports fraud?

This is a form of financial fraud that is well-known and fiercely opposed by many forensics accountants and anti-fraud organizations. Also known as expense schemes, this is when a business or one of its employees lies about their expenses.

Let’s go over the difference between an honest business expense and a fraudulent one. In the first scenario, an employee takes a client out to dinner in order to discuss business. In this case, the employee can claim the cost of dinner as a legitimate business expense. But if the employee takes someone who isn’t a client out to dinner as a date and then claims it as a business expense, they are committing expense report fraud.

Expense reports fraud can take many forms, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, such as when “an employee overstates the cost of actual expenses and seeks reimbursement.” And this is the type of fraud that the Times claims the Trumps engaged in with the aid of All County Building Supply and Maintenance.

An annotated document contained in their article breaks down how a purchase of 60 boilers for Fred Trump’s properties, conducted through All County Building Supply, was marked up by 20%. This extra 20% was pure profit, paid out to the owners of the building supply company. With enough business transactions conducted in this way, substantial amounts of money can be legally fed from Fred to his children without having to pay gift taxes.

And that’s how Donald Trump and his siblings were able to drain their father’s accounts before his death while paying the bare minimum taxes possible.

Allegedly!

Conclusion

Let’s go over the different types of fraud discussed in this article: those that have been allegedly committed by the 45th President of the United States according to the Times’ exposé:

  • Gift tax fraud, where IRS fees on gifts are avoided by disguising them as loans or legitimate business transactions.
  • Securities fraud, where the value of stocks and investments are misrepresented in order to deceive investors or the IRS.
  • Loans fraud, where a loan is disguised as a different transaction in order to avoid involving a financial institution and setting fair interest rates.
  • Appraisal fraud, where the value of a property is misrepresented in order to manipulate mortgage rates or deceive the IRS.
  • Estate tax fraud, where the value of an individual’s estate is misrepresented in order to avoid paying a high percentage to the IRS.
  • Expense reports fraud, where business expenses are misrepresented in order to deceive a business or the IRS.

Not all of these fraudulent activities are specifically tax fraud, but they can all be used for the purpose of committing tax fraud. This is because they involve misrepresenting the value or existence of properties and expenses in order to deceive individuals, businesses, accountants, and tax auditors.

So what does this teach us about tax law? Well, by understanding what we aren’t supposed to do, we should be able to figure out what we are supposed to do, at least in the eyes of the IRS.

  • We’re supposed to pay a portion of anything inherited or received as a gift if it’s worth a significant amount.
  • If we’re taking out a loan instead of receiving a gift, we have to go through proper channels in order to ensure that the payment schedules and interest rates are set fairly.
  • And we’re not supposed to lie about the values of our properties, investments, or business expenses.|

 

Trump’s Money Manipulations
July 14, 2020
by Christian Jürs

Deutsche Bank is widely recognized as being the largest creditor to real-estate-mogul-turned-politician Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States, holding more than US$360 million in outstanding loans to the candidate in the months prior to his 2016 election.

As of December 2017 Deutsche Bank’s role in, and possible relevance to, Trump and Russian parties cooperating to elect him was under investigation by Robert Mueller of the FBI.

As of March 2019, Deutsche Bank’s relationship with Trump was also under investigation by two U.S. congressional committees and by the New York attorney general.

In April 2019 House Democrats subpoenaed the Bank for Trump’s personal and financial records. On 29 April 2019, President Donald Trump, his children Donald Jr. Trump, Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump; and his business sued Deutsche Bank and Capital One bank to block them from turning over financial records to congressional committees that have issued subpoenas for the information.

On May 22, 2019, judge Edgardo Ramos of the federal District Court in Manhattan rejected the Trump suit against Deutsche Bank, ruling the bank must comply with congressional subpoena

In May 2019  anti-money laundering specialists in the bank detected what appeared to be suspicious transactions involving entities controlled by Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, for which they recommended filing suspicious activity reports with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the Treasury Department, but bank executives rejected the recommendations.

One specialist noted money moving from Kushner Companies to Russian individuals and flagged it in part because of the bank’s previous involvement in a Russian money laundering scheme.

Andrey Kostin (1979–2011), a Russian banker and son of Andrey Kostin who is the President and Chairman of the Management Board of VTB Bank, graduated from the Russian Government Finance Academy in 2000 and began working with Deutsche Bank’s London office in 2000 From 2002–2007, the younger Andrey Kostin worked in Deutsche Bank’s Office of Interbank and Corporate Sales in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In April 2007, Anshu Jain sent the younger Andrey Kostin to work at Deutsche Bank’s Moscow office. While he was at Deutsche Bank’s Moscow office, the Moscow office began posting profits of $500 million to $1 billion a year.He served on its management board beginning July 2008 and was the deputy chairman of the management board from February 2011. On July 2, 2011, at 7:30 a.m., while he was at a vacation retreat reserved for FSB personnel, he tragically died when his Can-Am Outlander-800 ATV crashed into a tree along a country road near Pereslavl-Zalessky and the village of Los in the Yaroslavl region of Russia He was not wearing a helmet

Donald Trump has pursued business deals in Russia since 1987, and has sometimes traveled there to explore potential business opportunities. In 1996, Trump trademark applications were submitted for potential Russian real estate development deals. Mr.Trump’s partners and children have repeatedly visited Moscow, connecting with developers and government officials to explore joint venture opportunities. Mr.Trump was never able to successfully conclude any real estate deals in Russia. However, individual Russians have invested heavily in Trump properties, and following Mr.Trump’s bankruptcies in the 1990s he borrowed money from Russian sources. In 2008 his son Donald Trump Jr. said that Russia was an important source of money for the Trump businesses.

In 1996 Mr.Trump partnered with Liggett-Ducat, a small company, and planned to build an upscale residential development on a Liggett-Ducat property in Moscow. Trump commissioned New York architect Ted Liebman, who did the sketches.

In 1987 Mr.Trump visited Russia to investigate developing a hotel

In Russia, Mr.Trump promoted the proposal and acclaimed the Russian economic market. At a news conference reported by The Moscow Times, Mr.Trump said he hadn’t been “as impressed with the potential of a city as I have been with Moscow” in contrast to other cities had visited “all over the world.

By this time, Mr.Trump made known his desire to build in Moscow to government officials for almost ten years ranging from the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev (they first met in Washington in 1987) to the military figure Alexander Lebed.

Moscow’s mayor, Yuri M. Luzhkov, showed Trump plans for a very large shopping mall to be located underground in the vicinity of the Kremlin. The mayor complimented Mr.Trump’s suggestion that this mall should have access to the Moscow Metro, and it was eventually connected to the Okhotny Ryad station. Although the 1996 residential development did not happen, Mr.Trump was by this time well known in Russia.

Between 2000–2010, Mr.Trump entered into a partnership with a development company headquartered in New York represented by a Russian immigrant, Felix Sater. During this period, they partnered for an assortment of deals that included building Trump towers internationally and Russia was included. For example, in 2005 Slater acted as an agent for building a Trump tower alongside Moscow River with letters of intent in hand and “square footage was being analyzed.”

In 2006, Mr.Trump’s children Donald Jr. and Ivanka stayed in the Hotel National, Moscow for several days, across from the Kremlin, to interview prospective partners, with the intention of formulating real estate development projects.

Sater had also traveled to Moscow with Mr. Trump, his wife Ivanka and son Donald Jr.

Mr. Trump was associated with Tevfik Arif, formerly a Soviet commerce official and founder of a development company called the Bayrock Group, of which Sater was also a partner.

Bayrock searched for deals in Russia while Trump Towers company were attempting to further expand in the United States. Mr. Sater said, “We looked at some very, very large properties in Russia,” on the scale of “…a large Vegas high-rise.”

In 2007, Bayrock organized a potential deal in Moscow between Trump International Hotel and Russian investors

During 2006–2008 Mr.Trump’s company applied for a number of trademarks in Russia with the goal of real estate developments. These trademark applications include: Trump, Trump Tower, Trump International Hotel and Tower, and Trump Home.

In 2008, Mr. Trump spoke at a Manhattan real estate conference, stating that he really prefered Moscow over all cities in the world and that within 18 months he had been in Russia a half-dozen times.

Mr.Trump had received large and undisclosed payments over 10 years from Russians for hotel rooms, rounds of golf, or Trump-licensed products such as wine, ties, or mattresses, which would not have been identified as coming from Russian sources in the tax returns

A secret KGB memo under date of February 1, 1984 concerned the necessity of making an expanded use of the facilities of cooperating foreign intelligence services—for example, Czechoslovakian or East German intelligence networks.

2009-2015: Deutsche Bank Involved in Vast Russian Money Laundering Scheme

Tim Wiswell, an American whose father worked in oil and gas in Soviet Russia and who spent a year at the Anglo-American School in Russia, took over the post of Russian equities at Deutsche Bank, which was the only bank that would loan Donald Trump any significant amount of money.

Wiswell worked at Moscow’s Alfa Bank before moving to Deutsche Bank Moscow. Under Wiswell, the bank’s profits in the Russian equities section skyrocket, enough to draw scrutiny.

Christopher Barter, the CEO of Goldman Sachs Moscow, suspected that illicit financial maneuvers were going on under Wiswell’s leadership. Barter later recalled being approached by “broker types, not very senior,” wishing to do large, unexplained numbers of trades with his firm on behalf of unnamed major Russian clients.

Barter examined the deals, and determined that the identities of the Russian partners were hidden behind layers of shell companies, making due diligence impossible.

Barter turned down these proposals. Wiswell welcomed them. Between 2011 and 2015, Wiswell oversaw what investigators later determined to be a vast money laundering scheme on behalf of numerous Russians, many with ties to the Russian mob.

Over $10 billion was shifted from Russia to selected institutions in the West. The method is simple but effective. In Moscow, a Russian client bought blue-chip Russian stocks from Deutsche Bank Moscow in companies like Gazprom or Sberbank. The payments were in rubles.

The size of a typical order was $2 million to $3 million. Shortly afterward, a non-Russian ‘customer’ sold exactly the same number of securities to Deutsche Bank in London, paying in dollars.” There is no economic reason for these “mirror trades,” the investigators determine.

The entire idea was to move illegally gained funds from Russia and convert them into dollars, where they can be used without fear of exposure. Wiswell and his clients used banks in offshore territories such as Cyprus and the British Virgin Islands.

Wiswell handled any questions by giving other banks soothing reassurances, while threatening and berating his colleagues to keep their mouths shut and speed the transactions along.

Wiswell also was tasked with keeping his Russian clients happy, which involved things like skiing trips, island getaways, and visits to elite nightclubs. Wiswell’s Russian wife became the owner of two offshore companies, in Cyprus and the BVI, and began accepting lavish payments for “financial consulting.”

Investigators call those “undisclosed compensations” to be bribes, cleared by Deutsche Bank in New York. In August 2015, Deutsche Bank suspended and then fired Wiswell, who promptly disappeared from public view. Some reports have said tha he is now in Moscow again. In a wrongful dismissal suit, Wiswell painted himself as a fall guy for the bank’s senior executives. The money laundering scandal did terrific harm to Deutsche Bank’s reputation, and cost the bank $475 million in fines. Later examinations determined that the bank’s Moscow branch had been “taken over” by Vneshtorgbank (VTB), a state-run bank with deep ties to Russian intelligence

Roger Stone should face grand jury, Mueller prosecutor says in op-ed
Trump’s commutation ‘does not have to be the end of the story’, Andrew Weissmann wrote in a New York Times column
July 14, 2020
by Martin Pengelly
The Guardian

Donald Trump’s commutation of Roger Stone’s sentence for lying to Congress and other crimes discovered in the Russia investigation “does not have to be the end of the story”, the former Mueller team member Andrew Weissmann said on Tuesday, advocating that the self-confessed political dirty trickster be brought before a grand jury.

Robert Mueller, the special counsel who investigated Russian election interference and links between Trump and Moscow, suspected Stone of being the link between Trump and WikiLeaks, the pro-transparency organisation which leaked material damaging to Hillary Clinton that was hacked by Russian intelligence. Mueller also suspected the president of lying about such links.

“If there was nothing nefarious about [Stone’s] coordination efforts, why did he lie about them to Congress?” Weissmann asked in a column for the New York Times.

“This question remains unanswered, as the Mueller report notes. In spite of the president’s commutation, prosecutors can seek to discover the answer by calling Mr Stone before a grand jury.”

Mueller did not prove a criminal conspiracy between Trump and Moscow but did lay out extensive contacts and instances of possible obstruction of justice. The investigation produced more than 30 indictments.

One would have put Stone, 67, behind bars for 40 months had the president not intervened on Friday. Trump has claimed “rave reviews” for the decision. The Utah senator Mitt Romney called it an act of “unprecedented, historic corruption”.

Mueller himself has spoken out, via a column in the Washington Post.

“Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes,” the former FBI director wrote. “He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so.”

Weissmann has written a book, Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation, which will be published by Random House on 29 September. Announcing it on Monday, he said: “I am deeply proud of the work we did … but the hard truth is that we made mistakes. We could have done more.”

For the Times, he wrote: “Stone’s criminal conviction resulted from his testimony under oath in the fall of 2017 before a Republican-controlled committee in Congress. He was asked about his interactions with WikiLeaks … and his potential coordination with Mr Trump and others on the Trump campaign about the same.

“Mr Stone denied such communications. Yet scores of his own contemporaneous emails and texts proved otherwise.

“… At sentencing, the federal judge pointedly noted that Mr Stone had been prosecuted for ‘covering up for the president’, and Mr Stone boasted just before the president’s act of clemency that he had dutifully remained silent. Mr Trump tweeted that Mr Stone had ‘guts’ for not cooperating with prosecutors.

“To get at the truth of why he lied, Mr Stone can be served with a grand jury subpoena – by a federal or state prosecutor – or even with a congressional subpoena, requiring him to answer the question: why did you lie to Congress? And many others.”

Weismann outlined three choices Stone would then have: to lie again, thereby opening himself to new prosecution; to refuse to comply, which could result in contempt charges and jail time; or to tell the truth.

Weismann compared that option to that taken by witnesses in two of his previous cases as an attorney in the Department of Justice: the Enron scandal and “a Genovese mob case, [in which] a foot soldier who had pleaded guilty … was served with a grand jury subpoena to learn who his conspirators were [and] chose to cooperate”.

Stone spoke publicly on Monday night – to the Fox News host and fellow Trump ally Sean Hannity.

“I had a biased judge,” he said, “I had a stacked jury, I had a corrupt jury forewoman.”

He also thanked Hannity and other prominent conservatives including Michael Flynn, Tucker Carlson and Matt Gaetz, and said he would have been in danger of dying from coronavirus had he gone to jail.

Mueller’s team, Stone said, “wanted me to be the ham in their ham sandwich because they knew the Mueller report, particularly on Russia, it was a dud. It was a goose egg.”

Weissmann, however, wrote that Trump’s Department of Justice “may not authorise pursuing the truth about the unanswered question: why did Roger Stone lie to Congress? But that does not mean future federal prosecutors must make the same decision or that a state prosecutor cannot now seek Mr Stone’s testimony.

“The tools to get at the truth are there and should be used. If [Attorney General William] Barr does not support their use, we should all ask ourselves why not.”

How the Pandemic Hit Americans
Selective in Its Impact, the Virus Has Struck the Homeless Hard
by Rajan Menon
TomDispatch

The novel SARS-CoV-2 has roared through the American landscape leaving physical, emotional, and economic devastation in its wake. By early July, known infections in this country exceeded three million, while deaths topped 135,000. Home to just over 4% of the global population, the United States accounts for more than a quarter of all fatalities from Covid-19, the disease produced by the coronavirus. Amid a recent surge of infections, especially across the Sun Belt, which Vice President Mike Pence typically denied was even occurring, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the daily total of infections had reached a record 60,000. Arizona’s seven-day average alone approached that of the European Union, which has 60 times as many people.

Making matters much worse, the pandemic erupted during the presidency of Donald J. Trump, whose stratospheric self-absorption, ineptitude, denial of science, and callousness have reached heights even his most ferocious critics couldn’t have imagined. His nostrums, including disinfectant, sunlight, and hydroxychloroquine, could be dismissed as comical if they weren’t downright dangerous, encouraging possibly fatal experimentation, while breeding false hopes.

Public health safeguards that should have been initiated early on were neglected, above all testing and contact tracing. At the end of April, when President Trump first crowed that “we are the best in the world in testing,” the U.S. ranked 22nd in tests per 1,000 people in the 36-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the club of the globe’s wealthy states. Although testing nationwide had increased from 250,000 a day in early May to a current 571,574, that’s still less than half the number needed to begin to lock down the virus.

By portraying mask-wearing as effete and elitist, even as those who come near him are tested, disparaging social distancing (recall his reckless rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and unmasked Fourth of July celebration at South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore), and downplaying the danger of a second wave of infections, President Trump has been the problem, not the solution. It would be hard to imagine a less suitable helmsman to steer this country out of a public health catastrophe. His eternal spin, tweets, and fulminations about “fake news” can’t obscure the obvious: his administration’s management of the pandemic has been shambolic.

The Variability of Vulnerability

It’s common to hear that we’re all caught in the Covid-19 crisis, that we’re all its victims. Having spread across the country, afflicting people of all backgrounds, it certainly qualifies as a national security crisis, a concept that, militarized for so long now, seems odd when applied to the pandemic. The coronavirus, of course, has neither tanks, nor missiles, nor roadside bombs, and that may help explain the government’s abject failure to plan for and contain it.

Still, take a deeper look at Covid-19’s destructive path and you’ll see that it’s been highly selective in the suffering it’s caused and the lives it’s taken. Adjusted for age, fatalities per 100,000 have been significantly higher for African Americans, Hispanic-Latinx, and Native Americans than for whites across all age groups, as detailed studies demonstrate: for Blacks, 3.6 times higher and for Hispanic-Latinx, 2.5 times. The disparity becomes even greater when the comparison is made by age groups. Ditto hospitalization rates: 40.1/100,000 for whites, 160.7 for Hispanic-Latinx, 178.1 for African Americans, and a whopping 221.2 for Native Americans.

In addition, places with the highest income inequality have had the highest death rates. New York State, which surpasses its counterparts in income disparity, has had a Covid-19 death rate 125 times that of Utah, which has the least inequality. In big metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, where the number of infections has been particularly high, the death rate has unsurprisingly been steepest in low-income communities. People living in such neighborhoods, most of them minorities, are significantly less likely to have health insurance or access to good healthcare services and far more likely to have underlying respiratory ailments including asthma, in part because the air in their communities tends to be more polluted. Poor people also have less chance of surviving Covid-19 because the quality of care in hospitals closely matches the wealth of the neighborhoods they’re in.

National economic statistics help highlight Covid-19’s uneven effects. Thirty-nine percent of those who have lost their jobs since March made less than $40,000 a year compared to 19% of those earning $100,000 or more. In addition, social distancing works for those whose jobs can be done from home, but bus drivers, cabbies, janitors, meatpackers, caregivers, hairdressers, farm workers, home health aides, and the like can’t use Zoom to sever themselves from their workplaces. If you don’t have to work on-site (and can afford grocery deliveries to your doorstep), you’re undoubtedly on the upper rungs of the income ladder. Nearly 62% of those in the 75th income percentile managed to work from home compared to 9.2% of those in the 25th percentile. There are race-based differences as well: 37% of Asian Americans and 30% of whites can work from home versus 19.7% of African Americans and 16.2% of Hispanic-Latinx.

Then there’s age. The CDC reports that 80% of those who died from Covid-19 in the United States were 65 or older. The disease has particularly ravaged the elderly in nursing homes (as well as the personnel staffing them), accounting for about 43% of countrywide deaths attributable to the virus.

The upshot: If you’re old, poor, and African American or Hispanic-Latinx, your chances of infection are especially high and your odds of survival significantly lower. So, no, we aren’t really all in this together, especially since not everybody can easily take elementary safety precautions, certainly not the two million Americans who don’t even have running water at home and so can’t regularly wash their hands, let alone the Navajo, 30% of whom must drive an hour or more to fetch water. Covid-19, anything but blind to color and class, has visibly hit the most vulnerable segments of American society most fiercely.

Devastating the Homeless

Among those especially hard-pressed to avoid infection and death are people who sleep in shelters, on the street, in deserted buildings, in subway cars, or — and they are perhaps the “lucky” ones — in their own cars. The homeless don’t get all that much Covid-19-related media coverage, in part because they are a sliver of the population (0.2%) and so lack a significant political voice: you won’t find pricey lobbyists working for them in Washington. They can’t even take that most basic precaution advised by medical experts, sheltering in place. To do that, you need dependable shelter, which the homeless, by definition, lack.

If you live in a big city, you can hardly miss the homeless, and you’re undoubtedly familiar with the rituals of passersby. Some simply walk on, perhaps at a slightly quickened pace; others glance at the homeless but ignore, or pretend not to hear, their pleas for help. Some do give them money or food from time to time, knowing that the gesture amounts to slapping a band aid on a serious wound. Even those who see the homeless daily generally know very little about them — who they are, how they ended up on the street, how they manage to survive — and even less about the homeless who, having found a place in a shelter, are out of sight.

While statistics can’t substitute for this lack of knowledge, they can help us grasp the magnitude and nature of homelessness. According to the Department for Housing and Urban Development (HUD), on any given night in January 2019, 560,715 people were homeless. Nearly two-thirds of them lived in shelters. The rest slept wherever they could, often on sidewalks, relying, if in places with cold winters, on steam grates to stay warm. About a quarter of them were deemed “chronically homeless,” which, by the definition HUD adopted in 2015, meant that they had been “living in a place not meant for human habitation, a safe haven, or in an emergency shelter” for 12 months running or for that total over a three-year stretch. Since 2007, when the compilation of data began, homelessness decreased by 12% until 2018-2019 when it rose by 3%, chiefly because of a 16% jump in California. The economic damage done by Covid-19 will, however, ensure yet more future increases.

Four states alone — California, Florida, New York, and Texas — contain nearly half of the homeless. Add Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington, and you’ll hit two-thirds. The vast majority of them live in large urban areas, with five — New York County, Los Angeles County, Seattle/King County, San Jose/Santa Clara County, and San Diego County — accounting for 29% of the homeless nationwide. A clutch of cities (in descending order, Washington, D.C., Boston, and New York) have a homelessness rate six times the national figure of 17 per 10,000, with San Francisco barely escaping this list of ill-fame.

So, though homelessness exists in every state, as well as in suburbs and rural areas, spatially it’s highly concentrated — and that concentration is racial, not just spatial. Whites comprise 76% of the American population but only 49% of its homeless. For African Americans, the corresponding figures are 13% and 40%, for Hispanic-Latinx Americans 18% and 21%. Native Americans and Native Alaskans, a mere 1.2% of the population, make up nearly 9% of all homeless people. The homelessness rate is similarly skewed: 66.7 per 10,000 for Native Americans and Native Alaskans, 55 for African Americans, 21.7 for Hispanic/Latinx, 11.5 for whites, and 4 for Asian Americans.

Covid-19 and the Homeless

From the start, the homeless were among the groups most threatened by the coronavirus. Compared to other adults, a far higher proportion of them have respiratory or cardiovascular illnesses, which increase the risk of being infected and reduce chances of survival. Because of the physical wear and tear produced by exposure to the elements, poor nutrition and hygiene, and the stress of living on the streets or in shelters (while fearing being robbed or assaulted), the state of their health resembles that of people who are two decades older. Moreover, an estimated 38% of the homeless are addicted to alcohol and 26% of them to drugs. Substance abuse can, of course, weaken the body’s immune system, putting the homeless at an added disadvantage in warding off the virus.

Some experts claim that infections and deaths among the homeless have belied the direst predictions. Still, by mid-May, the Covid-19 death rate for New York City had reached 187/100,00. In the city’s homeless shelters, however, it was 291/100,000, or 56% higher. A CDC study covering March and April found that in Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle, 25% of the residents and 11% of the staff in homeless shelters tested positive for the virus.

None of this should be surprising. After all, regular handwashing, hard enough for the homeless who don’t live in shelters, became especially so once bathrooms in places like libraries, restaurants, and bus stations were ever less available as the pandemic revved up. Hand sanitizer can, of course, substitute for water, but not if you don’t have enough money to eat regularly, much less buy such products. Psychological disorders create an added barrier to self-protection as about 25% of the homeless — some studies report even higher numbers — suffer from severe mental illness and fewer than half receive any treatment.

Testing and contact tracing have reduced the virus’s spread substantially in a number of countries, but considering how far behind the U.S. has been in both realms, you can bet that the homeless weren’t anywhere near the head of the line for either. In addition, many of the organizations that care for them lack the money, kits, disinfectants, protective gear, and trained personnel (relying as they often do on volunteers) needed for an effective test-and-trace regimen. Fever and coughing were used as markers for testing early in the pandemic, so those in shelters who exhibited neither symptom but were infected transmitted the virus to others unnoticed. A single individual in a San Francisco shelter, for instance, infected 90 fellow residents and 10 employees before he tested positive.

Not surprisingly, the homeless sleeping rough didn’t rush to such shelters in these months, deterred by news that the coronavirus had hit places particularly hard where people were packed together and slept in close quarters, often in bunk beds. The chances of dodging Covid-19 seemed better on the outside.

Moreover, once infections soared, many shelters went into emergency mode. To implement social-distancing mandates and create space to isolate the infected, they froze new admissions or substantially reduced the number of residents they held. Some even shut down. People seeking beds faced long waiting lists. Meanwhile, cities, already under financial strain from the economic effects of the virus, scrambled to house their homeless in hotels, convention centers, or even in RVs, as the shelters disgorged people, leaving them to fend for themselves. In places like San Francisco’s Tenderloin district (already teeming with the homeless), they sleep on the streets or in makeshift tents, which increased nearly threefold citywide. Before long, cities were overwhelmed by costs, logistics, and lack of space. It was one thing for mayors to insist that the unsheltered homeless would be protected, quite another to foot the bill for hotel rooms and basic amenities in places designated for their housing, not to speak of supervisory staff and security.

Could It Get Any Worse?

Covid-19’s staggering economic effects will make it ever harder to manage homelessness, especially if its numbers increase due to an upswing in unemployment. Job losses in this country have already been estimated at up to 40 million and, despite the fall in the June unemployment rate, the virus’s recent surge across significant parts of the country will make matters worse. Another 10 million workers have seen their work hours or wages cut. Put it all together — the unemployed, those whose earnings have been slashed, and those who have simply stopped looking for work — and the real unemployment rate for May reached something like 21%. Unsurprisingly under such circumstances, in June, 20% of renters and 18% of home owners couldn’t make their rent or mortgage payments, while an additional 10% in each category could only pay part of what they owed. Those earning $24,000 or less had the hardest time with 20% of them unable to pay and 18% paying only in part.

Rent strikes have proliferated and many localities have banned the eviction of those who fall behind on their rent due to pandemic-related circumstances. Yet while such moratoriums can be extended, there’s nothing permanent about them. In fact, they have already expired in all or parts of more than a dozen states. Nationally, as many as 23 million renters could face eviction as the fall gets underway and those with low incomes run the greatest risk. Congress included financial assistance (plus a 120-day stay on evictions) for tenants and owners in its March Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Security bill, but that legislation will expire this summer and Senate Republicans are anything but keen to support a follow-up bill.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) have banned home foreclosures until August 31st on mortgages backed by them. More than 30 staaaates have also prohibited the filing of home-foreclosure proceedings against, and the eviction of, owners who haven’t paid their mortgages for Covid-19-related reasons, though the provisions vary greatly with lots of fine print, and not all will last until the end of the pandemic emergency. Once such moratoriums lapse, renters and owners will be on the hook for missed payments.

Together, prolonged unemployment, reduced earnings for those who retain their jobs, and a decline in savings for workers in the bottom 40% — a trend anyway over the past three decades — are likely to increase homelessness, especially if an eviction spiral begins. Columbia University economist Brendan O’Flaherty, who shared his data with me, estimates that the economic downturn caused by the virus could drive the number of homeless to 800,000, an increase of 40% to 45% from 2019.

Homelessness could increase for non-economic reasons as well in the Covid-19 era. Take recent moves to reduce the number of people in American prisons, one of the five top hotspots for the spread of the virus. Three-quarters of the inmates at Ohio’s Marion Correctional Institution, for instance, tested positive for the disease. At the Cummins prison in Arkansas, 891 inmates and 65 employees tested positive. From mid-May to mid-June alone, infections at U.S. prisons doubled to reach a total of 68,000, while deaths rose by 73% to 616 and had reached 651 by July.

In a rush to diminish population density, prisons and jails started releasing certain categories of inmates, though of this country’s 2.1 million prisoners, only about 20,000 have been freed so far, the vast majority from local jails. Keep in mind that people leaving prison have difficulty finding jobs in the best of times, so some of those released to manage the pandemic will undoubtedly find themselves both poverty-stricken and homeless. Even in the pre-pandemic moment, former prisoners were 10 times more likely to become homeless than other Americans and, according to a 2019 study by the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, striking numbers of them end up in homeless shelters soon after their incarceration ends.

In short, as the coronavirus continues to rage, this country is ill-prepared to handle a surge in homelessness, let alone help those already homeless. The pandemic massively increased the federal deficit. The Congressional Budget Office projects that it could reach $3.7 trillion in this fiscal year, while other estimates go as high as $4.3 trillion. Meanwhile, without exception, states face steep drops in revenue.

Sadly, even if the plight of the homeless worsens and their number rises dramatically, it will barely register in the corridors of power. The homeless are a miniscule fraction of the population and have zero political clout. Politicians can safely ignore them, particularly because they know that most voters do and that the media covers homelessness sporadically at best. The homeless, society’s all but invisible castaways, can hope for little at a time when they will need more help than ever.

Encyclopedia of American Loons

Bob Tuskin

Bob Tuskin is a versatile conspiracy theorists whose views about various matters are somewhat regularly picked up by a variety conspiracy outlets – the type of conspiracy outlets you’d instantly recognize as such from their design and prolific use of “truth” and “liberty” in their titles and urls – and in particular promoted on the “nationally syndicated Bob Tuskin Show”. According to himself, Tuskin is an “organic gardener, a radio show host and activist,” who “seeks a higher form of wisdom” – he certainly has little aptitude for regular types of wisdom – who “often speaks in front of city commissions, the environmental protection agency and others”, in particular in his dogged search for “911 justice” and to “promote awareness of geo-engineering”. He is also one of the co-hosts and organizers of something called the Free Your Mind Conference, which is all about freeing one’s mind from the chains and constraints of truth, reason and rationality (yes, that was a cheap one) to intuit, rant and free-associate about “all aspects of human consciousness, mind control, the occult, human freedom, spirituality and all points in between.” His show, too, has featured and promoted the work of an impressive array of colorful characters.

Yes, Tuskin is of course a 9/11 truther. Primarily, however, he seems to be what he calls a “health freedom researcher”, a title that makes little sense if you read it with an eye for the kind of accuracy and precision Tuskin himself certainly does not care much about. He has probably received most attention for his promotion of HIV/AIDS denialism. Tuskin is among those who doubt that the virus even exists, and he claims that all reports of deaths due to AIDS are propaganda started when people in the homosexual community in the 1980s who had “multiple partners penetrating their immune systems, stared to die from complications with their immune systems” and therefore “wanted to blame this on something else besides their own hazardous behavior.” Apparently you are challenged to prove him wrong.

In 2012 he announced that he was going to run for his local sheriff’s office, though we haven’t heard anything more about that project.

Diagnosis: Total mindrot, of course. Tuskin’s influence may not be comparable to, say, the influence of Alex Jones or Mike Adams, but he seems to be playing a not-entirely-insignificant role in the alternative media circus industry of tinfoil hatters promoting and supporting each others’ deranged ideas and ravings.

 

Jon Rappoport

Jon Rappoport is a deliriously insane “independent researcher” and blogger. According to his bio, he “has lectured extensively all over the US on the question: Who runs the world and what can we do about it?” For the last decade, however, he has “operated largely away from the mainstream” because, as he puts it, “[m]y research was not friendly to the conventional media.” Indeed. His independent research encompasses “deep politics, conspiracies, alternative health, the potential of the human imagination, mind control, the medical cartel, symbology, and solutions to the takeover of the planet by hidden elites.”

He is, for instance, a germ theory denialist, and in his post “Germ theory and depopulation” (discussed here) he argues that “[i]n general, so-called contagious diseases are caused, not by germs, but by IMMUNE SYSTEMS THAT ARE TOO WEAK TO FIGHT OFF THOSE GERMS” (yes, the capitalization is in the original). Indeed, “GERMS ARE A COVER STORY. What do they cover up? The fact that immune systems are the more basic target for depopulation and debilitation of populations.” The main tool is of course vaccines, which are weapons the nefarious powers that be use to kill off, well, it is a bit hard to see, partially because Rappoport’s post is mostly all-caps from there. At least HIV is a cover story as well.

He has a similar screed on flu vaccines on whale.to if that’s the kind of stuff you fancy reading. It is barely grammatical, but at least he gets his enthusiastic anger across rather well.

Currently Rappoport seems to write on various topics for InfoWars. Recently, for instance, Rappoport and InfoWars dubbed Rep. Tim Murphy’s bill seeking to reform the way the government addresses mental health services a “diabolical legislative package,” since Rappoport thought the legislation would require almost all children to take “psychiatric meds,” and that the bill will ultimately give the federal government “a monopoly of the mind.” Yeah, that’s the way he rolls.

Diagnosis: Hysterically crazy; and his influence is probably not quite as limited as his level of crazy should suggest.

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