Wednesday

Susan Rice: Trump Is Making China Great Again



President Trump’s recently concluded trip to Asia had the potential to advance important American security and economic interests. Played correctly, his ambitious five-country, 12-day trip could have steadied his administration’s rocky start in this vital region. Instead, it left the United States more isolated and in retreat, handing leadership of the newly christened “Indo-Pacific” to China on a silver platter.

The trip began with solid performances in Japan and Korea, where Mr. Trump’s relatively measured words left key allies reassured of the United States’ commitment to their security. The president largely shelved his belligerent trade rhetoric, called for allies to buy more American military hardware and reopened the door to diplomacy with North Korea. Weather curtailed his surprise trip to the Korean Demilitarized Zone, but that may have been a blessing, since hostile words might have prompted hostile action.

But in China, the wheels began to come off his diplomatic bus. The Chinese leadership played President Trump like a fiddle, catering to his insatiable ego and substituting pomp and circumstance for substance.

China always prefers to couch state visits in ceremony rather than compromise on policy. This approach seemed to suit President Trump just fine, as he welcomed a rote recitation of China’s longstanding rejection of a nuclear North Korea and failed to extract new concessions or promises. He also settled for the announcement of $250 billion in trade and investment agreements, many of which are nonbinding and, in the words of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, “pretty small.” Missing were firm deals to improve market access or reduce technology-sharing requirements for American companies seeking to do business in China.

Mr. Trump showered President Xi Jinping of China with embarrassingly fawning accolades, calling him “a very special man” and stressing that “my feeling towards you is an incredibly warm one.” He blamed his predecessors rather than China for our huge trade deficits and hailed Mr. Xi’s consolidation of authoritarian power. Such scenes of an American president kowtowing in China to a Chinese president sent chills down the spines of Asia experts and United States allies who have relied on America to balance and sometimes counter an increasingly assertive China. Their collective dismay was only heightened by Mr. Trump’s failure to mention publicly any concerns about the disputed South China Sea or even to insist that the American press be allowed to ask the leaders questions.

According to Mr. Tillerson, these stunning displays of Trumpian affection for Mr. Xi were complemented by more concrete discussions behind closed doors. With the notable exception of climate change, the administration wisely seems to have committed to continue cooperation with China in several key areas. But intensive diplomacy in the run-up to these critical leader-level meetings could have yielded real results to advance mutual interests and bypass the Chinese penchant for show over substance. This time, it is unclear whether such diplomacy was undertaken, and the result is that no new policy ground appears to have been broken.

By contrast, President Barack Obama sent his national security advisers to China before summit meetings. In 2014, we agreed on military confidence-building measures, cooperation to fight Ebola, extended visa validity and a historic United States-China deal on climate change, which led to the Paris Agreement. In 2015, we secured agreement from China to curtail cybertheft of United States intellectual property for commercial gain and to cooperate on development and global health security. In 2016, China stepped up its commitment to crack down on fentanyl precursors, support United Nations peacekeeping and strengthen nuclear security.

President Trump’s last stops in Vietnam and the Philippines proved the most problematic. At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting, he delivered a vitriolic, nationalistic speech on trade that made the United States look angry and rendered us more isolated. He made no progress toward the bilateral trade agreements he says he wants to replace multilateral deals.

Instead, the leaders of the 11 remaining Trans-Pacific Partnership countries announced a framework to remake their deal without the United States, leaving America outside the largest trade agreement in the world — one that the United States had previously championed to solidify its economic and strategic leadership in the region. Notably, President Xi followed Mr. Trump’s hostile speech with a paean to open markets, fair commerce and the benefits of globalization, ideas that might have been cribbed from previous American presidents.

Finally, the president’s always fragile self-discipline evaporated with his outlandish tweets over the weekend, including some about Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, that undercut his sober message in Seoul. So, too, Mr. Trump’s hubristic offer late in his trip to mediate China’s disputes with its neighbors in the South China Sea, his failure to mention human rights and, above all, his disturbing defense of Vladimir Putin’s lies about meddling in our election, combined with his insulting the United States intelligence community on foreign soil, overwhelmed any effort to assert credible American leadership.

President Trump’s lighthearted embrace of a self-proclaimed killer, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, was the nadir of a high-stakes trip that set back American leadership in Asia. But it was, perhaps, the perfect if unintended coda to the president’s “Make China Great Again” tour.

Friday

‘I don’t feel wealthy’: The upper middle class is worried about paying for the tax overhaul




On the income distribution charts at the center of tax overhaul plans, Courtney Mishoe knows she’s doing well. She works as a tax manager at a firm in the Atlanta suburbs. Her husband is a police officer. Together they make more than $180,000 a year. They are solidly in the upper middle class. But they have a mortgage and three kids, including one in day care and another in high school with plans to go to college. It all adds up. They depend on tax deductions to make their budget work.

“I don’t feel wealthy,” Mishoe said. “I don’t have a bunch of money stashed away anywhere.”
Mishoe is the type of person — affluent enough for an annual family vacation but not enough for a boat or second home — who potentially stands to lose under the Republican framework for changing the country’s tax code, which threatens to eliminate or deeply cut deductions for mortgage and student loan interest and state and local taxes. These popular deductions are widely viewed as sacrosanct in high-tax, high-cost states like New York, New Jersey and California, where residents have led the fight against the proposed changes.


But what has been widely overlooked is that residents of well-to-do suburbs in red and blue states across the nation — including here just north of Atlanta — could find themselves in a similar tax squeeze. This threatens to further complicate efforts to pass a tax plan that many Republican officials view as essential after a year of legislative struggles. Both the House version, which passed out of a critical committee Thursday, and the Senate version, released Thursday, target this group of upper-middle-class Americans to raise revenue to offset other tax cuts.

The tax push illustrates the political risks of attacking provisions favored by prosperous but far-from-rich suburbanites, a powerful voting bloc that often faces the financial stress of living in increasingly pricey neighborhoods. Many in the GOP already are worried about losing their grip on this important group after Tuesday’s result in the Virginia governor’s race, where Democrat Ralph Northam crushed Republican Ed Gillespie by running up votes in the dense areas outside cities.

Alpharetta is part of a booming region known as North Fulton, where no one bats an eye at $600,000 homes, Whole Foods and West Elm are eager to locate, and property taxes are relatively high to fund the top-performing public schools that attract striving white-collar professionals. And when it comes to their taxes, residents often have more in common with people living just outside New York City and Washington, D.C., than those in other parts of Georgia.

The Republicans’ plan proposes to offset $2 trillion in tax cuts in part by going after the deductions enjoyed by the upper middle class, generally those earning $100,000 to $250,000 a year, representing about the top 80 to 95 percent of earners. The Joint Committee on Taxation found, for instance, that nearly 90 percent of the state and local tax-deduction benefit went to people earning more than $100,000. The House plans would cap the deduction at $10,000. The Senate plan is said to eliminate the deduction entirely.

In Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, which contains most of North Fulton, nearly half of tax filers took this deduction, well above the national average and on par with expensive coastal states.
“These people will probably be hit,” said Roger Lusby, a tax accountant in Alpharetta, who said he was disappointed by the Republican’s offerings. “They just don’t realize it yet.”

Rep. Karen Handel, a Republican representing the 6th District who won a closely contested special election here earlier this year, defended the plan by pointing to another Joint Committee on Taxation study that found all income groups in the nation would see lower taxes in the short term, on average. But the report did not break down the impact at the local level, and other nonpartisan research has shown that about a third of taxpayers in this income group would pay more. Handel said it was a mistake to focus on deductions.

“It’s important to look at this in the totality,” she said.

Brandon Beach, a local state senator, said he was confident that residents would see lowered individual tax bills in the final proposal.

“This is a tricky thing,” Beach said. “You’ve got to start somewhere.”

North Fulton seems like a place that could afford to pay more in taxes, but residents say their low-six-figure incomes obscure the economic challenges of living here.

A string of prosperous suburbs aligned along an eight-lane highway known as Georgia 400 that funnels cars and light-rail trains into the heart of Atlanta, the region has been transformed in the past two decades into a sought-after community with increasingly dense subdivisions and corporate campuses filled with technology and health-care firms. The headquarters of huge firms such as UPS, First Data and Veritiv are located here.

Homes nearby sell for $500,000 to $800,000. And new construction is constant, with signs in front of unfinished Craftsman-style townhouses that wishfully boast “from the mid-$500s.”
Yet, said Tracey Craft, a local real estate agent, “you can’t get them for them for anywhere near that.”

Other residents say North Fulton is a place where earning $100,000 — nearly twice the national median household income — means a surprising degree of struggle.

“Some of them are living paycheck to paycheck,” Ted Jenkin, a financial adviser, said. “You would imagine that people are fairly well-to-do even with $200,000. But they don’t consider themselves to be rich. It’s challenging.”

Lusby, the accountant, said people earning up to $250,000 in this region “don’t consider themselves to be high-earners.”

He distinguished between income and wealth. Few of his clients in this bracket were socking away much for retirement or college costs. They might have a nicer house, maybe a few extras, “but they feel like it’s all being spent and, for the most part, that’s true,” he said.

If Congress no longer allows individuals to deduct state and local income taxes, including property taxes, from their federal tax bills, it could change the calculus of places like Alpharetta. Education, funded by property taxes, is one of the region’s main selling points.

Officials here credit the public schools — stocked with Advanced Placement and honors classes — with helping to persuade Mercedes-Benz two years ago to relocate its North American headquarters and 1,000 high-paying jobs from New Jersey to Sandy Springs, a town near Alpharetta in the same county.

Broadly speaking, the Republican attack on deductions is being cheered by many economists and analysts, who have complained for years that the tax code favors deductions not available to most Americans.

But where agreement breaks down is that while many in the upper middle class will be asked to pay more, the very rich won’t be.

“I do think the plan seems to be asking more from the top 20 percent,” said Richard Reeves, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who recently wrote a book called “Dream Hoarders,” accusing the upper middle class of gaming the system to their advantage.

But Reeves questioned a tax plan that places a greater burden on the upper middle class and delivers most of the benefits to the truly rich, the top 1 percent.

“That’s absolutely not the right way to do it,” Reeves said.

The tax plan, if passed, could further complicate the region’s reputation as a reliably Republican stronghold. The district has a long streak of sending a Republican to Congress, including Newt Gingrich and later Tom Price. President Trump edged out a win in the district last fall, in a state that he won by five points.

After Price was tapped to be Trump’s secretary of Health and Human Services — a position he later resigned — a runoff election became the most expensive House race in history, when Handel narrowly beat out Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff.

In Alpharetta, many people said they could not determine how they would make out under a confusing plan littered with caps and phase-ins.

As he ate lunch at Alpha Soda, a popular local restaurant, Chris Krogh said he hadn’t followed the debate closely but was troubled by what he heard. Krogh runs a custom cabinetry business and depends on homeowners as customers.

“I always thought Republicans were supposed to be good on the tax breaks,” he said.

Thursday

Profits to Fund Breitbart & Attacks on Clinton




Democracy Now Transcript:
AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. This is Democracy Now!

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we continue to look at money in politics as we turn now to new revelations from the Paradise Papers, a trove of millions of leaked documents on offshore finance that are being reviewed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and their partners.

On Tuesday, The Guardian reported it had found seven Republican super-donors in the papers who store some of their fortunes offshore, beyond the reach of public scrutiny and tax authorities. Together, the billionaires pumped more than $350 million into the 2016 election. Some are well-known backers of conservative causes, like casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and Charles and David Koch. Others have sought to keep their activities out of public view, like Warren Stephens, the hidden co-owner of a payday lending company now under investigation for deceiving customers.

The Guardian also published a report on a major Democratic donor, James Simons, who spent $11 million to back Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. Simons is the founder of Renaissance Technologies, the world’s most profitable hedge fund. Leaked records show he kept much of his $8 billion fortune in an offshore private wealth fund in Bermuda in order to avoid, quote, “particularly severe” U.S. tax bills that would be triggered if they tried to bring the funds onshore.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, another report published Tuesday shows how billionaire Robert Mercer, who replaced Simons as head of Renaissance Technologies, and Mercer’s family built a $60 million war chest for conservative causes inside their family foundation by using an offshore investment vehicle to avoid U.S. taxes. The Guardian traces the money directly to future White House chief strategist Steve Bannon of the far-right news outlet Breitbart Media.

This is New Yorker reporter Jane Meyer describing the instrumental role Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah played in Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.
JANE MAYER: Bob Mercer wants to shrink the government down to the size of a pinhead. He has contempt for social services and for the people who need social services. And so, he has been a power behind the scenes in Trump’s campaign. He kind of rescued Trump’s campaign in the end, he and his daughter. ....
Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of this hedge-fund tycoon, Bob Mercer, sort of cornered Trump and said, “You know, we’d like to give money to your campaign. We’ll back you, but you’ve got to try to, you know, stabilize it.” And basically, she said, “And I’ve got just the people for you to do the job.” And they were political operatives who the Mercer family had been funding for a couple of years, the main one being Steve Bannon, who is now playing the role to Trump—he’s the political strategist for Trump—that’s the role he played for the Mercer family prior to doing it for Trump.
AMY GOODMAN: So that was The New Yorker magazine’s Jane Mayer describing the significance of the Mercers.

For more, we’re joined by Jon Swaine, senior reporter for The Guardian, where he’s part of the team publishing stories on the Paradise Papers. On Monday alone, he co-authored three reports: “Offshore cash helped fund Steve Bannon’s attacks on Hillary Clinton,” “The seven Republican super-donors who keep money in tax havens” and “Democratic donor built up vast $8bn private wealth fund in Bermuda.”

Welcome to Democracy Now!

JON SWAINE: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we just talked about Mercer, so let’s continue with Mercer, Robert Mercer, the head of Renaissance Technologies, who has just basically been forced to step down from that role, though, of course, talk about his wealth and his role in the election of Donald Trump.

JON SWAINE: Robert Mercer has been a huge patron of Donald Trump. Before that, he was a huge patron of Ted Cruz. And one of the ways he’s sought to back Donald Trump and to back Republican causes is through Steve Bannon. And so, Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah have a family foundation based in New York. That makes investments through his successful hedge fund that you talked about. It should, ordinarily, be paying tax on the profits it makes from that hedge fund. But instead, it routes those investments through Bermuda and, in doing so, pays no tax, takes that money, gives it to Steve Bannon through various conservative nonprofits. Steve Bannon produces books about Hillary Clinton—Clinton Cash, this book that did her so much damage in the campaign. He makes films with groups like Citizens United, Young America’s Foundation. And what these documents show, what this leak shows, is that much of this money going into these ventures avoids U.S. tax.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, and when you say it routes it through Bermuda, if it’s a New York-based foundation, what does it—just keep the money in Bermuda or send it there? What’s the mechanics in how it operates?

JON SWAINE: It’s a great question. Basically, this is all just on paper. Everything, really, that Renaissance Technologies does is a U.S. venture. They are based in New York, on Long Island and in Manhattan. But on paper, they have these feeder funds, is what they call them, based in Bermuda. What that means is they pay an offshore boutique law firm to use their address, to use their premises, as a registration address for their feeder funds in Bermuda. And that allows them to say, “Look, we have these businesses in Bermuda. And what we’re doing is routing this money, on paper, on computers, through Bermuda, and therefore it avoids tax.” None of it’s real. None of this is offices with staff members and business operations actually taking place in Bermuda. It’s all just for technical reasons, which helps them avoid tax.

AMY GOODMAN: So you mention Clinton Cash, the book written by Peter Schweizer, president of Bannon’s Mercer-backed Government Accountability Institute. Then it was a documentary co-written by Steve Bannon, co-produced by Rebekah Mercer, Robert Mercer’s influential daughter, who sometimes is called “the first lady of the 'alt-right.'” This is a clip from the trailer for Clinton Cash.
HILLARY CLINTON: I want to thank all of you for your work to root out corruption, that weakens economic development, feeds black markets and organized crime, and undermines the promise of democracy.
PETER SCHWEIZER: I believe in the oldest adage in American politics, which is: follow the money.
REPORTER: A new report today claims that the Clinton Foundation gives about 10 percent of its money that it raises to actual charities.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about how seminal this book, then a film, and the Breitbart media empire, supported by the Mercers—how seminal it was in Trump’s victory and in Hillary Clinton’s defeat.

JON SWAINE: I think it was really the first blow that Hillary Clinton took in her campaign. She had just announced that she was running for president. This was May 2015. And this book arrived, Clinton Cash. It got a lot of mainstream media attention. Bannon and Schweizer pushed it pretty hard into the mainstream. Breitbart supported it. Other outlets supported it. And it really painted the way that the Clinton Foundation was treated for the entire election campaign.

And, you know, I think, justifiably, a lot of Clinton supporters were pretty upset and pretty wounded by the fact that the Clintons—for all their, you know, various problems that liberals have with them, their foundation did a lot of good work overseas. It was a philanthropic foundation at its heart. This book made some very questionable charges about this sale of a uranium company to Russia. You know, that really tarnished her from the very beginning of the campaign.

And it resonates today. You know, only last month, the—two committees in the House announced an investigation into this uranium sale, which comes all the way back from Clinton Cash. The FBI looked into it during the campaign, and the reports were that the FBI were prompted by Clinton Cash, the book, you know, that the agents read the book and decided to look into this. And so it really did her some serious damage, I think. And that all traces back to Mercer and this offshore money.

Monday

Offshore Trove Exposes Trump-Russia links and Piggy Banks of the Wealthiest 1 Percent


By ICIJ 

A trove of 13.4 million records exposes ties between Russia and U.S. President Donald Trump’s billionaire commerce secretary, the secret dealings of the chief fundraiser for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the offshore interests of the queen of England and more than 120 politicians around the world.

The leaked documents, dubbed the Paradise Papers, show how deeply the offshore financial system is entangled with the overlapping worlds of political players, private wealth and corporate giants, including Apple, Nike, Uber and other global companies that avoid taxes through increasingly imaginative bookkeeping maneuvers.

One offshore web leads to Trump’s commerce secretary, private equity tycoon Wilbur Ross, who has a stake in a shipping company that has received more than $68 million in revenue since 2014 from a Russian energy company co-owned by the son-in-law of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In all, the offshore ties of more than a dozen Trump advisers, Cabinet members and major donors appear in the leaked data.

The new files come from two offshore services firms as well as from 19 corporate registries maintained by governments in jurisdictions that serve as waystations in the global shadow economy. The leaks were obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and a network of more than 380 journalists in 67 countries.
There is this small group of people who are not equally subject to the laws as the rest of us, and that’s on purpose
Brooke Harrington
The promise of tax havens is secrecy – offshore locales create and oversee companies that often are difficult, or impossible, to trace back to their owners. While having an offshore entity is often legal, the built-in secrecy attracts money launderers, drug traffickers, kleptocrats and others who want to operate in the shadows. Offshore companies, often “shells” with no employees or office space, are also used in complex tax-avoidance structures that drain billions from national treasuries.

The offshore industry makes “the poor poorer” and is “deepening wealth inequality,” said Brooke Harrington, a certified wealth manager and Copenhagen Business School professor who is the author of ‘Capital without Borders: Wealth Managers and the One Percent.’

“There is this small group of people who are not equally subject to the laws as the rest of us, and that’s on purpose,” Harrington said. These people “live the dream” of enjoying “the benefits of society without being subject to any of its constraints.”

The records expand on the revelations from the leak of offshore documents that spawned the 2016 Panama Papers investigation by ICIJ and its media partners. The new files shine a light on a different cast of underexplored island havens, including some with cleaner reputations and higher price tags, such as the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.

The most detailed revelations emerge in decades of corporate records from the white-shoe offshore law firm Appleby and corporate services provider Estera, two businesses that operated together under the Appleby name until Estera became independent in 2016.

At least 31,000 of the individual and corporate clients included in Appleby’s records are U.S. citizens or have U.S. addresses, more than from any other country. Appleby also counted clients from the United Kingdom, China and Canada among its biggest sources of business.

Nearly 7 million records from Appleby and affiliates cover the period from 1950 to 2016 and include emails, billion-dollar loan agreements and bank statements involving at least 25,000 entities connected to people in 180 countries. Appleby is a member of the “Offshore Magic Circle,” an informal clique of the planet’s leading offshore law practices. The firm was founded Bermuda and has offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and other offshore centers.

Appleby has a well-guarded 100-year reputation and has avoided public scrapes through a mixture of discretion and expensive client monitoring.

In contrast to Appleby’s public image, the files reveal a company that has provided services to risky clients from Iran, Russia and Libya, failed government audits that identified gaps in anti-money-laundering procedures and been fined in secret by the Bermuda financial regulator. Appleby did not reply to ICIJ’s detailed questions but released an online statement saying it had investigated ICIJ’s questions and is “satisfied that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing.”
The firm said it is “subject to frequent regulatory checks, and we are committed to achieving the high standards set by our regulators.”

The leaked cache of documents includes more than half a million files from Asiaciti Trust, a family-run offshore specialist that is headquartered in Singapore and has satellite offices from Samoa in the South Pacific to Nevis in the Caribbean.

The leaked files also include documents from government business registries in some of the world’s most secretive corporate havens in the Caribbean, the Pacific and Europe, such as Antigua and Barbuda, the Cook Islands and Malta. One-fifth of the world’s busiest secrecy jurisdictions are represented in these databases.
Yes, the Duchy was aware that the Jubilee Absolute Return Fund was run offshore
Chris Addock
Taken as a whole, the leaks reveal offshore traces of spy planes purchased by the United Arab Emirates, the Barbados explosives company of a Canadian engineer who tried to build a “super gun” for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and the Bermuda company of the late Marcial Maciel Degollado, the influential Mexican priest who founded the Catholic religious order the Legionaries of Christ and whose legacy was marred by allegations of child sexual abuse.

Queen Elizabeth II has invested millions of dollars in medical and consumer loan companies, Appleby’s files show. While the Queen’s private estate, the Duchy of Lancaster, provides some details of its investments in U.K. property, such as commercial buildings scattered across southern England, it has never disclosed details of its offshore investments.

“Yes, the Duchy was aware that the Jubilee Absolute Return Fund was run offshore,” said Chris Addock, chief finance officer of the Duchy of Lancaster.

The records show that as of 2007, the queen’s private estate invested in a Cayman Islands fund that in turn invested in a private equity company that controlled BrightHouse, a U.K. rent-to-own firm criticized by consumer watchdogs and members of Parliament for selling household goods to cash-strapped Britons on payment plans with interest rates as high as 99.9 percent.

Other royals and politicians with newly disclosed offshore ties include Queen Noor of Jordan, who was listed as the beneficiary of two trusts on the island of Jersey, including one that held her sprawling British estate; Sam Kutesa, Uganda’s foreign minister and a former U.N. General Assembly president, who set up an offshore trust in the Seychelles to manage his personal wealth; Brazil’s finance minister, Henrique de Campos Meirelles, who created a foundation in Bermuda “for charitable purposes”; and Antanas Guoga, a Lithuanian member of the European Parliament and professional poker player, who held a stake in an Isle of Man company whose other shareholders included a gambling mogul who settled a fraud lawsuit in the United States.

Wesley Clark, a one-time Democratic presidential hopeful and a retired four-star U.S. Army general who served as NATO’s supreme commander in Europe , was a director of an online gambling company with offshore subsidiaries, the files show.

A spokesman for Queen Elizabeth II told ICIJ partner The Guardian that the Duchy has an ongoing investment in the Cayman Island fund and was not aware of the investment in BrightHouse. The Queen voluntarily pays tax on income from the Duchy and its investments, the spokesman said.

Queen Noor told ICIJ that “all the bequests made to her and to her children by [the late King Hussein] have always been administered according to the highest ethical, legal and regulatory standards.”

Brazil’s Meirelles said the foundation he created does not benefit him personally and will support education charities after his death.

Guoga said he declared his investment in the Isle of Man company to authorities and sold the last of his shares in 2014.

“I thought you could avoid, not evade, taxes but I found it was not practical,” Kutesa told ICIJ’s media partner The Daily Monitor. He said he did nothing with the company. “ I told Appleby to close it many years ago.”

Clark did not reply to requests for comment.

In addition to disclosures about politicians and corporations, the files reveal details about the financial lives of the rich and famous and the unknown. They include Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s yacht and submarines, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s Cayman Island investment vehicle, and music star Madonna’s shares in a medical supplies company. Pop singer and social justice activist Bono – listed under his full name, Paul Hewson – owned shares in a company registered in Malta that invested in shopping center in Lithuania, company records show. Other clients listed their occupations as dog groomer, plumber and wakeboard instructor.

Madonna and Allen did not reply to requests for comment. Omidyar, whose Omidyar Network donates to ICIJ, discloses his investment to tax authorities, a spokeswoman said. Bono was a “passive, minority investor” in the Malta company that closed down in 2015, a spokeswoman said.

Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump

Wealthy people across the political spectrum use the offshore system.
The files reveal that Stephen Bronfman, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau’s adviser and close friend, teamed up with Liberal Party stalwart Leo Kolber and Kolber’s son to quietly move millions of dollars to a Cayman trust. The offshore maneuvers may have avoided taxes in Canada, the United States and Israel, according to experts who reviewed some of the 3,000-plus files detailing the trust’s activities.

As the offshore riches grew, lawyers for Bronfman, the Kolbers and other wealthy interests lobbied Canada’s Parliament to fight legislative proposals to tax income from offshore trusts.
Bronfman remains a key fundraiser for Trudeau, who has championed openness in government and promised a crackdown on offshore tax dodging. In September, Trudeau told the U.N. General Assembly: “Right now, we have a system that encourages wealthy Canadians to use private corporations to pay a lower tax rate than middle-class Canadians. That’s not fair and we’re going to fix it.”

Kolber’s lawyers said in a letter to ICIJ’s partner CBC that “none of the transactions or entities at issue were effected or established to evade or even avoid taxation.” They added that the trusts “were always in full conformity with all applicable laws and requirements,” and said that no further comment would be provided by Stephen Bronfman. Trudeau’s office declined to comment.

In the United States, the files reveal personal or corporate offshore ties of key Trump associates who are charged with helping to put “America First.”

The Appleby files show how Ross, Trump’s commerce secretary, has used a chain of Cayman Islands entities to maintain a financial stake in Navigator Holdings, a shipping company whose top clients include the Kremlin-linked energy firm Sibur. Among Sibur’s key owners are Kirill Shamalov, Putin’s son-in-law, and Gennady Timchenko, a billionaire the U.S. government sanctioned in 2014 because of his links to Putin. Sibur is a major customer of Navigator, paying the company more than $23 million in 2016.

When he joined Trump’s Cabinet, Ross divested his interests in 80 companies. But he kept stakes in nine companies, including the four that connect him to Navigator and its Russian clients.

These revelations come against a backdrop of growing concerns about hidden Russian involvement in U.S. political affairs.

Sibur is “a company with crony connections,” said Daniel Fried, a Russia expert who has served in senior State Department posts in Republican and Democratic administrations. “Why would any officer of the U.S. government have any relationship with a Putin crony?”
A spokesman for Ross said that the Commerce Secretary never met Putin’s son-in-law or Sibur’s other owners and that he was not on the board of Navigator when it initiated its relationship with Sibur.

Ross recuses himself from matters that relate to international shipping, his spokesman said, and “has been generally supportive of the administration’s sanctions” against Russian entities.
The leaked files also led to other discoveries about U.S.-Russian business ties.

A document in the new cache of records helped steer ICIJ and its media partners to public documents and Panama Papers files that illuminate links between a pair of Kremlin-owned financial firms and major investments in Twitter and Facebook.

In 2011, the investment fund run by tech mogul Yuri Milner received $191 million from one of the Russian government firms, VTB Bank, and quietly invested that money in Twitter. Documents also show that a financial subsidiary of the Kremlin-controlled energy giant Gazprom funded a shell company that invested in a Milner-affiliated company that held roughly $1 billion in Facebook shares shortly before the social network’s 2012 initial public offering.

More recently, Milner invested $850,000 in Cadre, a real estate firm co-founded by Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner.

Milner is a Russian citizen who lives in Silicon Valley. His ties to Twitter, Facebook and Kushner’s firm have been previously disclosed. But his links to the Kremlin financial institutions weren’t known.

VTB confirmed that it had used Milner’s fund to make an investment in Twitter. Facebook and Twitter said they had properly reviewed Milner’s investments.

In an interview, Milner said he was unaware of any possible involvement by the Gazprom subsidiary in any of his deals and that none of his many investments have been related to politics. He said he used his own money in the Kushner investment.

On the other side of the U.S. political divide, Ross’ predecessor as secretary of commerce, Penny Pritzker, pledged to sell investments to avoid conflicts of interest after she assumed her post in Democratic President Barack Obama’s Cabinet. The files show that soon after she received Senate confirmation in June 2013, Pritzker transferred her interests in two Bermuda companies to a firm that used the same mailing address as her private investment firm in Chicago. The company was “owned by trusts that are for the benefit of Penny Pritzker’s children,” according to Appleby’s files. These transfers may have fallen short of federal ethics standards for divestment, according to ethics expert Lawrence Noble.

Republican and Democratic donors alike appear in offshore records, including Randal Quarles, a GOP-leaning donor and the new Wall Street watchdog at the Federal Reserve. Quarles was an officer of two Cayman Island companies, including one that was involved in a loan deal with a Bermudan bank, N.T. Butterfield & Son. Until recently, Quarles held an indirect interest in the bank, which is under investigation by U.S. authorities for possible tax evasion by its American account holders. Private equity funds controlled by Democratic mega-donor George Soros, a hedge fund billionaire, use Appleby to help manage a web of offshore entities, including an investment in one company engaged in reinsurance, or insurance for insurers. His charitable organization, the Open Society Foundations, is a donor to ICIJ.

A spokesperson at the Federal Reserve said Quarles divested his indirect interest in the Bermudan bank after he was confirmed for the government post. Soros declined to comment. Pritzker did not respond to requests for comment.

Boardroom secrets

When Appleby is not serving the interests of some of the world’s wealthiest individuals, it provides nuts-and-bolts legal help to corporations that seek to reduce their taxes in the countries where they do business. Appleby is not a tax adviser, but the firm plays a role in tax programs used by companies across the world.

In addition to top-flight international banks such as Barclays, Goldman Sachs and BNP Paribas, other elite Appleby clients have included the founder of one of the Middle East’s largest construction conglomerates, the Saad Group, and the Japanese company operating the crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima.

The files reveal that America’s most profitable company, Apple Inc., shopped around Europe and the Caribbean for a new island tax shelter after a U.S. Senate inquiry found that the tech giant had avoided tens of billions of dollars in taxes by shifting profits into Irish subsidiaries.
In one email exchange, Apple’s lawyers asked Appleby to confirm that a possible move to one of six offshore tax havens would allow an Irish subsidiary to “conduct management activities . . . without being subject to taxation in these jurisdictions.” Apple declined to comment on details of the corporate reorganization but told ICIJ that it explained the new arrangements to government authorities and that the changes did not reduce its tax payments.

The files also reveal how big corporations cut their taxes by creating offshore shell companies to hold intangible assets such as the design of
One of Appleby’s top corporate clients was Glencore PLC, the world’s largest commodity trader. The files contain decades of deals, emails and multimillion-dollar loans to bankroll ventures in Russia, Latin America, Africa and Australia.

Glencore was such an important client that it once had its own room within Appleby’s offices in Bermuda.

Company board meeting minutes document how Glencore representatives leaned on Daniel Gertler, an Israeli businessman with high-level friends in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to help seal a deal for a valuable copper mine. Glencore lent millions to a company, widely believed to belong to Gertler, described in a U.S. Department of Justice inquiry as a conduit for bribes. Gertler and Glencore were not named in the case.

Glencore said its background checks on Gertler were “extensive and thorough.” The Justice Department investigation “does not constitute evidence of anything against Mr. Gertler,” his lawyers said, adding that he “rejects absolutely any allegations of wrongdoing or criminality by him.” No loans were used improperly or for inappropriate purposes, Gertler’s lawyers said.

Offshore operatives

The offshore industry is a globe-circling labyrinth of accountants, bankers, money managers, lawyers and middlemen who get paid to serve the interests of the rich and well-connected.

Appleby, for example, is one link in a chain of offshore actors who helped sports stars, Russian oligarchs and government officials to purchase jets, yachts and other luxury items. The offshore experts helped Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, two Russian billionaires and childhood friends of President Putin, buy jets worth more than $20 million in 2013. U.S authorities blacklisted the Rotenbergs in 2014 for their support of “Putin’s pet projects” and for having banked “high price contracts” through the Russian government. Appleby cut its ties with the brothers but, in one case, received approval from the Isle of Man government nearly two years after sanctions were imposed to disburse fees to keep one of the brothers’ companies on the business register. The Rotenbergs did not reply to Süddeutsche Zeitung’s requests for comment.

Clients prize Appleby for its expertise, efficiency and global network of professionals. Its peers repeatedly crown it Offshore Law Firm of the Year.

But decades of private documents also show that even one of the offshore industry’s brightest stars has hidden shortcomings: accepting questionable clients and failing to monitor multimillion-dollar money flows.

Bermuda financial regulators fined the firm’s trust unit for breaching anti-money-laundering rules, according to a confidential 2015 deal struck by Appleby and the regulator. This year, Appleby reached a $12.7 million settlement in a lawsuit in Canada in which nurses, firefighters and police officers accused the firm of unquestioningly circulating money on behalf of a client who designed an alleged alleged tax-avoidance scheme. Appleby and the alleged mastermind did not admit wrongdoing.

Family-owned Asiaciti advertises itself as helping clients to accumulate and “preserve wealth from the ravages of litigation,” political upheavals and family breakups. It has attracted Chinese millionaires, family members of a Kazakh official convicted of corruption and a broad swath of Americans, including doctors, poker players and a Colorado alfalfa farmer.
If you say that you’ve cleaned it up, at the end of the day, can you really say that you’ve picked up every piece of seaweed?
Adrian Alhassan
The leaked files from Asiaciti reveal how the firm set up trusts in the Cook Islands for Kevin Trudeau, a U.S. infomercial frontman who sold millions of copies of self-help books such as “The Weight-Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About.” In 2014, a Chicago judge sentenced Trudeau to 10 years in federal prison for criminal contempt, calling him a shameless fraudster who was “deceitful to the core” and once even used his mother’s Social Security number in one of his scams.

Appleby said in its online statement that it is committed to meeting regulators’ standards. Appleby provides advice to clients “on legitimate and lawful ways to conduct their business,” the firm said, and it does not tolerate illegal behavior.

“It is true that we are not infallible,” Appleby said. “Where we find that mistakes have happened we act quickly to put things right.”

Asiaciti did not respond to requests for comment.

Adrian Alhassan, a former compliance manager at Appleby’s Bermuda office told ICIJ that if someone is “hellbent” on breaking the law, there’s only so much an offshore services provider can do. “It’s not the FBI,” he said. If the law firm spent years doing background research on clients, it wouldn’t “get any work done.”

“It’s like cleaning a beach,” Alhassan said in a telephone interview. “If you say that you’ve cleaned it up, at the end of the day, can you really say that you’ve picked up every piece of seaweed?”

Deepening inequality

Tax havens’ secrecy laws entice those who wish to place their wealth and dealings beyond the reach of regulators, investigators and the tax collectors.

The documents from corporate registries in 19 such jurisdictions reveal company names and details, directors and real owners of companies created in many of the world’s busiest offshore hideouts.

The documents come from high- and low-profile bastions of financial secrecy such as Marshall Islands, Lebanon and St. Kitts and Nevis, a low-lying Caribbean country recently hit by hurricanes. Some jurisdictions’ records are publicly available but impossible to search by an individual’s name. Others, such as the Cayman Islands’ registry, charge more than $30 for a one-page record that provides only basic information. Six registries do not make information available online.

The leaked files contain more than a thousand records from Antigua and Barbuda, a Caribbean country that provides no online corporate information and more than 600,000 documents from the online registry of Barbados, which does not list shareholders or directors.

Over the past decade or more, the European Union and other international organizations have pressured offshore havens to reform their laws and require that offshore go-betweens aggressively screen clients. Progress has been slow, experts say, both because of the challenges of changing practices across a global web of jurisdictions and because powerful people and big companies benefit from the offshore system.

They do so at the expense of the many – shifting the burden of taxation to middle-income taxpayers and giving multinational corporations an advantage over smaller competitors. Where it hurts most is in nations struggling to provide the basics for their populations.
In West Africa, Burkina Faso officials who monitor the tax payments of the largest companies doing business there work from cramped offices with broken air-conditioning units. Burkina Faso is among the poorest countries in the world. On average, a citizen there earns less annually than the owner of an offshore company in Bermuda pays in registration fees. The country’s tax office sought $29 million in unpaid taxes and penalties from Glencore, the world’s 16th-largest company and a major user of Appleby’s services. Glencore protested and the penalty was reduced to $1.5 million.

Helping the rich get richer through offshore maneuvers is not a “benign benefit,” said Harrington, the Copenhagen Business School professor. “When the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, because individual wealthy people are not paying their fair share of taxes.”

“It won’t be lost on wealth managers and those in the offshore industry,” she said, “that we are reaching sort of French Revolution levels of inequality and injustice.”






 

Saturday

DNC leaders call for rules reform after 2016 primary revelations



The top two officials in the Democratic National Committee have pledged to reform the party in the wake of revelations that Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign got a special joint fundraising agreement before she won the 2016 nomination. Yet even as they tried to get past the story, kicked off by former DNC chair Donna Brazile’s upcoming memoir, DNC Chairman Tom Perez and Deputy Chairman Keith Ellison took slightly different views as to what needed to change.

In an email to DNC members last night, Perez said that the party had already begun reforming its primary rules to ensure “that 2020 will be a transparent process,” and that “even a perception of impropriety — whether real or not — is detrimental to the DNC as an institution.” The DNC’s charter, he pointed out, required total neutrality in primaries.

But Perez sidestepped the growing criticism of the 2016 JFA for Clinton’s campaign — which, according to Brazile, allowed the Democratic front-runner’s campaign veto power over some party decisions.


“The joint fundraising agreements were the same for each campaign except for the treasurer, and our understanding was that the DNC offered all of the presidential campaigns the opportunity to set up a JFA and work with the DNC to coordinate on how those funds were used to best prepare for the general election,” Perez said. “Since then, both of those joint fundraising committees have been shut down.”

Perez did not respond to the criticism of former staff and supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who argued yesterday that the JFA was slanted toward Clinton, and that the party gave her special treatment. In an interview, former Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said that the JFA, by its nature, benefited the candidate who could set up high-dollar fundraisers, and that the DNC did not help Sanders organize large donors.

“Who are the wealthy people Bernie was going to bring to a fundraiser?” Weaver asked. “They never set up a single event.”

In his statement, released separately from Perez’s, Ellison did not get into the weeds of the 2015 arrangement. But he did call specifically for the DNC to change its rules to specify that no future campaign could get a favorable JFA.

“We must heed the call for our party to enact real reforms that ensure a fair, open and impartial nominating process in elections to come,” Ellison said. “I’m committed to working with Chairman Perez to make the DNC more transparent and accountable to the American people, whether that’s by ensuring that debates are scheduled far ahead of time or by guaranteeing that the terms of joint fundraising agreements give no candidate undue control or influence over the party.”

The DNC will meet next month to hear recommendations from a “unity commission” that has met four times, in four cities, to research problems with the primary process and debate reforms. Multiple state Democratic chairs are lobbying specifically for new language in the party bylaws about JFAs, an issue that might be forced at a later meeting.

Sunday

While we obsess over Trump, China is making history

While news and analysis in the United States continue to be obsessed with President Trump’s daily antics and insults, halfway around the world, something truly historic just happened. China signaled that it now sees itself as the world’s other superpower, positioning itself as the alternative, if not rival, to the United States. 

This is not my opinion based on reading the tea leaves of Chinese politics. It is the clearly articulated view of China’s supreme leader, Xi Jinping. In his speech last week to the 19th Communist Party Congress , Xi declared that China is at a “historic juncture,” entering a “new era” that will be marked by the country becoming a “mighty force” in the world and a role model for political and economic development. He asserted that China’s “political system . . . is a great creation” that offers “a new choice for other countries.” And he insisted that the country will defend its interests zealously while also becoming a global leader on issues such as climate change and trade.

Ever since China abandoned its Maoist isolation in the 1970s, its guiding philosophy was set by Deng Xiaoping. At that time, China needed to learn from the West, especially the United States, and integrate itself into the existing international order. According to Deng, it should be humble and modest in its foreign policy, “hide its light under a bushel,” and “bide its time.” But the time has now come, in Xi’s view, and he said the Middle Kingdom is ready to “take center stage in the world.”

Xi’s speech is important because this party congress made clear that he is no ordinary leader. He ascended to a second term in office without naming any obvious successors from the next generation of party officials, thus maintaining a grip on power far more secure than his immediate predecessors. More important, the party enshrined his thoughts in the constitution, an honor previously accorded only to Mao Zedong in his lifetime. (Deng’s thoughts were added, but only posthumously.) This means that for the rest of his life, Xi and his ideas will dominate the Communist Party of China.

In a recent issue of the New York Review of Books, Andrew Nathan noted that Western policy toward Beijing has generally assumed that, over time, as China modernized its economy, it would become more pluralistic at home and more cooperative abroad. Nathan added, however, that a few writers and journalists, such as James Mann, worried that China instead would stay authoritarian and provide support for other anti-democratic countries.

The reality is not quite as extreme as Mann predicted. China has remained resolutely authoritarian — in fact, even more so in recent years. But on issues such as climate change, trade and North Korea, it has in fact become more cooperative. While Beijing has tried to set up a few alternative international institutions of its own, it is also the third-largest funder of the United Nations and the second-largest contributor to the international body’s peacekeeping budget. China seeks a revision of the international system to accommodate its own rising power, not a revolution and wholesale replacement of the Western-built international order.

In part, China’s new stance toward the world, and the way it has been received, are a result of the continued strength of the Chinese economy and the growing political confidence of the party under Xi. But these changes are also occurring against the backdrop of the total collapse of political and moral authority of the United States in the world. A recent Pew Research Center survey charts a 14-point drop in those who view the United States favorably across the more than 30 countries polled.

Countries such as Australia, the Netherlands and Canada now all have a more favorable view of China than of the United States. Many of the countries surveyed — including Germany, Chile and Indonesia — have greater confidence in the leadership of Xi than that of Trump. China has aggressively sought to improve its image in the world, spending billions on foreign aid, promising trade and investment, and opening Confucius Institutes to promote Chinese culture.
Meanwhile, consider how the United States must look now to the rest of the world. It is politically paralyzed, unable to make major decisions. Amidst a ballooning debt, its investments in education, infrastructure, and science and technology are seriously lacking.

Politics has become a branch of reality TV, with daily insults, comebacks and color commentary. America’s historical leadership role in the world has been replaced by a narrow and cramped ideology. Foreign policy has become a partisan game, with Washington breaking agreements, shifting course and reversing policy almost entirely to score political points at home.

The shift in reputation that we are witnessing around the world is not so much about the rise of China but rather the decline of the United States.

Saturday

Trump calls for new action, not new money, to tackle opioid crisis

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:
    From President Trump today, a summons to battle opioid addiction. He called for new action, but not necessarily for new money.
    William Brangham begins our coverage.

  • President Donald Trump:
    As you all know from personal experience, families, communities and citizens across our country are currently dealing with the worst drug crisis in American history and even, if you really think about it, world history.

  • William Brangham:
    President Trump, flanked by survivors, first-responders and family members impacted by opioids, declared a public health emergency.

  • President Donald Trump:
    This epidemic is national health emergency. Unlike many of us, we have seen and we have seen in our lifetimes, nobody has seen anybody like what is going on now. As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue. It is time to liberate our communities from the scourge of drug addiction. Never been this way. We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic. We can do it.

  • William Brangham:
    The president spoke at length of the severity of this crisis, which claimed the lives of at least 64,000 people last year, has stretched the ability of first-responders and filled treatment centers to capacity nationwide.

    But the president also told a more personal story, about his own brother Fred, who died after his struggle with alcoholism.

  • President Donald Trump:
    But he really helped me. I had somebody that guided me. And he had a very, very, very tough life because of alcohol, believe me, very, very tough, tough life. He was a strong guy. But it was a tough, tough thing that he was going through, but I learned because of Fred. I learned.

  • William Brangham:
    The administration today announced several initiatives. The prescription drug Opana will be removed from the market because it’s considered too dangerous.

    A key regulation will be changed to expand access to treatment facilities. They will allow grants from the Labor Department and money for HIV/AIDS care to be used in this fight. And officials will be able to tap the Public Health Emergency Fund, even though that fund has less than $60,000 in it.

    No new money has been allotted by today’s action. Many say the president’s declaration of a public health emergency is important, but they note that it falls short of a more sweeping state of national emergency, which would give the government far more flexibility to respond to the epidemic.

    The president’s own commission on this crisis, chaired by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, had urged that more comprehensive declaration earlier this year. Christie today was still very supportive of the president’s action.

  • Gov. Chris Christie, R-n.j.:
    What the president did today was historic and it is an extraordinary beginning set of steps to dealing with this problem.

  • William Brangham:
    Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that without more robust funding, today’s action is simply not enough.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-calif., House Minority Leader:
    Declaring an emergency means he can have access to some funds, but the funds in that account are like $57,000, $58,000, so show me the money.

  • William Brangham:
    Today’s declaration lasts for just 90 days, but can be renewed indefinitely by the president.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m William Brangham.

  • Judy Woodruff:
    The state of Rhode Island has been especially hard hit by this epidemic and has one of the highest overdose fatality rates in the country.

    Gina Raimondo is the governor and a Democrat. And she joins me now from Providence.
    Governor, welcome to the program. Thank you.

    What does it mean to you that the president has declared this a public health emergency?

  • Gov. Gina Raimondo, D-r.i.:
    Well, good afternoon, Judy. Good to talk to you.

    This is a public health emergency. It’s a public health emergency here in Rhode Island. Since I have been governor, I have done two executive orders on the matter. And it is certainly probably the biggest public health crisis we face in America.

    So, we can’t do enough. People are dying every day because of overdose deaths. I’m sick and tired of going to funerals in my state of my friends’ kids, family members of people who I know. Every day almost, I hear a story of this. And we have to do more.

  • Judy Woodruff:
    What is your understanding of what can happen now as a result of this being declared a public health emergency that couldn’t be done before?

  • Gov. Gina Raimondo:
    You know, this has just come out, so it’s little too soon to say.

    What I will say, though, is to me it seems like too little too late. This has been an emergency for some time. What we really need is resources, Judy. We know what works. We have to do prevention and we have to get folks into treatment.

    And so what the president should be doing if he really did care about these lives is sending finances and funding to us on a local level so that we can get folks into treatment. We know what works. Like, here in Rhode Island, for example, we have been using our Medicaid expansion dollars to provide medical assisted treatment to folks in prison, so they don’t overdose and die when they come out.

    It works. It’s saving lives. But if the president were serious about treating this like a crisis that it is, he would have acted sooner, and at this point he would be providing some budget behind this priority, because that’s what we need.

  • Judy Woodruff:
    Well, at the White House, officials are telling reporters that this is going to put them in a position to urge the Congress to put more fun into this so-called Public Health Emergency Fund, which they would point out has not been funded by the Congress for years.

  • Gov. Gina Raimondo:
    And that would be a good step. That would be a good step, although, again, I would say we’re past baby steps on this.

    I mean, in a small state of Rhode Island, hundreds of people die every year because of overdose. And these are people in every zip code, of every socioeconomic status in every neighborhood. Young people, kids in their 20s, are dying, and it could be prevented.
    So I would say we need more money for prevention, more money for mental health. We don’t have nearly enough mental health facilities. And more money for medical-assisted treatment. And I don’t think we can wait. It’s time for action. People deserve action.
    In the past two weeks, I have gone to three funerals related to this. Enough is enough. We’re doing everything we can, and the president needs to do everything he knows how to do to save lives.

  • Judy Woodruff:
    Well, the president, I think, went out of his way today to say that this is something that matters deeply to him personally. He spoke about his own brother who died of — having been diagnosed with alcoholism.

    The president sounded like he’s very determined to keep the focus on this.

  • Gov. Gina Raimondo:
    Well, talk is one thing, but let’s see action.

    You know, as I said, people are still unable to get access to mental health services, either because they can’t afford it, they don’t have insurance, or there’s not enough capacity in the system.

    He mentioned today, for example, going after cheap fentanyl coming in from China. Take action on that. Fentanyl is killing our kids every day. It’s coming in from China and Mexico. So, let’s see some real enforcement.

    And, again, just — I’m just imploring him, put politics aside, imploring the Congress, put politics aside, do the right thing, give the states not just flexibility. Give us the finances that this country has, so we can save lives.

  • Judy Woodruff:
    And time matters here?

  • Gov. Gina Raimondo:
    Time absolutely matters. Every day we wait, people lose their lives. That is about the size of it. So let’s get to work.

  • Judy Woodruff:
    Governor Gina Raimondo of the state of Rhode Island, thank you very much.

  • Gov. Gina Raimondo:
    Thank you.

Monday

China is winning the future. Here’s how




This week, the front page of the New York Times described the Trump administration’s repeal of the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s attempt to slash carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. “The war on coal is over,” declared Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. Right under that article was an article from halfway around the world detailing China’s massive new investment in electric vehicles, part of Beijing’s determination to dominate the era of clean-energy technology. It is a tale of two strategies.

The Trump administration has decided to move into a new century: the 19th century. Coal has been in decline for at least seven decades. In 1950, it accounted for half of all U.S. electricity generation. It is now down to a third. Additionally, massive automation of mining has meant that the jobs in the industry are disappearing, down from 176,000 in 1985 to 50,000 in 2017.

Machines and software are replacing coal miners just as surely as in other industries. Demand for coal is weak because of alternatives, chiefly natural gas. In the past couple of years, many of the top American coal companies have been forced to declare bankruptcy, including the largest, Peabody Energy.

Despite President Trump’s policy shift, these trends are unlikely to change. Reuters found that, of 32 utilities in the 26 states that filed lawsuits over the Clean Power Plan, “the bulk of them have no plans to alter their multi-billion dollar, years-long shift away from coal.” The reason utilities are shedding coal is economics — the price of natural gas has plummeted in recent years, and its share of U.S. electricity generation has nearly tripled since 1990. In addition, costs are falling dramatically for wind and solar energy.

And, of course, coal is the dirtiest form of energy in use. Coal-fired power plants are one of the nation’s leading sources of carbon-dioxide emissions, and most scientists agree those emissions lead to global warming. They also cause terrible air pollution, with all its attendant health problems and costs.

That’s one of the reasons China, which suffers more than a million deaths a year because of poor air quality, is making huge investments in clean energy. The country has become one of the world’s leading producers of wind turbines and solar panels, with government subsidies enabling its companies to become cost-efficient and global in their aspirations. In 2015, China was home to the world’s top wind-turbine maker and the top two solar-panel manufacturers.

According to a recent report from the United Nations, China invested $78.3 billion in renewable energy last year — almost twice as much as the United States.



Now Beijing is making a push into electric cars, hoping to dominate what it believes will be the transport industry of the future. Already China has taken a large lead in electric cars. In 2016, more than twice as many were sold in China as in the United States, an astonishing catch-up for a country that had almost no such technologies 10 years ago. China’s leaders have let it be known that by 2025 they want 20 percent of all new cars sold in China to be powered by alternative fuels. All of this has already translated into jobs, “big league” as President Trump might say: 3.6 million people are already working in the renewable-energy sector in China, compared with 777,000 in the United States. 

China is still heavily reliant on coal, which it has in plentiful supply, and it has tried to find steady sources of other fossil fuels. It went on a shopping spree over the past two decades, making deals for natural resources and energy around the world, often paying at the peak of the commodities bubble in the mid-2000s. But over time, it recognized that this mercantilism was a bad strategy, tying Beijing up with expensive projects in unstable countries in Africa. Instead, it watched and learned from the United States as technological revolutions dramatically increased the supply and lowered the cost of natural gas and solar energy. China has now decided to put a much larger emphasis on this route to energy security, one that also ensures it will be the world’s leading producer of clean energy.

Trump has often talked about how China is “killing us ” and that he’s tired of hearing about China’s huge growth numbers. He should notice that Beijing is getting its growth by focusing on the future, the next areas of growth in economics and technology. The United States under Trump will be engaged in a futile and quixotic quest to revive the industries of the past. Who do you think will win?


Bernie Sanders & Robert Reich discuss how we defeat Republicans' horrid 'health care' proposal


Thursday

God Bless America