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His name was Henry Summers – but who was he? – BBC News

Image caption Harry (on the left) with workmates at George Brown & Sons

When I heard the story of an elderly man who had lain undiscovered in his flat for three years I wanted to know more about who he was.

It began with an urban horror story.

In June 2015 police in Edinburgh were called by a GP because an elderly patient named Henry Summers had not been seen for several years.

The police went to Henry’s address in Leith, one of the most densely populated areas in Scotland.

Image caption Henry lived in a top-floor flat in Leith

They went to the door of his top-floor flat on Easter Road and knocked but got no answer.

The police called a locksmith but he couldn’t open door because the hinges had fused as it hadn’t been opened for years.

When the police knocked the door down they found a mountain of mail in the hall and Henry Summers was inside, dead.

He had been dead for three years, undiscovered, because all of his bills were paid by direct debit.

Image caption Police beat down the door to gain entry to Henry’s flat

A few years before that a woman had been found dead in Edinburgh, undiscovered for five years.

The media were full of recrimination and finger pointing.

I used to work with old people and had seen this before. It’s easy to de-personalise older people.

We talk about parents and pensioners as if they are conversation-starters about social issues.

But the way someone dies isn’t a summary of their whole life.

Who was Henry Summers?

A year after his body was found, I wanted to find out who Henry Summers had been during his 80-something years of life.

My detective work was for a BBC Radio Scotland documentary and it began with the reports of the incident in the local papers.

Journalist John Connell had interviewed neighbours at the time the body was discovered.

Image caption Denise Mina started her investigations at the home where Henry was found

They told him they had last seen Mr Summers three years earlier in 2012.

They saw him being stretchered out of his house into an ambulance.

He was wearing an oxygen mask and looked very grey.

The neighbours didn’t know that Henry had been discharged and returned to his home.

Image caption The nameplate on Henry’s front door

Later, one of the neighbours knocked on the door. He opened Henry’s letterbox and smelled what he assumed was food going bad.

They said Henry kept himself to himself but was very dapper, always wore a blue jacket and a flat cap and he used to whistle as he was coming up the stairs.

Then a twist: a man came forward and said that the man found dead in the flat in Easter Road could not possibly be Henry Summers.

Henry Summers of Easter Road was his father and had died and been cremated in 2012.

‘Unfathomable coincidence’

My Henry was 10 years younger than the man’s father.

This meant that two men with the exact same name had lived in the same street and died in the same year.

It sounds like an unfathomable coincidence – but it wasn’t.

Later, once we knew who Henry was, it would make perfect sense.

Image caption Henry lived at 300 Easter Road in Leith

I went to Easter Road and asked in the local caf, the pub, newsagents.

The police wouldn’t release a photo of Henry so it was difficult to know if they were remembering our Henry.

Some people thought they’d seen him but he was variously reported as being in his 60s and his 90s.

Some said he stood at the bus stop every morning, caught the number 35 and then came back on it in the afternoon.

He bought milk and newspapers every day too but the shopkeepers had changed in the three years since he was last seen. He was a difficult man to find.

Funeral paid for

I had assumed that Henry had been forgotten and would have been buried by the city council.

Public health funerals often happen when a person has died alone and impoverished.

I was completely wrong.

In fact, Henry’s funeral had been organised and paid for and an obituary had been printed in the paper.

I wrote, via the crematorium, to the person who paid for the funeral but they wanted to remain anonymous.

I also assumed that Henry’s flat was rented, perhaps the landlord would know him, but Henry owned his flat outright.

He had bought it in 1970 and paid his mortgage off completely in just four years.

It was 1,500. Where on earth did he get that money from? Was he from a rich family?

I was stuck so I went on BBC Radio Scotland’s Kaye Adams programme to ask for information.

Left intestate

The documentary team were contacted on Facebook by people who thought they had seen a man matching his description in the Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre.

He was there regularly, reading the paper, quite content, they said.

The number 35 stops there so it seemed credible.

In the meantime, I tried to trace the person who inherited Henry’s flat.

In Scotland, any property left intestate is dealt with by the National Ultimus Haeres Unit.

National Ultimus Haeres Unit


SUMMERS, Henry, d.o.b: 16/03/1929: place of birth: Leith, who resided at Flat 3F3, 300 Easter Road, Edinburgh , EH6 8JT and who died at Flat 3F3, 300 Easter Road, Edinburgh , EH6 8JT, on 24/06/2015. NUHU/113/15 – POSSIBLE RELATIVES TRACED

They list unclaimed property online so that any claims can be filed.

Henry’s flat had been claimed but they couldn’t tell us who the beneficiary was.

I contacted expert genealogist Dr Bruce Durie and using the Land Register and the census he solved the mystery of the two Henrys.

Our Henry was born in 1929 and had lived and worked in Leith all of his life.

He was an only child and lived with his parents, nursing his fragile mum until her death.

After that he moved from a flat in Thorntree Street just round the corner to the flat in Easter Road.

Image caption Henry was said to have taken the 35 bus from his home to Ocean Terminal in Leith

Here was the answer: Henry’s dad, one of nine children, was brought up at several addresses in Couper Street, Leith.

This street was populated almost entirely by households by the name of Summers.

Most of those families, probably relations, had children named Henry.

The name ‘Henry Summers’ was as much a part of Leith as rope and drink.

Demographics changed

The only reason I didn’t know that was that Leith has changed so much over the past 40 years.

It is gentrified now, the docks have shut, the demographics changed and the vast Summers family have mostly left.

My Henry was a ships’ carpenter, according to his death certificate.

This was an extremely skilled job with a long apprenticeship. Henry’s family were labourers, so he had done well for himself.

They must have been very proud of him.

The mystery of the mortgage remained.

Maritime historian Dr Eric Graham speculated that Henry might have been a whaler or worked long haul.

Those ships would go around the world for months at a time and ships’ carpenters could be paid a lump sum at the end of the voyage.

His name was Harry

It was all guesswork but then our original radio programme was broadcast and suddenly Henry came alive again.

His old pals heard it and contacted us, or the newspapers carrying stories about him.

He wasn’t even known as Henry, everyone called him Harry.

Harry, it turned out, was a great laugh.

He was a Hibs fan, a brilliant carpenter and an angler.

His old gaffer told us Harry was plagued by a mysteriously intermittent case of lumbago, which only ever flared up when he couldn’t be bothered doing a particular job.

His work pal, Andy, contacted us.

Image copyright Courtesy of George Brown & Sons
Image caption Harry (on the left) with workmates at George Brown & Sons

They worked together at George Brown’s in Leith all the way through the 1970s.

Andy saw the obit in the paper and went to Harry’s funeral.

He said Harry was a gent.

In the 1940s and 1950s, when Harry first started work, men in the high trades would wear a shirt and tie underneath their overalls. Harry still did this in the mid-90s.

Image copyright George Brown & Sons
Image caption Henry worked at George Brown and Sons in Leith

We heard that Harry was a good guy who didn’t like sexist jokes, which was unusual in the docks in the 70s.

Another old work pal, Robert, remembered that Harry would pop in to see the guys after he retired to regale them with his latest adventures.

Harry was a confirmed bachelor, an only son and came across as bit of a mummy’s boy, in a really nice way.

He was teetotaller when Robert knew him but their gaffer, Fred, told stories about Harry’s wilder days when they would all laugh and Harry would laugh along with them.

Fred was a whaler and Robert never heard them speaking about whaling together, so he thought Harry probably hadn’t done that. He didn’t think he had ever been abroad.

Image copyright George Brown & Sons

Assistant manager at George Brown and Sons, Steve McIntosh, knew him well.

Harry had retired in the late 90s and loved river fishing for trout.

He was off every weekend to the Tweed and Dalkeith.

Harry didn’t like drydocking the boats in winter or the rain, Steve said.

If Harry knew a boat was coming in and the weather was rotten, he’d call in sick with lumbago, an unusual condition for someone as active as Harry.

Very unusual in avid river fishermen.

Extraordinarily skilled

Steve said they wouldn’t tell Harry the boat was coming in but Harry would have his revenge: if he knew they’d tricked him he’d call in sick the next day.

Despite this Harry was worth keeping on because he was so good at his job, extraordinarily skilled and meticulous.

It emerged that as well as the shipyard, he had been part of a team who “re-roped” the stage sets at the Churchill and Playhouse theatres in Edinburgh.

When Harry retired he used his bus pass to go anywhere – Galashiels, Berwick, Kirkcaldy.

The last time Robert saw Harry was in the St James shopping centre in Edinburgh city centre.

He was fit and active going for a bus. Robert asked him where he was going and Harry said he didn’t know.

Image caption Harry in the back row of Rona’s exercise class (wearing a red T-shirt)

He was going to jump on any bus and that would be his destination for the day.

Harry’s physiotherapist got in touch.

Rona ran an exercise group for people with heart conditions and Harry always stood at the back with the other guys.

They all started at the same time.

The group would go for an annual day out at the Botanic Gardens and she also remembers Harry at their Christmas Ceilidh.

Image caption Henry (back left) on a trip to the Botanics with Rona’s fitness club

When he stopped coming they were worried about him but Rona bumped into him and he explained he was having trouble with sore feet.

He never returned to the class but was spotted out and about, on the bus and at the bookies.

At the physio class Harry and another man would swap stories about the bookies, how lucky or unlucky they had been.

The mystery of the mortgage remained until we heard this. Harry was a gambler.

Maybe Harry just got lucky.

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Bannon and Kushner agree to ‘bury the hatchet’ after White House peace talks

Trumps chief of staff Reince Priebus tells the feuding pair to end the palace intrigue after weeks of damaging infighting

White House aides Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner have met and agreed to bury the hatchet over their differences, a senior administration official said, in a bid to stop infighting that has distracted from Donald Trumps message.

Bannon, the presidents chief strategist, and Kushner, an influential adviser and Trumps son-in-law, met on Friday at the request of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus who told them that if they have any policy differences, they should air them internally, the official said.

The development at the presidents Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, came at the end of what has been a relatively smooth week for Trump.

Trump ordered airstrikes against Syrian targets that drew praise in many parts of the world and staged an error-free summit with Chinese president Xi Jinping, complete with his wife, Melania, wearing a red dress to symbolise the Chinese flag.

Priebus message to Bannon and Kushner was to stop with the palace intrigue and focus on the presidents agenda, the official told Reuters.

Both aides left having agreed that it was time to bury the hatchet and move forward, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Four former advisers to the president said Trump is accustomed to chaos in his decades-long career as a real estate developer but that even he has grown weary of the infighting.

Hes got a long fuse for that kind of thing, said one former adviser. I imagine he has gotten tired of this.

The White House dismissed persistent talk that Trump might be on the verge of a staff shakeup. The only thing we are shaking up is the way Washington operates as we push the presidents aggressive agenda forward, spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said.

The Trump White House has been a hotbed of palace intrigue since he took office on Jan. 20. But the drama has intensified after the failed effort to get healthcare legislation approved by the House of Representatives and the rocky rollout of an executive order attempting to temporarily ban citizens of six Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States.

Bannon, former chief of the conservative news organisation Breitbart News, has been at odds with Kushner and Gary Cohn, the head of the White House national economic council, an administration official and the four former advisers said.

The former Trump advisers said Kushner, husband of Trump daughter Ivanka Trump, is trying to tug the president into a more mainstream position, while Bannon is trying to keep aflame the nationalist fervor that carried Trump to his unexpected election victory in November.

Bannon is getting some of the blame for the administrations early stumbles because, one former adviser said, the president demands results.

In what was viewed as a sign of Bannons declining influence, he was removed from his seat on the national security council this week. Administration officials said this was done at the urging of national security adviser HR McMaster, with whom Bannon had clashed.

Some of the former Trump advisers said Priebus is at fault for not gaining control of the feuding and said Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs executive, would be a candidate to replace him.

Priebus is the former chairman of the Republican National Committee and bucked many in his party by putting the weight of the RNC behind Trump when it was clear he would be the partys presidential nominee. Reince is chief of staff, said a source familiar with the issue. Hes not going anywhere.

Republican strategist Charlie Black, who has known Trump for 30 years, said he did not think a shakeup was imminent and that Trumps White House reflects his traditional approach to running his business.

Hes always had a spokes-to-the-wheel management style, said Black. He wants people with differing views among the spokes.

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We’ll Never Get Over This Photo Of The Third ‘Property Brother’

Property BrothersJonathan and Drew Scott have made a career for themselves as a renovations tag team. A duo. A couple of handsome twins with impeccable taste.

So when this old photo with their EMO-haired older brother JD Scott popped up,Twitter lost its mind.

James Daniel Scotts existence has not exactly been a secret. Hes even starred alongside his bros in a you guessed it ahome improvement show. There was also a rumor swirling around that he was a magician, perhaps sparked by theCriss Angel aesthetic above.

Scott lives in Las Vegas, describes himself as an HGTV/Great American Country, Radio & Global Ambassador, has over 2 million Vine loops (R.I.P. Vine), is in fact not a magicianand has ditched the so-called Pete Wentz hair.

In fact, he looks more like this these days:

Mike Windle via Getty Images
All three brothers in 2015. 

If youre thinking right about now that JD is your new favorite Brother, youre not alone. Buzzfeeds Matthew Broderick conducted a thought-provoking poll in 2015, askingWhich Property Brother is the best Property Brother?

JD was the clear favorite, garnering 68 percent of the 90 person vote.

ProBro 3, as weve decided to call him, appears to be in a relationship, but we cant help but fantasize about setting him up with fellow third sibling Elizabeth Olsen. Theyd have so much to talk about!

Keep rockin, JD Scott.

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Trump considers rearranging the seats at his table

Palm Beach, Florida (CNN)The future of top White House staffers, Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, is uncertain, as President Donald Trump is increasingly sending signals he is considering a major shakeup of his leading advisers.

The rise of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has only further isolated Bannon, the chief strategist, from the President and his inner circle.
The pressure has mounted as the President has begun openly questioning the makeup of his senior staff as he looks for a win that could reboot his presidency. Who ultimately prevails in the ideological standoff between blocs led by Kushner and Bannon could determine the trajectory of Trump’s term in the months or years ahead.
    He’s begun asking those outside the administration — including wealthy friends and longtime confidantes — whether they approve of the makeup of his staff.
    But it’s also not clear yet that Trump is ready to pull the trigger on any changes just yet, the senior GOP source said. Some Republicans think that Trump is not ready to make a change, even though they feel that Priebus, chief of staff, and Bannon should go.
    The White House issued a statement Friday pushing back on the speculation.
    “Once again this is a completely false story driven by people who want to distract from the success taking place in this administration,” said Lindsay Walters, a White House spokeswoman. “The President’s pick for the Supreme Court (a decision that has generational impact) was confirmed today, we hosted multiple foreign leaders this week and the President took bold and decisive military action against Syria last night. The only thing we are shaking up is the way Washington operates as we push the President’s aggressive agenda forward.”

      Trump and China: What’s at stake?


    Seat at the table

    As Trump sat for dinner Thursday with his Chinese counterpart in an ornately frescoed dining room a Mar-a-Lago, the fresh divides seizing the White House staff were on full display.
    Seated next to President Xi Jinping’s wife — two seats down from Trump himself — was Kushner, the commercial real estate scion and husband of Ivanka Trump, who is quickly consolidating power just shy of the Trump administration’s 100 day mark.
    Further down the banquet table — sandwiched between two Chinese officials — was Bannon, the President’s controversial chief strategist who multiple administration officials now say is in open conflict with Kushner, leading to new polarization in the West Wing just as Trump hopes to reboot his presidency.
    To White House aides, the tableau was telling: While Bannon still has a seat at the table, his position seems to slipping. Kushner, meanwhile, appears ascendent, even as Trump continues to go to both men for advice.

      Bannon no longer on National Security Council


    ‘Unwinnable’ fight

    According to a person who have spoken with Bannon in recent days, the bomb-throwing former Breitbart executive has said he feels his entrenched battle with Kushner — and, by proxy, with Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and other moderate members of the administration — is “unwinnable” given Trump’s intense loyalty to his own family.
    He says he’s determined to continue pressing for key issues that helped propel Trump to the White House: cracking down on illegal immigration and scrapping the federal regulations he says compose an overbearing “administrative state.”
    But his standing in Trump’s inner-circle has been diminished. He was stripped of a post on the National Security Council this week, even as Kushner waded further into his father-in-law’s foreign policy affairs with a trip to Iraq and a leadership role in preparing for this week’s meeting with Xi.

      Critics slam Trump for moving Bannon to NSC


    Bannon’s ouster from the National Security Council Wednesday was only the latest sign of Kushner’s rise, sources said. While H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, has been working for weeks to find a way to rid the White House foreign policy operation of Bannon, it was ultimately Kushner’s influence that made it happen, sources said.
    Bannon deemed reports that he recently threatened to quit “ridiculous.”
    But it’s clear his position in the White House is in jeopardy. One Trump confidant predicted: “Bannon will likely be gone soon.”
    While Bannon’s influence has waned considerably inside the West Wing since the early days of the administration, he remains a powerful force outside the administration. Nowhere is that more clear than Breitbart News, his former power center that he is still closely aligned with.
    One Trump aide, who sits on the Kushner side of the divide, bluntly acknowledged this tension and said it could be a reason for the President to not throw Bannon overboard for fear of what he may do to the presidency he helped build.

      Trump: Assad choked out the helpless


    ‘America First’?

    On Thursday night, as Trump was weighing the most consequential national security decision of his presidency, it was the Kushner wing of Trump’s staff who appeared to win over their boss.
    Instead of leaning upon the nationalist worldview of Bannon — who has argued against US intervention abroad and was a key architect of Trump’s “America First” policy — Trump dove headfirst into a foreign conflict, ordering airstrikes in Syria to punish the regime of Bashar al-Assad for its use of chemical weapons on civilians.
    The decision was made just ahead of Trump’s dinner with Xi. After landing in Mar-a-Lago Thursday, Trump huddled for a lengthy briefing from his top national security officials in a secure facility installed at the resort, going over options with Defense Secretary James Mattis, McMaster, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
    Bannon and Kushner sat in on the meeting as well. And while officials declined to detail the specific recommendations of Trump’s top aides, the strikes that the President ordered reflected a break from the nationalist stance he adopted as a candidate that was driven, in large part, by Bannon’s advice.

      Who’s near Trump in the new White House?


    The divide between Bannon and Kushner has extended beyond the two men themselves, who work from abutting offices just steps from the Oval Office.
    Rival factions have emerged, pitting those aides who consider themselves the nationalists — including Bannon and the controversial policy adviser Stephen Miller — against a more global-minded wing, led by Kushner, Cohn and deputy national security adviser Dina Powell, according to two sources familiar with the situation.
    Both Cohn and Powell — who both came from the administration directly from Goldman Sachs — are viewed internally as close to Kushner, a dynamic that rankled those in the White House close to Bannon.
    Bannon’s faction has come to term Cohn as “Globalist Gary,” an insult for those aligned with the Bannon’s populist views.

      Steve Bannon makes rare public remarks at CPAC



    Priebus, the chief of staff, has himself grown touchy about the constant questions about his competence and stature in the White House. Priebus appears as uncertain in his post as ever as Trump grows impatient with how his presidency is being viewed, officials said.
    Possible replacements began circulating Friday morning, among them House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Gary Cohn, who has emerged as a trusted adviser to Trump as director of the National Economic Council. McCarthy has been an ally to the president since summer, but, as with Cohn, it’s unclear how deep Trump’s trust runs with them.

      Newsmax CEO: Preibus making things difficult


    “He knows how to build a coalition to get legislation passed,” one senior GOP source with knowledge of the list said of McCarthy, despite his inability to help pass the health care plan.
    Also on the short-list: Wayne Berman of Blackstone Group, who served as a former assistant Secretary of Commerce under President George H.W. Bush and David Urban of the American Continental Group, and a former chief of staff to the late Sen. Arlen Specter. Urban worked on Trump’s campaign in Pennsylvania.
    Another longtime ally, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, is a potential option, though sources close to Christie waved off the idea. Kushner, whose father was prosecuted by Christie, could also throw water on the move.
    Trump himself — who has wielded a management style based on staff divisions and chaos — downplayed talk of a staff shakeup on Thursday.
    Asked aboard Air Force One as he flew to Florida if a staff shakeup was coming, the president said he thought the administration had “already shaken things up.”
    “I think we’ve had one of the most successful 13 weeks in the history of the presidency,” he said.
    CNN’s Jim Acosta and Dana Bash contributed to this report.

    Read more:

    Who’s who in the Trump White House

    Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump, a man who ran his private company — beholden to no one outside his family — with a healthy dose of chaos, has brought that same management style to the White House. It’s an approach that’s led to widespread palace intrigue and near constant backbiting by people who sit mere feet from each other in the West Wing.

    Power centers at the White House are now shifting daily, a fact that not only affects the effectiveness of Trump’s presidency, but the ability for Republicans to actually make good on the promises they made for years on the campaign trail. To date, the results have been minimal.
    Here are is a list of the competing factions inside the Trump White House:

        First family shows new look at White House


      The family

      Jared Kushner
      Trump’s son-in-law appears to be the Secretary of Everthing. The President, according to a number of reports, has put him in charge of negotiating peace in the Middle East, dealing with the opioid epidemic, diplomacy with Mexico and China and reforming the criminal justice system. And that rising profile for the 36-year-old with limited experience has irked some closer to Trump, especially White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. A White House official told CNN Thursday that tensions between Bannon and Kushner are rising and that the senior adviser to the President helped orchestrate Bannon’s departure from the National Security Council.
      Ivanka Trump
      Donald Trump’s daughter became her father’s latest hire as a top aide last week, when she officially became an unpaid government employee. The first daughter is obviously close with Kushner, her husband, and is portrayed as a moderating force inside the West Wing, with a focus on issues such as women’s health, equal pay and affordable child care. Ivanka Trump’s influence can be felt outside those realms, too, though: Her top aide, Dina Powell, is now a deputy at the National Security Council.

        Meet Trump’s press-shy press secretary


      The lifers

      Hope Hicks
      Plenty of political operatives quietly snickered when Hope Hicks, who previously worked with Ivanka Trump’s fashion line, was named the real estate mogul’s campaign press secretary despite her lack of political experience. But Hicks survived countless shake-ups during the Trump campaign, and is now director of strategic communications. Most importantly, she is someone who has Trump’s trust and regularly communicates directly with people on the President’s behalf. In the White House, Hicks is considered a Trump confidante.
      Dan Scavino
      Scavino, a former caddie at one of Trump’s golf courses, holds the keys to the castle: Trump’s Twitter. As White House director of social media, Scavino helps Trump hone his reach on the social media platform that helped the reality TV star command media attention throughout the 2016 campaign. But Scavino’s own reach is limited at the White House: Sources with knowledge tell CNN that the aide doesn’t actually have control of @realDonaldTrump, the President’s personal Twitter account and the venue for many of his most blunt screeds. Scavino, however, told CNN those sources are “all wrong.” His own use of Twitter has also been a headache for the White House — ethics experts said Scavino ran afoul of federal law when he urged Republicans to beat Rep. Justin Amash in a primary.
      Keith Schiller
      Donald Trump values loyalty, and no White House staffer outside the President’s own family has demonstrated their allegiance to Trump longer than Schiller, the former New York Police Department detective who has been by Trump’s side for almost two decades. Schiller, who joined Trump’s team as a personal bodyguard in the 1990s, is now the President’s director of Oval Office operations. But the title belies the power. Schiller plays more of a body-man role to Trump and is regularly in the room when the President is making decisions, a powerful position given Trump’s tendency to ask anyone and everyone in the room for their thoughts.

        What you need to know about Steve Bannon


      The outsiders

      Steve Bannon
      Bannon, the outspoken former head of Breitbart News, vaulted to power inside the Trump campaign in the dog days of summer, when Trump’s chances looked bleak. He helped turn around the campaign and, in turn, was rewarded with the title chief White House strategist and, in an eye-raising move, was given a permanent seat on the National Security Council.
      Bannon’s worldview is self-described as “economic nationalism” and he’s hoping Trump will aid in the “deconstruction the administrative state.” That outsider approach has clashed with the likes of Kushner. But Bannon’s standing inside the White House could be changing. He was demoted from the national security panel on Wednesday, a sign that his world view could be falling inside the West Wing.
      Stephen Miller
      Miller, the 31-year-old former congressional aide with a sharp tongue and history of rankling moderate Republicans, was seen as a power center when Trump stepped into the White House in January. But after the bungled roll out of Trump’s first attempt at a travel ban — which Miller headed up — the policy aide’s wings have been clipped. Trump heralded Miller’s appearances on television in February, but the aide has been little seen since then.
      Julia Hahn
      Hahn, now a special assistant to the President, formerly covered immigration issues for Breitbart News. From an aggressively anti-immigration lens, Hahn hammered House Republicans, namely Speaker Paul Ryan, for what she argued was a soft stance on immigration. A headline Hahn once wrote: “Paul Ryan Betrays America.” The former journalist is closely tied with Bannon and the more nationalist wing of Trump’s White House.

        Trump picks Reince Priebus as chief of staff


      The insiders

      Reince Priebus
      There was a time when Priebus, as chair of the Republican National Committee, urged Trump to get out of the race. Then Trump won and Priebus was named White House chief of staff — the high point in his 2016 rollercoaster ride. Before even stepping into the White House, Priebus was the subject of rampant speculation about his standing. And the rumors haven’t stopped. His tenuous standing was made clear when Katie Walsh, a colleague of Priebus at the RNC and his deputy at the White House, departed the West Wing a week ago. “It was a shot across the bow to Reince — to strip him of his protector and top aide,” a Republican close to Priebus said.
      Sean Spicer
      Spicer’s daily press briefings have become appointment viewing for Democrats and Republicans alike in Washington. But the press secretary’s public facing role has also opened him up to rampant criticism and wanton speculation about his hold on the job. Spicer’s standing has somewhat stabilized in recent weeks, after Mike Dubke was hired as White House communications director, a role Spicer was filling in addition to press secretary for the first few weeks of the Trump administration. Spicer, who was formerly a senior strategist at the Republican National Committee, is closely aligned with Priebus, who headed the committee. Staffers who have long been with Trump — including during the campaign — are somewhat skeptical of Spicer because of comments he made that knocked comments Trump made during 2016.
      Don McGahn
      McGahn, Trump’s White House counsel, may have the most difficult job in an administration surrounded by ethics questions. The former campaign finance lawyer and general counsel with Trump’s campaign now regularly finds himself at the center of a series of political firestorms and that isn’t likely to stop, given Trump’s extensive business holdings, constant ethics questions and tendency to address hot button issues at all hours via Twitter.
      Kellyanne Conway
      No one’s tenure at the White House has been more of a rollercoaster then Kellyanne Conway, the former Republican operative who helped turn Trump’s campaign around when she took the helm in August. Conway was once Trump’s most ever-present aide, who regularly appeared on TV for the White House. But after a few high profile gaffes and misstatements, Conway’s power — and public standing — has fallen, with some White House aides openly wondering what she is doing regularly. Conway is said to be eying the White House podium by possibly ending out Sean Spicer, who currently holds the press secretary job.
      Sarah Huckabee Sanders
      Sanders, an Arkansas native and the daughter of the state’s former Gov. Mike Huckabee, worked for Trump during the campaign and now serves as the deputy White House press secretary. The folksy spokesperson has experienced a profile bump in the first weeks of the Trump administration, where she has gone on television somewhat regularly to push the administration’s views. Sanders is seen as a rising star in the White House.

        Wall Street doesn’t fear President Trump


      The Wall Street-ers

      Gary Cohn
      Cohn, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, is Trump’s top economic adviser and the head of his the effort to make tax reform a reality. The more hard-line members of Trump’s inner circle view Cohn skeptically, arguing that he is not entirely loyal to Trump and favors globalism over nationalism. Bannon has reportedly taken to calling Cohn “Globalist Gary.” Cohn is closely aligned with Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.
      Dina Powell
      Powell, a former Goldman Sachs executive who was brought to the White House to advise Ivanka Trump, moved to the National Security Council in March, yet another sign that Trump’s council will play a coordinating role between the arms of the federal government. In that hierarchy, Powell will be one of the primary interlocutors. But her role at the National Security Council doesn’t convey the breadth of her influence. Powell is incredibly close with Ivanka Trump and Kushner, and it seen internally as a rising star in the administration. Powell, who was deputy national security adviser for strategic communications under George W. Bush, also knows how Washington works, not an unimportant fact in a West Wing full of federal newbies.

        Trump names McMaster National Security Adviser


      The other guys’ guys

      H.R. McMaster
      McMaster wasn’t Trump’s first pick to lead the National Security Council. But after being tapped to lead the agency in February after Michael Flynn resigned due to undisclosed contacts with Russian operatives, McMaster has begun to become a power center unto himself. The former Army lieutenant general has begun to remake the national security body into a more traditional structure, with advisers saying McMaster will play a similar role to Brent Snowcroft, the former national security adviser to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush who was more private than former advisers. One of the first moves to do that: McMaster helped orchestrate Bannon’s removal from the powerful body.
      Marc Short
      Trump has encountered a host of problems on Capitol Hill, all of which eventually falls on Short, his director of legislative affairs with deep ties to conservative politics. The legislative director is a key tie between Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, whom Short worked for when he served in House leadership. Short’s role is key for Trump, whose sometimes brash style has rubbed lawmakers the wrong way. It is Short who will be tasked with helping usher legislative through Congress, especially when it needs to be made palatable for conservative Republicans.
      Bill Stepien
      Stepien is the key vestige inside the Trump White House linked to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a close Trump confidante. In a saga Shakespeare would marvel at, Christie was axed from the Trump transition team in November as part of a power struggle orchestrated by Kushner, whose father was prosecuted by Christie in 2004 for tax evasion, witness tampering and illegal campaign contributions. Stepien, now the White House political director, formerly managed both of Christie’s successful gubernatorial campaigns. Christie himself has started to move back into Trump’s orbit: He was named to a council tackling the opioid epidemic in March.

      Read more:

      These 5 hilariously ridiculous rules are why our tax system favors the rich.

      Since the first federal progressive income tax was introduced in 1913, most Americans have fairly assumed that, come mid-April, the more money you earn, the more money you pay.

      But, oh boy, does it ever not work that way.

      Examples of stupendously wealthy people paying hilariously low percentages of their income in taxes aren’t hard to track down. See, for example, Warren Buffet paying a lower tax rate than his secretary or Donald Trump paying an effective tax rate of 25% in 2005 far lower than the top marginal rate that year of 35% despite earning $150 million.

      If the tax code had been designed by, say, a coalition of teachers, construction workers, and fry cooks, things might be different. Unfortunately, the laws determining who pays what and why are written by members of Congress, who, as of 2012, had a median net worth of just a wee bit over $1 million. From their perspective, it’s not hard to see that “How can I structure the tax code to make buying gas and going to the doctor a little more affordable?” might be a less pressing question than, say, “Should solid gold busts of Ayn Rand be deductible?”

      To be sure, many rich people do pay more in taxes than middle- or working-class Americans, just less more than they might otherwise. And it’s hard to blame the wealthy for taking full advantage of a system designed to benefit them. Don’t hate the player, the saying goes, hate the game.

      But the game, such as it is, is rigged (SAD!).

      So while most of us prepare to part with around a third of our hard-earned cash trying to decide if it’s legal to write off as a business expense the $13.79 in tissues we bought to wipe away our tears, here are some of the rules that make it easier for the wealthy to play.

      1. There’s a tax break for vacation homes.

      Let’s say you live in a tiny apartment in a major American city, paying your landlord hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars a month to sleep in a glorified coat closet. You typically don’t get to write off your rent on your federal taxes.

      But if you were among those privileged enough to have the means to buy a house or condo or downtown triplex with a sweet view, you would get to deduct the interest you’d pay on your mortgage.

      “OK sure,” you might be thinking, “People who can buy houses are generally doing better financially than those who can’t, but there are a lot of homeowners in America, and I hope to be one someday.” And that’s true, so far as it goes.

      If you’re really doing well, however, one house might not be enough. Sometimes you just have to spring for that little fixer-upper in the Poconos or that sprawling beach compound in the Outer Banks or that $90-million condo on 5th Avenue.

      In that case, you get to deduct the interest on the mortgage for your second house too!

      As far as tax breaks that favor the already-pretty-damn-favored are concerned, the second home deduction is, alas, one of the more egalitarian, as it advantages both the only-sort-of-rich and the ridiculously rich and you can only write off a total of $1.1 million in debt. Furthermore, the rule doesn’t apply if you’re so rich you just buy the house outright, nor does it apply to the third, fourth, ninth, and 12th homes owned by your average Gates, Bloombergs, and Zuckerbergs.

      But the fact remains that taking out mortgages on more than one house gets you federal tax relief, while renting a studio apartment, mobile home, or infuriatingly twee tiny house doesn’t.

      Thanks to the U.S. tax code, it owns to own.

      2. If you’re rich enough to buy a yacht, you can probably write off a big chunk of it.

      What makes a house a home? A cozy reading nook by the fire? Happy memories? The love and affection of all those you hold near and dear?

      According to the U.S. tax code, if you can eat, sleep, and pee in it, it’s a home which means that this:

      …counts as a home, making it eligible for the mortgage interest tax break.

      Some politicians have tried to exempt yachts from the second home deduction in recent years. It hasn’t happened yet, partly because there are an absurd number of ways to get out of paying your full share of taxes on your yacht. Some states go out of their way to make superboats more affordable to your average Koch brother, DeVos sibling, or Soros quintuplet by capping the amount of sales tax you have to pay on them.

      Even better, if you rent out your yacht to slightly less wealthy people some of the time, you can usually deduct the whole purchase price and some of the insurance and maintenance fees as a business expense.

      Pretty sweet! You should probably get a yacht!

      3. While people who earn high salaries pay more in income tax, many wealthy people make a lot of non-salary income, and that’s taxed at a lower rate.

      If you’re a single person making $1 million in salary, you’re paying the top federal income tax rate which for 2016 means 39.6% on every dollar over $415,050. That’s way lower than it was in 1944, when the top rate was a whopping 94%. It’s even lower than just over 30 years ago during the early years of the Reagan administration, when the top earners were paying 50%. Still, it’s a solid chunk of change. Mercifully, for many super wealthy Americans, only a small portion of their annual income comes from working at an actual salaried job.

      Enter capital gains!

      The best part about already having a buttload of money is that your money can make you even more money. If you’re rich, you can take the cash you already have and invest it in stock, or real estate, or apps called Moob that deliver fish bones to elderly Methodists, or what have you. And the best part? The cash you make when your assets post a gain is taxed at a mere 15-20%. That means if your trust fund does well, or if your 15th home increases in value, you might pay a lower tax rate on that gain than a nurse’s aide pays on her $18/hour salary.

      If that tax rate seems unfair, then you obviously haven’t heard about the Newtian Pository. It’s a philosophical concept I just made up that means “hahahahaha screw you and your ‘job’ that pays you a ‘barely living wage.’ If you want to get ahead in life, stop crying and own a landfill, or a Monet, or a bunch of Google, you dingbat!”

      4. Rich people who own a lot of stock don’t have to pay taxes on it if it increases in value as long as they die before selling it.

      This is called “step-up in basis,” one of those purposely complicated phrases used to obscure a pretty simple concept that would send poor people in the direction of the nearest flaming pitchfork store if anyone ever decided to, you know, actually explain it clearly.

      So I’m gonna try to do that, by way of a totally hypothetical example.

      Imagine you’re a hard-charging New York City real estate billionaire type “Ronald Bump,” let’s say. You buy 100,000 shares of stock at $1/share. To do this, you lay out $100,000 an entire life savings for some, but chump change to a member of the Bump dynasty.

      Let’s say you, Ronald Bump, get lucky, and over the next 30 years, the stock increases in value to $100/share. Your $100,000 has magically become $10 million! If you sell it, you’d net a cool $9.9 million but you’d pay taxes on it (albeit at the previously mentioned, already ludicrously low capital gains rate), leaving you with a mere $7.4 million or thereabouts.

      But let’s say you don’t sell, and one day, when you’re out grabbing a caviar bagel with gold leaf cream cheese, you get hit by a bus.

      The bus really does a number on you, flattening your legs, rib cage, and most of your vital organs. Then, trying to determine the cause of the light whump that momentarily inconvenienced its passengers, the bus backs up, pancaking your head. Finally, seeing no cause for special concern, it speeds away, running you over a third time, knocking your body into a ditch to be eaten by crows.

      How horrible. You’re dead now.

      Because you’re dead, your son let’s call him Ronald Bump Jr. inherits your giant portfolio. When he sells it, he only has to pay taxes on any gains the investment makes beyond the $9.9 million regardless that the stock was originally purchased for just $100,000. He can go his merry way a full almost-$10 million richer, convinced of his own singular brilliance, free to hunt endangered mammals and approvingly reply to racists on Twitter with the comfort of a nest egg to make his economic anxiety disappear.

      And the meritocracy triumphantly soldiers on.

      The bottom line, if you hold stock until you die and pass it on to your kids, spouse, or golden retriever, neither you, nor they ever have to pay taxes on the value it accrued in your lifetime. Pretty sweet!

      5. A lot of rich families don’t have to pay taxes on the money they pass on to their heirs, even though there’s a tax theoretically designed to make that happen.

      To hear anti-tax advocates tell it, millions of hardworking Americans are subject to an evil “death tax,” whereupon soulless government brownshirts descend en masse to rip the family farm away from Junior not nine seconds after Ma and Pa’s untimely death in a freakish tumbleweed accident. It’s the sort of thing that gets decent people riled up, demanding answers and installing electric fencing around their property. How could Uncle Sam be so heartless? So cruel? So greedy?

      The thing is, most Americans aren’t wealthy enough to be subjected to the “death tax” more properly known as the estate tax. If you leave a small retirement account, family home, or a couple of used toasters and $50 to your kids when you pass away, the IRS won’t send you an invoice.

      The tax only applies to estates being passed down that are worth over $5.4 million. So unless Ma and Pa’s farmhouse looks like this:

      You’re probably not going to see a tax on it.

      Yes, super rich people your aforementioned Gates, Bloomberg and Zuckerberg dynasties do have to pay estate taxes, and thank Zod. And, yes, it’s good that middle class families don’t have to pay it. Meanwhile, lots of pretty rich people (albeit not Gates, Bloomberg, or Zuckerberg rich) are making out great under the current system, even as activists try to do away with the tax altogether, because the net worth limit for when the tax kicks in is so high that those families don’t have to pay anything at all either which allows dynastic wealth to keep on piling up.

      As recently as 2004, the estate tax kicked in at $1.5 million. The current limit of $5.4 million is, frankly, a crap-ton of money to be able to pass down tax-free.

      Even without such a high estate tax threshold, kids would be able to keep using the heirloom kitchen appliances long after their parents are gone.

      Unfortunately, with the limit currently in the stratosphere, it also means that Junior can keep up the Kobe beef farm as he rides his platinum-hulled tractor into the sunset.

      Considering all the deductions, loopholes, and advantages already in place, it’s sort of weird that Congress’ next priority is to reduce the tax burden on the wealthiest Americans even more.

      After Republicans wrap up their will-they-or-won’t-they dance with the American Health Care Act, Congress plans to tackle “tax reform,” so-called because it “reforms” more money into the pockets of rich people. Among the proposed changes to the tax code: lowering the top income tax rate from 39.6% to 33%, lowering the corporate tax rate to 20%, and completely eliminating the estate tax.

      But as we’ve seen numerous times these past few months, America doesn’t have to let it happen!

      Calling your representatives worked to scuttle the first go-around of the AHCA, and it can work to put the kibosh on the current tax reform plan too.

      It won’t be easy. But after helping kill a suspect federal law, and finishing and filing your taxes, you’ll definitely have earned a nice vacation.

      May I suggest buying a yacht?”

      Read more:

      Trump launches military strike against Syria

      (CNN)The United States launched a military strike Thursday on a Syrian government target in retaliation for their chemical weapons attack on civilians earlier in the week.

      On President Donald Trump’s orders, US warships launched between 50-60 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian government airbase where the warplanes that carried out the chemical attacks were based, US officials said.
      “Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the air field in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched,” Trump said during short remarks to reporters at Mar-a-Lago. “It is in this vital national security of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”
        He added: “There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council. Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically.”
        A US defense official said the strike was targeted on runway, aircraft and fuel points. The missiles were launched from warships in the Eastern Mediterranean.
        Strikes are over “until another decision is made,” the official said.
        The strikes are the first direct military action the US has taken against the leadership of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s six-year civil war and represent a substantial escalation of the US’ military campaign in the region, which could be interpreted by the Syrian government as an act of war.
        There were Russians at the base that the US struck Thursday night, a US defense official. It was not said what the Russians’ role was at the base. In addition, according to the official, the US had multiple conversations with the Russians today to warn them of the coming attack.
        Separately, in an effort to tie the US strike to the chemical attack, the US military showed reporters an image of the radar track of a Syrian airplane leaving the airfield and headed to chemical strike area on Tuesday. A second image of bomb damage craters at the airbase was also shown to reporters at the Pentagon.
        Lawmakers generally supportedTrump’s decision to strike back against Assad Thursday night, but cautioned the President against unilaterally starting a war without first consulting Congress.
        A pair of defense hawks — Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham — who have frequently been critical of Trump, roundly praised his decision Thursday night.
        “Acting on the orders of their commander-in-chief, they have sent an important message the United States will no longer stand idly by as Assad, aided and abetted by Putin’s Russia, slaughters innocent Syrians with chemical weapons and barrel bombs,” McCain and Graham said in a joint statement.
        But Sen. Rand Paul called on Trump to consult on Congress.
        “While we all condemn the atrocities in Syria, the US was not attacked,” Paul said.
        The US began launching airstrikes in Syria in September 2014 under President Barack Obama as part of its coalition campaign against ISIS, but has only targeted the terrorist group and not Syrian government forces.
        Trump met with his national security team before his dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Mar-a-Lago Thursday, where he made the decision to pull the trigger on the biggest military action of his presidency, an administration official says.
        He sat through dinner with the President Xi as action was under way.
        Defense Secretary James Mattis has been updating Trump about the missile strikes in Syria following his dinner with Xi, according to a US official.
        Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Trump’s national security adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster were with Trump at Mar-a-Lago at the time. Vice President Mike Pence remained in Washington, where he returned to the White House after dinner.
        Trump’s order to strike the Syrian government targets came a day after he said the chemical attacks — whose grisly effects were broadcast worldwide where videos captured in the immediate aftermath — “crossed a lot of lines for me” and said he felt a “responsibility” to respond.

          Tillerson: No doubt Assad is responsible

        MUST WATCH

        “I will tell you it’s already happened that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much,” Trump said.
        “When you kill innocent children — innocent babies — babies — little babies with a chemical gas that is so lethal, people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines. Beyond a red line, many, many lines,” Trump said.
        Trump’s decision to launch the strikes, the most significant military action of his young presidency, came nearly four years after the US first concluded that Syrian forces had used chemical weapons in Syria. The Obama administration concluded that Syria had violated the “red line” Obama had set a year earlier in discussing the use of chemical weapons, but ultimately decided against military action against Syria in favor of a Russian-brokered deal to extricate the country’s chemical weapons stockpile.
        Trump at the time said the US should “stay the hell out of Syria” and urged Obama on Twitter to “not attack Syria” in the wake of the 2013 chemical attack.
        “There is no upside and tremendous downside. Save your ‘powder’ for another (and more important) day,” he tweeted in September 2013.
        Trump repeatedly criticized Obama during his presidential campaign for not acting on his “red line” threat, but the real estate mogul also argued against deepening the US’ military involvement in Syria, particularly as it related to Assad.
        Trump argued last May in a TV interview that he would “go after ISIS big league,” but said he did not support targeting Assad’s regime, arguing the US has “bigger problems than Assad.”
        Syria’s six-year civil war has claimed the lives of at least 400,000, according to a United Nations estimate released a year ago. More than 5 million Syrians have fled the country and more than 6 million more have been displaced internally, according to UN agencies.
        But guided by his “America First” ideology and rejection of the US’ propensity for “nation-building,” Trump did not argue in favor of stepped-up US intervention during his campaign for president.
        Instead, he signaled the opposite: He argued that the US should remain laser-focused on defeating ISIS and vowed to try and partner with Russia, which has heartily backed Assad’s regime, in order to defeat ISIS and bring the conflict to an end.
        Those views appeared steeped in his longstanding criticism of the Iraq War, which he called a “stupid” decision, lamenting the billions of dollars funneled toward that war effort instead of on domestic programs, like infrastructure spending.
        While Trump rejected the isolationist label some placed on him during the campaign, he made clear that his preference was for limiting the US footprint around the world and refocusing US foreign policy around core national security interests.

        Read more:

        Another Democrat Jumps In Race To Flip Conservative Orange County

        Dave Min, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine and a former adviser to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), is jumping in the race to challenge Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.) in 2018.

        This is a unique time in our history, Min said in a press release Wednesday. So much of what we value, what makes our communities in Orange County strong, and what makes America great is under attack. Congresswoman Mimi Walters is complicit in these attacks with her 100% support of Donald Trump and has proven herself deeply out of touch with residents in our communities.

        Prior to teaching at UCI, Min served as the associate director for financial markets policy at the Center for American Progress, a leading liberal think tank.

        Min is the second Democrat to announce a challenge to Walters, who has held the Orange County seat since 2015. Earlier this week, consumer advocate Katie Porterannounced her candidacy, accompanied by endorsements from Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

        Min, meanwhile, has drawn support from local leaders, including former Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang and former Irvine council member Mary Ann Gaido.

        Dave Min
        Dave Min, a professor and former adviser to Chuck Schumer, is running for Congress in conservative Orange County.

        Eager to take back the House from GOP control, Democrats have their sights set on several Orange County seats. Although the region is a longtime conservative stronghold in mostly-blue California, the county voted for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election the first time the area sided with a Democrat since 1936.

        So far, the race is shaping up to be a referendum on President Donald Trump, with both candidates citingWalters support for the presidents legislative agenda. Min also criticized Walters for not holding public town halls, a move that has also drawn complaints from her constituents.

        While Porter has drawn national buzz for her high-profile endorsements and her role in the $25 billion mortgage settlement by Wall Street banks, Mins establishment credentials and potential demographic edge (Min is Korean-American, and Irvine is home to one of the nations largest Korean populations) make him a formidable contender.But either candidate likely faces a tough race against Walters, who was re-elected last fall with 59 percent of the vote.

        With more than 18 months until Election Day, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is staying neutral for now.

        Congressman Walters is very vulnerable this cycle, and her actions this year including voting with President Trumps agenda 100 percent of the time and supporting a disastrous repeal bill that would raise your costs and slap an age tax on older folks have further clarified how out-of-touch she is with her constituents, said DCCC spokesman Tyler Law. Its no surprise that there are very qualified candidates stepping up to provide the 45th District with the representation it deserves.

        Read more:

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