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I was sent Donald Trump’s 2005 tax return. We need the rest right now | David Cay Johnston

Only the full release of his tax records can help shed light on whether Trump is a crook or compromised

Why do we need to see Donald Trumps tax returns? Thats the number one question asked by critics of the story I broke last week on DCReport.org, after the presidents 2005 tax return summary pages showed up on 13 March in the mail at my home in Rochester, New York. Its a question Im happy to answer as a longtime tax reporter, a Trump biographer and a citizen who has known Trump for almost 30 years.

We need to see years of tax returns from every major-party candidate for president and vice-president because, as Richard Nixon said during Watergate, people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Nixon, it turned out, was a crook. While he was not indicted, his tax lawyer went to prison.

Among major-party candidates and presidents since then, only Trump has refused to release any tax information. The obvious question is: what is he hiding?

Plenty.

Without his complete tax returns since the 1970s, we have no way of knowing whether he is a crook or compromised by his extensive dealings with Russian oligarchs; with authoritarian regimes in Azerbaijan, the Philippines and Turkey; or by massive loans from a bank owned by the Chinese government and the Trump Tower space rented by its largest tenant, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China.

We do know from court records that Trump was embroiled in a sales tax scandal. He was named as one of the celebrities who bought items at the Bulgari jewellery store in Manhattan without the necessary taxes being paid. Ed Koch, when he was mayor of New York, suggested those involved should have served 15 days behind bars for this. Yet then, as now, Trump was bullish in his own defence. His spokesman said Trump was never part of the scam and only made bona fide purchases.

The Form 1040 I received tells us how much Trump made and how much tax he paid but not his sources of income, the interest he has paid, the depreciated values of his real-estate assets and many other details. But from his complete returns I and others could determine his sources of income and payments to banks and consultants, and calculate the value of his real estate.

Imagine if, as president, Trump gets financially squeezed as he was in 1990, when he had a negative net worth, and in 2008, when he claimed he could not repay a $40m debt. What leverage could Bank of China, to which Trump owes many millions of dollars, bring to bear?

It is owned by a communist government in Beijing. On the other hand, what if they forgave Trump debts to seek favourable foreign policy and military objectives?

During the campaign, Trump repeatedly said he would release his returns once the audits were complete. After assuming office he said he had no intention of ever making them public, despite mounting questions about his relationships with Russian oligarchs, involving at least one wildly lucrative deal at a time when he said the entire US real estate market was in collapse.

That same year, Trump sold a Florida estate he bought for less than $41m four years earlier to an oligarch for $95m (plus commission). Today the land sits vacant, the mansion bulldozed. According to Reuters, Russians have invested more than $100m in other Trump buildings. These are matters of public record, cited in my book The Making of Donald Trump. By his own account, Trump has had extensive dealings with Russian oligarchs over 30 years, so we should know more about their relationship.

A 2007 document Trump authorized what an active lawsuit says was a quarter-billion-dollar tax fraud that involved one of the oligarchs. The deal allowed a refinancing in which the profits vanished, for tax purposes. Trump and the defendants say it was a routine recapitalisation, and are trying to get the case dismissed in state court. How much did Trump get from it? His tax returns will tell.

These facts are more than enough to show why we need to know Trumps sources of income, who he is indebted to, who his business partners and associates are and who was paid supposed consulting fees. His tax returns would put a spotlight on this and much more.

Trump spent years in court fighting to not pay undocumented immigrants their $4 an hour pay. He refused to pay small business vendors over years too, putting many out of business. Lawsuits accuse him of swindling investors from Hawaii to Mexico to Florida. Are these the signs of an honest businessman?

Now Trump is the president, Americans need to know not only if their president is a crook but whether he is disloyal, can be leveraged by foreign interests or be bribed by them. Thats why we need to see his full tax returns.

David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer prize-winning investigative reporter, is the author of The Making of Donald Trump. He is founder and editor of DCReport.org

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/22/donald-trumps-2005-tax-return-we-need-the-rest-right-now


Muslims inside FBI describe culture of suspicion and fear: ‘It is cancer’

Said Sam Barodi was fired after he refused to cooperate with customs agents who he believed were targeting him because of his ethnicity and religion. His and other accounts paint a stark picture of the bureau in the era of Trump

Muslim special agents and intelligence analysts at the FBI are reporting a climate of fear inside the agency coinciding with the political ascendance of Donald Trump, the Guardian has learned.

FBI officials from Muslim-majority countries, a minority in a predominantly white bureau, say they are subject to an organizational culture of suspicion and hostility that leadership has done little to reform. At least one decorated intelligence analyst has been fired this year after a long ordeal which began with a routine foreign visit to see his family.

His case and others in which Muslim agents have reported a workplace culture that includes open-ended investigations predicated on their backgrounds were brought to the personal attention of the FBIs director, James Comey, throughout 2016.

Muslim FBI officials are alarmed that their religion and national origin is sufficient for the bureaus security division to treat them as a counterintelligence risk, a career-damaging obstacle that their native-born white FBI colleagues do not encounter.

They do not dispute a need to vet potential insider threats, but they bristle at what they consider selective enforcement and an inability for those caught in a process based on their heritage to escape suspicion.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/22/fbi-muslim-employees-discrimination-religion-middle-east-travel


Ivanka Trump’s expanded White House role raises ethical issues

With a West Wing office but no specific title and no precedent for adult children whose father is president the rules Trump is subject to are under dispute

After months of attending meetings of world leaders and visiting factories with her father, the role of first daughter Ivanka Trump is officially expanding creating new ethical issues for an administration that has been heavily criticized over its potential conflicts of interest.

She will not have a specific title, but Trump will have an office in the West Wing, a government-issued phone and computer and security clearance to access classified information, and she will advise her father.

While there is no modern precedent for an adult child of the president, I will voluntarily follow all of the ethics rules placed on government employees, she told Politico in a statement.

But following the ethics guidelines should not be voluntary, said Richard Painter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota who served as chief ethics lawyer for George W Bush between 2005 and 2007.

Given what shes going to do, I dont think she has any choice, he said. She has a West Wing office, she has equipment, she has a White House email address, shes going to be doing policy work, said Painter.

For purposes of the conflict of interest statute, I believe she is a government employee, he added.

Ivanka Trumps lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, argues that since she will earn no salary and not be sworn in, she does not count as a government employee. There is no precedent for adult children whose father is president working in the White House, although two presidents Andrew Jackson and James Buchanan had their nieces serve in the role of first lady since Jackson was a widower and Buchanan a bachelor.

Trump has handed control over the day-to-day running of her eponymous clothing business to an executive and its assets are maintained by a trust managed by two of her husbands siblings.

As part of the trust rules, outlined in the New York Times, Trump can veto any potential business deals for her clothing company that might create a conflict with her political work.

That means, points out Painter, that Trump has to know about any new deal that might put her at risk of breaking the statute, meaning she can be held responsible.

Shes got accountability on that stuff. She cant just blame the trustee, he said.

Trumps marriage to her fathers senior adviser, the real estate developer Jared Kushner, poses additional potential problems, because both could benefit financially from each others businesses.

Painter warned that the pair should avoid official political discussions involved with trade agreements regarding textiles, real estate and even bank deregulation, since that can affect real estate.

That means if the premier of China visits the White House most of Ivanka Trumps clothing line is made in China and Hong Kong it is fine for her to attend the meeting, but she should not mention trade and if the discussion begins to focus on trade, she should excuse herself, says Painter.

The ethics expert noted approvingly that Ivanka Trump engaged Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, the same legal services used by the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, former head of ExxonMobil, to handle issues of conflict of interest. Kushner also used the DC-based lawyers to manage his potential conflicts of interest with his family business after taking the role of adviser in the Trump administration.

Its a criminal statute, so people better not mess up under it. But I think shell do the right thing, said Painter.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/21/ivanka-trump-white-house-office-administration-role-ethics


Forbes billionaire list: Trump loses $1bn as elite club gets 233 new members

Post-US election boom in stock markets and continued rise in oil price help bring global total of billionaires to nearly 2,300 individuals

US president Donald Trumps fortune has fallen by about $1bn to $3.5bn over the past year, as measured by Forbes magazine in its annual list of the worlds billionaires.

However, overall it has been a good 12 months for the worlds wealthiest individuals, with a record 233 moving into the billionaire bracket, taking the global number of people with nine-zero fortunes to 2,043 the most in the 31-year history of the list.

The billionaires in Forbes list are worth a combined $7.67tn (6.18tn) more than three times the UKs annual gross domestic product (GDP).

Kerry Dolan, co-editor of the Forbes billionaires list, published on Monday, said the gains are mostly the result of booming stock markets and the rising price of oil over the past 12 months.

Number of billionaires

Global markets have hit record highs due to the so-called Trump bump following Trumps election, with the Dow Jones soaring above 20,000 points for the first time and the UKs FTSE 100 closing at a record 7,415 points last week.

The fall in Trumps net worth is due to a drop in the value of office space in Midtown Manhattan, where the president owns about 10 buildings. Forbes said Trump had fallen from the worlds 324th-richest person to 544th.

Forty percent of Donald Trumps fortune is tied up in Trump Tower and eight buildings within one mile of it, Forbes said. Lately, the neighbourhood has been struggling (relatively speaking).

Trump has refused to publish his tax returns to show the true scale of his wealth, but during the campaign he claimed he was worth in excess of $10bn.

Dolan said that in previous years the real estate tycoon had challenged Forbes for underestimating his fortune. We contact everyone we can to give them the opportunity for feedback. Over the last 31 years we have been compiling this list Trump has given us a lot of feedback, believe me, You guys are too low I am worth far more than you say, she said. He didnt call back to dispute our estimate. I would hope that running the country is more important to him right now than Forbess value of his net worth.

The richest person in the world remains Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who saw his fortune grow by $11bn to $86bn. He is followed by investor Warren Buffett, and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who was this years biggest gainer with a $27.6bn increase in his fortune to $72.8bn.

Top 10 richest

The US accounts for the biggest population of billionaires with 565, up 25 on last year. But China is catching up with 319 billionaires, and a further 68 if Hong Kong and Macau are included. Germany is third with 114 billionaires.

The number of UK billionaires increased from 50 to 54, with new entrants including Philip Day, the man behind Edinburgh Woollen Mill, and Simon Nixon, the co-founder of moneysupermarket.com.

The richest people in the UK are the Hinduja family, who control a conglomerate of businesses including cars and banks and are worth $15.4bn. Property and internet investors David and Simon Reuben come second with a $15.3bn fortune. The third richest, and among the biggest gainer, is Jim Ratcliffe the founder and chairman of chemicals group Ineos.

UK richest

Among the biggest British losers is Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley whose fortune dropped by 25% to $2.6bn. His wealth, which is largely held in Sports Direct shares, has roughly halved over the past two years as shares collapsed following the Guardian expos of Victorian workhouse-style conditions in its distribution warehouses.

Sir Philip Green and his wife, Tina, the owners of Arcadia, which owns Topshop and once owned BHS, also lost just over $1bn, with their fortune slumping to $4.8bn. They fell more than 100 places to 339th.

Oxfam said the creation of so many new billionaires in one year was a sign of economic sickness rather than health.

Our warped economic model leads to more unequal societies that trap millions of people in poverty – it allows an elite group to accrue extreme wealth while one in nine people go to bed hungry every night, Max Lawson, Oxfams head of inequality policy, said. We need to build a more human economy where the super-rich pay their fair share of tax, workers earn a living wage, and governments invest in decent healthcare and education to give everyone a good start in life.

The number of women on the list increased to 227, from 202 in 2016. A record 56 of the women are self-made billionaires the highest ever. All but one of the 15 newly self-made female billionaires came from the Asia-Pacfic region, including Vietnams first self-made female billionaire Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao who took her budget airline VietJet Air public last month.

Yoshiko Shinohara, who started her temp agency in her one-bedroom Tokyo apartment, became Japans first self-made female billionaire. She enters the list due to a 50% surge in the stock price of her company Temp Holdings, which is designed to get more women into the workforce.

The richest woman on the list is Frances Liliane Bettencourt, who inherited a stake in LOreal from her father. Shes worth $39.5bn.

There are just 10 black people on the list, a drop of two from last year. The richest black person is Nigerian cement tycoon Aliko Dangote with an estimated fortune of $12.2bn. There are only three black women on the list, including Oprah Winfrey who has a $3bn fortune.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/mar/20/forbes-billionaire-list-trump-loses-1bn-as-elite-club-welcomes-233-new-members


All under one roof: how malls and cities are becoming indistinguishable

Suburban malls may be a dying breed, but in cities from New York to Hong Kong, new malls are thriving by seamlessly blending into the urban fabric

We didnt expect to see stores, says Yulia, as her husband browses for shoes in one of the shops lining the Oculus, the new focus of New Yorks World Trade Center.

Visiting from Ukraine and on their way to the 9/11 memorial, they were beckoned by the Oculuss unusual architecture: from the outside, the Santiago Calatrava-designed ribbed structure reminds you of a bird or a dinosaur skeleton; inside, it is teaming with tourists taking pictures with selfie sticks.

But the Oculus, named after the eyelike opening at the apex that lets in light, is more than a piece of striking architecture. It exists as a mall, with more than a hundred stores, and as a hub connecting office buildings in Brookfield Place and One World Trade Center with 11 subway lines and Path trains, serving 50,000 commuters every day. Thats a lot of eyeballs on shopfronts.

The mall company Westfield, of course, hopes that the tourists and transit users will stray to the stores. The New New York Place to Be, reads the malls tagline. Shop. Eat. Drink. Play. All under one magnificent roof.

Oculus was Westfields $1.4bn bet that New York, a city known for its love of the street, could also have a successful mall. And judging from the crowds, it counters the narrative that the mall is dead, like those thousands of empty suburban malls dotting the American landscape, ghostboxes decaying on cracked asphalt parking lots.

Boxpark
Boxpark turned shipping containers into an urban mall that merges directly with the London street. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Michael Sorkin, professor of architecture at City College of New York, points out that Westfield is an example of a kind of global urbanism. The Westfield mall is virtually indistinguishable from Dubai duty-free, he says, pointing out that the same generic multinational shops are now to be found not just in malls, but on the streets of cities. The effect is compromising and imperial a real estate formula.

Certainly, the Westfield World Trade Center seems to demonstrate that it is not the mall that is declining, but suburbia. The mall, meanwhile, is becoming urban.

In fact, a new breed of shopping centre is integrating so seamlessly into its urban surroundings that it can be difficult to draw any line between city and mall whatsoever. Londons Boxpark, Las Vegass Downtown Container Park and Miamis Brickell City Centre are examples of mall-like environments that try to weave into the street life of a city.

Across the Pacific Ocean from the Oculus, developers in China are experimenting even more radically, with new mall configurations catering to the rapid rise of domestic consumerism and quickly evolving tastes.

Sino
Sino Ocean Taikoo Li in Chengdu, China, an outdoor mall with streets. Photograph: Oval Partnership

In the early 2000s, when enclosed malls were the standard, architect Chris Law of the Oval Partnership proposed an open city concept for San Li Tun, an area in Beijings central business district. He proposed to inject the big box with a heavy dose of public space. He says people had a common reaction to his plan: You guys are crazy.

Instead of laying out asphalt parking lots, Law wanted sidewalks and trees that would cool and shade pedestrian outdoor space. He designed the shops and restaurants around two distinct plazas one brimming with an interactive water feature and a massive screen to televise events, the other for quietly reading a book over a cappuccino.

Rather than designing the whole complex himself, he created a masterplan with an urban design framework for other architects to fill in, making it appear as if the complex grew organically just like cities do, Law says.

As a result, the mall has the look of a modern village complete with irregular facades and zigzagging alleyways. It became a large success, not least for being a pedestrian respite in a city of cars.

The developer then tasked Law to design another outdoor retail development in Chengdu near an ancient temple. Law respectfully designed structures with timber portal frames to match the cultural heritage, laying out the stores and restaurants along intimate, tree-lined lanes. He added a hotel, serviced apartments and an office tower to create a mixed-use district centred around intricate public space.

Modern
An escalator gives the game away at this outdoor retail space in Chengdu, China. Photograph: HeZhenHuan

As innovative as his projects may be, we simply continued the urban pattern that has been around for hundreds of years, Law says. He mentions medieval cities such as Sienna, or those depicted on the Qingming scroll, where shops and food stalls lined thriving public space.

It raises the question: was the enclosed, suburban mall, located far from the city centre, a discontinuity? An invention for the age of cheap fossil fuel?

They certainly waste energy. The typical big box is thick and fat, says Ali Malkawi, professor of architectural technology at Harvard University and founder of the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities. In contrast, the outdoor retail village typically has a smaller ecological footprint. Thin structures allow for the possibility of natural ventilation and daylighting, and hence can be more energy-efficient, Malkawi says.

Malls first appeared in suburbs in the 1950s, when reducing energy was not a priority, says Malkawi, and they were only accessible by car. The more you move shopping away from where people live, the more you increase transportations impact on the environment, he says. (The transport sector accounts for nearly a quarter of all energy-related CO2 emissions.)

Architect Friedrich Ludewig of the firm Acme takes the idea a step futher. Knowing that the point to shopping in stores is to offer something physical that is interesting, otherwise we can do it all online, he designed a suburban mall extension in Melbourne around a town square, with a public library at its centre, not an anchor store.

Suburban
Offer something physical or we can all do it online … Friedrich Ludewig, whose suburban mall in Melbourne is designed around a town square with a public library (pictured) at its heart. Photograph: Acme

Customers prefer to be outside and to feel less artificial, Ludewig says of what is, in fact, an outdoor mall. His company has taken steps to create a seamless urban feel. There are guidelines for storefronts, including about colour, to ensure the visual coherence of the public space and avoid screaming yellow storefronts. When there are lots of people shouting, he said, you cant hear anyone.

He also thinks about the right ratio between landscaping and paving of the open spaces, and makes an effort to think about the city planning of how the space is used throughout the day. We spend a lot of time thinking: what does it feel like at Wednesday morning 11am?, when there are not a lot of shoppers around. He also argues that outdoor malls save money by having open spaces and buildings that are naturally ventilated rather than air-conditioned.

Above all, however, he says: It shouldnt feel like something is wrong. He describes a feeling akin to what is known as the uncanny valley: the hypothesis that when human replicas appear almost (but not quite) real, they trigger disgust and revulsion because they seem unhealthy.

Langham
Langham Place, like many Hong Kong malls, is deliberately placed to capture natural pedestrian flows. Photograph: Alamy

The city of Hong Kong solves this issue by going one step further it weaves malls into the very urban fabric.

The city counts more than 300 shopping centres. Most do not perch on asphalt parking lots, but on subway stations and underneath skyscrapers. Hong Kongs transit provider is also a real estate developer, and has capitalised on the value created by its subway stops: it sandwiches malls between stations and skyscrapers, establishing pedestrian streams that irrigate the shopfronts.

Tens of thousands of people often work, live and play in a single megastructure, without ever having to leave. And the mall is deliberately placed on the intersection of all pedestrian flows, between entry points into the structure and the residential, office, and transit functions. These malls are, by design, impossible to miss.

Langham Place, for instance, is a 59-storey complex in Hong Kong that includes retail, a five-star hotel and class-A office space. It is connected to the subway with its own tunnel and pulls in an estimated 100,000 people per day.

My whole life is here, says Katniss. She works in the buildings office, where she also shops, eats her meals and watches movies. Even on her daysoff, she enjoys going on dates in the malls soaring atrium, and drinking coffee near the huge escalator.

This expresscalator whisks people up four storeys in a matter of seconds. To get shoppers back down, the Jerde Partnership designed an ingenious retail-lined downward spiral path, shaped like a corkscrew. Langham Places retail portion alone measures 15 storeys, which is a skyscraper in its own right a vertical mall.

On both sides of the Pacific, the mall is not dead. It has simply transformed into an integrated part of cities themselves.

For Sorkin, that comes with a risk. While the idea of the shopping mall becoming urban has a certain appeal, the net effect is to turn the city into a shopping mall.

Stefan Als books include Mall City: Hong Kongs Dreamworlds of Consumption and The Strip: Las Vegas and the Architecture of the American Dream

Follow Guardian Cities on Twitter and Facebook to join the discussion, and explore our archive here

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/mar/16/malls-cities-become-one-and-same


Berkeley’s liberal image in question amid homeless crisis: ‘The soul of our city is at stake’

Recent deaths challenge citys identity as a bastion of humanitarian values and injects urgency into debate on how to address homelessness as rents are soaring

One morning in mid-January, after days of intense rain, Tom White trudged to the back of an empty, muddy lot he owns across from Berkeley high school. He noticed a mound against the fence, next to some old tarps.

At first I thought it was another pile of garbage someone had dumped, White said. Then he looked closer. I realized thats human hair, thats a human shape. I just stood there and noticed there were no signs of life.

Outside in America

A woman, clad in layers of sweaters, was soaked and doubled over in a squat. She held an empty bottle. White called 911 and the body of the woman, later identified as 55-year-old Laura Jadwin, was taken away by the coroner. She was one of at least four homeless people to die in the past few months on the streets of Berkeley, California.

The deaths, in the middle of one of the coldest, wettest winters in years, have challenged Berkeleys idea of itself as a bastion of progressive and humanitarian values. They have also injected fresh urgency into a bitter debate over how to address homelessness when rents are soaring and affordable housing is vanishing.

Literally the soul and the character of our city is at stake, said Jesse Arreguin, Berkeleys recently elected mayor. Homelessness, he said, is a humanitarian crisis and its increasing every week. We have to address this issue more effectively.

For years, Berkeley has been known to locals by one of two nicknames: the Peoples Republic of Berkeley, birthplace of both the free speech movement and the Symbionese Liberation Army; and Berzerkeley, a time capsule of hippies and head shops. A festival named How Berkeley Can You Be?, now defunct, encapsulated the milieu: it brought together naked people, anti-circumcision activists and fire-breathers.

Yet today, Berkeleys values are clashing with unyielding economic realities. In recent years, its downtown has exploded with pricey restaurants and upscale apartment buildings catering to young technologists and researchers. Nearly 900 units are now under construction or approved.

Berkeley median rents have soared more than 40% in the past three years, to $3,483 a month, according to real estate firm Zillow. Meanwhile the homeless population has grown from 680 in 2009 to probably more than 1,000 today, according to the mayor. Strikingly, this is around 1% of the citys population.

There is a direct association between how fast rents are growing and how much homelessness there is in cities, said Svenja Gudell, Zillows chief economist.

A
A memorial in Berkeley for 55-year-old Laura Jadwin. Photograph: Rob Waters for the Guardian

White, the man who found Jadwins body, said he has been discouraged by the nimbyish attitude of some of his fellow Berkeleyans.

They say, Why do we have to build more housing in Berkeley? They can go live somewhere else. But I dont think thats going to address the problem of homelessness. We cant build a wall and say, Go live in Nevada. Were going to have to have a community approach.

While nearly everyone in Berkeley agrees that housing costs are out of control, discussions on homelessness are among the most contentious to come before the city council.

In 2012, a measure to bar people from sitting or lying on downtown streets at night was placed on the ballot by political moderates then in control of the council, backed by business groups. The head of Berkeleys downtown association argued, approvingly, that the measure would shoo homeless people away from the citys main commercial districts.

But the so-called sit/lie measure outraged civil libertarians and progressives, who denounced it for scapegoating the vulnerable, criminalizing poverty and being out of step with the citys history. After a rancorous campaign, it lost by a slim margin.

Three years later, following complaints from residents about aggressive behavior and unsanitary conditions, the council passed new measures aimed at homeless residents that opponents quickly dubbed anti-poor laws. They restrict to 2 square feet the amount of sidewalk space that can be taken up by peoples belongings, bar public urination or defecation, and require people who keep their possessions in shopping carts to move them every hour.

In response, a band of homeless activists known as First They Came for the Homeless set up a protest camp dubbed Liberty City in front of Berkeleys old city hall. It grew to about 50 people before police evicted them after a two-week stay and arrested several campers. The group has since been ejected from several more sites.

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A band of homeless activists known as First They Came for the Homeless set up a protest camp. Photograph: Rob Waters for the Guardian

Mike Zint, a spokesman and organizer, said the encampments provide a way for homeless people to protest being treated as criminals because were poor. They also offer a dignified alternative to crowded shelters, where, Zint said, peoples possessions are stolen, they are exposed to infections, and they sleep poorly before being kicked out at 6 in the morning with all your gear.

Early this year, the group set up a new camp with about 20 tents on a grassy, city-owned parcel. So far it has been tolerated by authorities. The camp is a mix of newcomers such as Ariah Inlerah, 33, a transgender woman who fled anti-gay violence in Bloomington, Indiana, and longtime Berkeley residents such as Brett Schnaper, a 55-year-old former cook who has been homeless since he lost his rent-controlled, $1,100-a-month apartment early last year.

Here, I have a place to keep my gear and some reasonable hope it will still be there when I come back, he said, sitting in a canvas folding chair outside a tent.

To be fair, many Berkeleyans have great empathy for the citys homeless residents. In December, as the weather was worsening, Arreguin and a progressive majority took control of the city council and began pushing for change. The city set up an emergency operations center to coordinate crisis housing and opened a 47-bed winter shelter, for instance.

But a fight is likely looming: any proposal to provide more services is likely to provoke backlash from residents who argue they will draw more homeless people to the city.

Clearly we need fewer services, not more, said someone who wrote on Nextdoor, an online forum where residents post about neighborhood issues, under the name Eric Friedman. We need robust enforcement of our laws and criminal prosecution for violators. No camping. No crapping in public.

The contradictions inherent in liberal Berkeley are exemplified by Patrick Kennedy, a developer of luxury housing whose company donated $10,000 to support the sit/lie measure four years ago. Now he wants to build tiny studio apartments for the homeless modular units the size of shipping containers that can be stacked like Legos and sees no inconsistency in his stance.

Brett
Brett Schnaper, center, and Mike Zint, right, at the First They Came for the Homeless encampment in Berkeley. Photograph: Rob Waters for the Guardian

Its a two-pronged approach, he said. I supported the ordinance because you cant have people camping out on your sidewalks and maintain the businesses and other social activities. But I also support the city actively doing something to address the problem.

However compassionate Berkeley tries to be, some obstacles are insurmountable. Take the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, which is dispatching staff members armed with tablet computers to talk to homeless people and assess their needs.

Since the beginning of last year, the agency has placed 54 homeless people into housing, said Sharon Hawkins Leyden, the groups director of client services. Yet only three have been able to stay in Berkeley, she said. The rest have been offered homes in Oakland, Stockton and even Sacramento, a city almost 80 miles away.

Berkeley rents, Hawkins said, are just too high.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/15/berkeley-california-homeless-identity-crisis


The financial benefits of the EPA data Trump doesn’t want you to know about

Making EPA data easily accessible to the private sector plays a significant role in many billion-dollar industries, from renewable energy to auto manufacturing

For more than 25 years, Walter Hang has helped local governments, engineers and homeowners make sense of hazardous waste. To do that, he digs into the enormous data vault maintained by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and pinpoints information that is useful for his clients to assess the health and financial risks from nearby industrial properties and toxic waste sites.

Hang, who runs Toxics Targeting, now fears this trove of knowledge will become more difficult to access as the EPAs newly minted chief, Scott Pruitt, begins a broad rollback of regulations and shrinks the agencys staff. President Trump has vowed to weaken the EPA, contending that its rules for protecting public health stifle business development. The Trump administration has already eliminated or buried some information on EPA websites and moved to muzzle agency employees.

What Trump doesnt acknowledge is that EPA data isnt just an enforcement tool. The agency employs more scientists than any other government agency except Nasa. Decades of work by those scientists have generated valuable information about air and water pollution, chemical toxicity and hazardous waste cleanup. This information has enabled businesses to develop new products and services and create jobs in the process.

No one has estimated the financial benefits of making EPA data easily accessible to the private sector. But anecdotal evidence shows it plays a significant role in many billion-dollar industries, from lending and real estate to renewable energy development and auto designs and manufacturing. For example, chemical companies use the data to come up with less toxic compounds for dyeing textiles.

Banks wont loan money to a property developer without ensuring that the land is free of contamination, which can be an expensive liability. They rely on pollution data from the EPA, says Hang, who compiles the information into reports for companies in real estate development and transaction.

We are trying to make sure we get as much data as we can, and were trying to make sure we dont have data gaps, Hang says.

Hang isnt alone in worrying about access. Several campaigns, carried out mostly by university professors and students, to download and secure EPA data have sprung up since the November election. One of the first of such efforts began not in the US but in Canada. Matt Price, a history professor at the University of Toronto, helped organize guerrilla archiving events in December. Offering free pizza and coffee, these events recruited a small army of volunteers who began downloading EPA data to secure servers.

Price says he and his colleagues sprang into action after experiencing their own war on science by former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, a conservative who slashed funding for science and ended important environmental monitoring projects. Price and others stepped up to preserve Canadian environmental data during that crisis.

We probably focused immediately on the EPA because of the extremely hostile language that came out of the Trump campaign around the EPA, says Price. We have put a kind of faith in the state as the long term guarantor of the integrity of scientific data. I think that faith may be misplaced.

Many companies rely on the agencys data to build products that tackle some of the biggest health and environmental problems. They sign research and development agreements with the EPA, which provides technical assistance in return for a share of any sales a company generates as a result.

EPA had 97 such contracts active in 2015, which yielded $232,318 in royalties for the agency. The previous year, 129 contracts produced royalties of $438,786.

Aclima, a San Francisco company that develops air-quality sensors and software, is working with the EPA to improve the devices sensitivity in detecting pollution. EPA air pollution data, gathered for decades at a regional scale, serves as an important reference and quality check for the company. Aclima has partnered with Google to collect air quality data by putting its mobile sensors on the StreetView cars that Google uses to create its maps. It plans to offer the resulting data to the public later this year.

Aclima CEO Davida Herzl says the EPAs air pollution data plays a foundational role in everything the company does. Anytime we lose information that is important to public health, that is a concern, Herzl says. It would be a massive blow to the business community in ways that arent always discussed. Innovation and private sector research is happening on top of that foundation of science that EPA has been developing for over 30 years now.

Even businesses that are set to benefit from Trumps plan to loosen environmental regulations are worried about losing access to EPA data, which they need for complying with state or local laws and for their own internal accounting of efficiency and performance, says Gretchen Goldman, research director at the Center for Science and Democracy, a program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The American Gas Association, which represents natural gas distribution utilities, recently notified members to download any EPA data they need in case it is removed from the agencys website. Pam Lacey, the associations chief regulatory counsel, says gas utilities use EPA data and other online resources to track methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas. The data shows distributors have cut methane emissions by 74% since 1990.

They continue to do more work and theyd like to be able to keep the data that demonstrates what theyve done and what theyre doing on an ongoing basis, Lacey says. Also, some companies have their own internal goals for sustainability, and they would want to use that official EPA data.

None of the EPA data has been restricted or eliminated yet, say the scientists involved in the data backup campaigns, but they arent taking any chances. Their concern stretches beyond protecting existing EPA data, however. Major budget cuts, if implemented, means the agency may be unable to collect new data.

EPA officials within the Trump administration did not respond to a request for comment.

Their goal is to defund programs that gather data, says Jared Blumenfeld, former administrator of EPA Region 9 (California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii), who left the agency in May 2016. Its much, much harder in a digital age to get rid of data. Its a lot easier to not fund science so you dont have the data in the first place.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/mar/15/epa-data-trump-benefits


US Federal Reserve raises interest rates to 1% in bid to hold off inflation

Fed chair says US economy in strong health as she announces third rate rise since 2008 and the first of several expected this yearJanet Yellen discusses interest rate rise live updates

The US Federal Reserve has sought to head off rising inflation with a third interest rate rise since the 2008 financial crash and the second in three months, taking the base rate from 0.75% to 1%.

The central bank set aside concerns about the impact of higher interest rates on consumer spending to confirm analyst projections that it is prepared to increase rates several times this year to keep a lid on inflation as it rises above its 2% target level.

The Feds chair, Janet Yellen, said a wide range of indicators showed the US economy was in rude health, allowing its interest rate setting committee to push rates back towards historically normal levels. Policymakers voted nine to one to raise rates.

Speaking after the decision, Yellen said she had met Donald Trumps treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, a couple of times but had only been introduced to the president himself.

I fully expect to have a strong relationship with secretary Mnuchin, she said. We had good discussions about the economy, about regulatory objectives, the work of the FSOC [Financial Stability Oversight Council] global economic developments, and I look forward to continuing to work with him. She said she had had a very brief meeting with Trump and appreciated that as well.

Earlier in the day the Department of Commerce said retail sales had inched up by 0.1% in February, and that they had been better than it had previously estimated in January.

US interest rates

The Department of Labor said consumer prices were 2.7% higher in February than a year earlier. After excluding the costs of food and energy, inflation was 2.2%. A housing market index from the National Association of Home Builders also surged to its highest level since 2005.

US stock markets moved up on the news, rising 90 points in the minutes after the decision, and US crude rose 2%. The increases were modest following Yellens signals in December that interest rates were on an upward path. Investors were also caught out by Yellens bullish comments in the wake of the announcement and by projections showing that 11 of her 17 policymaking colleagues saw borrowing costs rising another three times in 2017.

Dennis de Jong, the managing director of the currency trader UFX.com, said: Given the bloating effect Donald Trumps presidency has had on US inflation, it would have been more of a surprise had Fed Chair Janet Yellen not announced a rate hike at todays Federal Reserve meeting.

Trumps grand plans for American infrastructure spending have signalled an about-turn for US economic policy after just one rate increase in ten years, weve now seen two in the space of three months, and plenty more are expected for 2017.

This all spells bad news for US borrowers, who will likely have to foot a larger bill over the coming months. With at least three more hikes on the cards by the end of the year, todays news could hit many where it hurts the most the pocket.

US CPI

Some economists argue that weak wages and productivity growth in the US will limit the Feds rate increases to a handful before reaching a peak at around 2%.

Gus Faucher, the deputy chief economist at the stockbroker PNC, said: I think the concern, in terms of why the Fed is raising rates now, is that inflation is picking up. The unemployment rate is 4.7% and thats putting upward pressure on prices.

He told the Guardian economic forces were acting against a return to interest rate levels of 4-5% seen before the 2008 crash.

We have slower labor force growth because of the ageing of the baby boomers, [and thus] slower productivity growth in terms of output per worker, he said. That has reduced the potential for long-run growth, its reduced inflationary pressures, and I think rates in the future will be lower than they have been in the past.

US retail sales

Faucher also said further interest rate rises could dent consumer spending, which has come to rely on cheap loans.

I do think eventually that higher interest rates are going to have an impact on rates for car loans, so that may be a problem for automakers. It may be a problem for big-ticket durable items, home appliances, stuff like that. There is a ceiling on those effects, though, and Faucher doesnt think they will affect home loans.

There isnt much bleed over into mortgage rates; its mostly the short-term borrowers, he said.

Fed policymakers are known to be concerned that the tax cuts and extra government spending Trump has demanded could overheat the economy and lead to a deep recession. Should that happen, the Fed will want to have substantial interest rates in place.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/mar/15/us-federal-reserve-raises-interest-rates-to-1


Q&A: What will happen if the US Federal Reserve raises interest rates?

Janet Yellen, the Fed chair who has been criticised by Donald Trump, is set to raise rates for third time since financial crash

The US central bank is poised to raise interest rates for only the third time since the financial crash of 2008. With its headquarters just round the corner from the White House, the Federal Reserve and its chair, Janet Yellen, are in Donald Trumps sights.

On the campaign trail Trump said Yellen should be ashamed of the Feds low interest rate policy, and accused the bank of creating a false stock market. Trump has called for higher rates, but Yellen can not take a positive presidential reaction for granted.

The reaction of markets across the world is even less predictable. So what is the likely impact on the US and the global economy?

What is the Fed expected to do?

The Federal Reserve raised the base interest rate by a quarter of a percent in December last year and is expected to follow with a further rate rise on Wednesday. Some analysts expect a quarter-point rise, though most of the betting is now on a half point, pushing the base rate to a range of 1% to 1.25%.

Why will it raise rates?

The US economy has grown for the last 30 quarters and shows no sign of slackening off. Consumer spending is robust and the latest jobs numbers showed employment increasing and unemployment staying low.

Fathom Consulting, an economic forecaster, said spare capacity in the labour market was disappearing fast and it would not be long before wages started to rise rapidly. Wage rises push up demand, and that triggers higher prices.

The Fed has a remit to control inflation, but also to mintain high levels of employment. By raising rates, it will appear to do both.

How will consumers and corporate America react?

The Fed is betting businesses will shrug off the extra cost of borrowing, continue to invest in the US economy and create jobs.

Setting aside concerns about Brexit and a string of potentially destabilising elections on the continent, Fed policymakers have judged that the strength of the economy is enough to override a series of rate rises, possibly taking the base rate to almost 2% by the end of next year.

Consumers have embraced the Trump rhetoric of tax cuts and deregulation to continue spending, undeterred by the prospect of higher mortgage costs.

How will the market react?

Central banks like to signal their intentions, albeit in opaque language, to prevent investors being spooked. This rise was heavily trailed in recent weeks and has been priced in as a certainty by market participants in New York, London and Tokyo though some would be surprised by a half-point rise.

Turbulence could come from the foreign exchange markets if the dollar rises following a slump in the Turkish lira, Indonesian rupiah, Mexican peso or other developing world currency. More importantly, the bond markets could overreact.

Why do the bond markets matter?

Much of the world borrows money in dollars or seeks to lend to the US government and US corporations in dollars. A rise in interest rates would encourage an influx of funds into the US, pushing up the dollar relative to other countries. A rise in the Fed funds rate would also increase the cost of borrowing.

When the Fed first hinted in 2013 that it planned to stop pumping funds into the financial system, the prospect of higher borrowing costs for those holding dollar debts spooked the bond markets. Turkey and Russia were highlighted as countries with corporate sectors that expanded quickly based on heavy borrowing using dollar-denominated bonds. It was clear that much of Turkeys corporate sector could go bust if its interest bill jumped too far or fast.

Such was the strength of the reaction, Ben Bernanke, who at the time chaired the Federal Reserve, abandoned his plan. A similar reaction preceded a rate rise in December 2015, and while markets regained their composure, the extra costs imposed on Turkey and Russia hit their economies hard and arguably shored up the position of their authoritarian leaders.

Is a currency war possible?

Trump has already attacked China for artificially depressing its currency, even when Beijing was doing all it could to close the gap between the yen and the dollar. Now China is letting the yen fall and with interest rate rises in the US pushing up the dollar, the gap will widen, increasing the cost of US exports and reducing import prices.

Trump can only complain about the currency, but he could make good on threats to impose tariffs on Chinese goods, sparking a trade war.

Is there any reason to keep rates on hold?

Annual US GDP growth since the 2008 crash has averaged 2.1%. This might seem like a healthy rate, but it is the slowest recovery from recession since the second world war. Business investment remains low and productivity in the US, as elsewhere in the developed world, is growing sluggishly. To boost borrowing and demand, the Fed needs to keep credit cheap.

But Trump plans to make up for the tightening of monetary policy by cutting taxes and running up a huge budget deficit. He also plans to take his shears to corporate and consumer regulations, unleashing a surge in economic activity.

Bloomberg said investors expect three more rises before the end of the year. Fathom Consulting said there was enough momentum in the economy for rate increases of 25 basis points seven times between now and the end of next year.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/mar/14/us-federal-reserve-interest-rates-janet-yellen-donald-trump


Trump had to pay millions due to tax law he aims to abolish, leaked return shows

A section of the presidents 2005 tax return revealed that about 85% of what he paid the IRS was incurred due to alternative minimum tax

Donald Trumps leaked tax return reveals that the businessman had to pay tens of millions of dollars in a single year because of a tax rule that he has specifically promised to abolish as president.

A two-page section of Trumps tax return for 2005, which was published by MSNBC late on Tuesday, revealed that the president paid $38m in federal taxes on more than $150m in income in 2005.

But the documents also showed that about 82% of the total paid to the Internal Revenue Service that year by Trump and his wife, Melania, was incurred due to a tax that Trump has said should be abolished.

The alternative minimum tax (AMT), which was introduced to ensure the mega wealthy pay a fairer share of tax, comprised $31m of Trumps tax bill compared to $5.3m in regular federal income tax. In the run-up to Novembers election, Trump pledged to eliminate the AMT altogether, meaning the president campaigned for a change in the tax law that would have benefited him.

The publication of the paperwork prompted immediate condemnation from the White House, which accused MSNBCs Rachel Maddow of breaking the law and preemptively released figures from the same year.

You know you are desperate for ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago, a Trump administration official said in a statement.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/14/donald-trump-tax-return-leaked-alternative-minimum


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