Read My Lips, No Paid Taxes
September 28, 2020
The Good News
- Winning the rat race: Hero Rat Wins A Top Animal Award For Sniffing Out Land Mines (NPR)
- Her Tutoring Center Was Bombed. She Still Topped Afghanistan’s National University Exam. (NYT, $). A test-ament of perseverance.
- Stair-crossed lovers: Italian couple ‘Romeo and Juliet’ met from their balconies during lockdown. Now they’re engaged. (WaPo, $)
“Taxes are the lifeblood of government and no taxpayer should be permitted to escape the payment of his just share of the burden of contributing thereto.” — Arthur Vanderbilt
“The income tax created more criminals than any other single act of government.” — Barry Goldwater
“The United States has a system of taxation by confession.” — Hugo Black
Read My Lips, No Paid Taxes
(Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images)
On Sunday, President Trump assured the American people that he pays “a lot” in federal income taxes. However, more than two decades of tax information obtained by the New York Times tell a drastically different story. In 2016, he paid $750 in federal taxes. In 2017, he paid another $750. That may sound like next to nothing, but fear not, the president has actually paid nothing in federal income taxes for 10 of the past 15 years. These startling revelations perhaps explain why Trump has been so reluctant to release documents pertaining to his personal wealth. While he campaigned for office promoting himself as a savvy billionaire businessman, he was in fact reporting millions of dollars in losses every year, which allowed him to avoid paying federal income taxes. As if that wasn’t enough, the report sheds light on a disputed $72.9 million tax refund that — if found to be illegitimate — could result in millions more in losses for the self-proclaimed billionaire.
Despite his continual declaration of losses, Trump enjoyed a lavish lifestyle made possible by a suspicious series of tax deductions. Between 2011 and 2018, he wrote off more than $26 million in “consulting fees.” Sound fishy? The Times discovered that at least some of that mysterious money was going towards Ivanka Trump, who was getting paid as both a consultant and executive vice president, which is in blatant violation of IRS rules. These reported write-offs also featured some ludicrous insights into Trump’s personal life — including a $70,000 tax deduction for personal hairstyling.
While the damning report calls into question the legitimacy of Trump’s past financial dealings, it also paints a grim picture for the future of the president’s bottom line. Within the next four years, the Times found that Trump faces payment on more than $400 million in loans. Years of allowing his business endeavors to bleed cash in the name of low taxes have put the sitting president in quite a bind. How can someone who only pays $750 in income taxes foot the bill for hundreds of millions of dollars in loans? Or perhaps more interestingly, who would loan such massive amounts of money to someone whose business empire was built off reporting massive losses?
This mountain of financial pressure adds a new layer of importance to the 2020 election. If re-elected, it is likely that Trump would be able to use the Oval Office’s influence to refinance these loans on favorable terms. However, if voted out of office, the richest president in US history could face some serious financial ruin in an ironic twist of fate.
Both Trump and his team were quick to jump on this story and label it “fake news.” The president denounced the Times report as “totally made up” and reassured his supporters that “everything was wrong.” Trump’s lawyer Alan Garten struck a similar tone, claiming that “most, if not all, of the facts appear to be inaccurate” and requested the documents on which they were based. Those documents were not released along with the report, and Times reporters announced they would be kept private in order to protect their sources, who they cited their dedication to protecting their sources, who they say took “enormous personal risks to help inform the public. (NYT)
Additional Trump Tax Reads
- The report on Trump’s taxes included a lot more than we could ever fit into a single Pnut. Check out these links to get a bigger picture of what we now know after Sunday: New York Times’ Trump Tax Returns Investigation: 18 Revelations (NYT)
- Four years ago, Trump survived ‘Access Hollywood’ — and a media myth of indestructibility was born (WaPo, $)
- We now know what Trump was trying to hide by holding back his tax returns (Vox)
- Six key findings from the New York Times’ Trump taxes bombshell (Guardian)
- Donald Trump Barely Pays Any Taxes: Will Anyone Care? (New Yorker)
Can You Smell What The COVID Is Cooking?
(Shoja Lak via Getty Images)
- While COVID-19 has pitched all of mankind into a viral frenzy, new methods in Finland suggest that man’s best friend could be a valuable asset in sniffing out the invisible enemy. Travelers arriving at the Helsinki airport are being given the option to receive a COVID-19 test — from a dog.
- The pilot program uses sweat collected from passengers and runs the scent by sharp-nosed canines, who are able to sniff out the virus in less than 10 seconds. All in all, the process takes no longer than a minute. If the dog alerts doctors of a potential positive, the traveler is then directed to the airport’s health center for an official test.
- And it turns out they do a doggone good job. Researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hanover discovered that dogs were able to distinguish infected saliva samples from their smell with a 94% success rate. Just like bombs, drugs, and other illnesses, these sniffer dogs have demonstrated an uncanny ability to detect human enemies.
- So, how do they do it? Does COVID-19 have a smell? Researchers are still trying to figure that out. It has long been assumed that the virus alters the odor of bodily fluids like sweat and urine, but it’s still a mystery what molecule these canines are able to pick up that humans can’t. (NYT)
Placing A Number On Displacement
- New data from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) demonstrates just how volatile the first six months of 2020 have been for many citizens of the world. The research center announced nearly 15 million new internal displacements — which occur when someone is forced to flee their home within national borders — between January and June.
- 9.8 million of those displacements were prompted by natural disasters like cyclones, floods, bushfires, and locust infestations — highlighting the role that a changing climate is playing in uprooting people from their homes. Another 4.8 million displacements can be attributed to conflict and violence in nations like Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burkina Faso.
- “The staggering figures recorded in the first six months of the year are testament to the persistent volatility of displacement crises worldwide,” said IDMC director Alexandra Bilak. “Compounding this is the Covid-19 pandemic, which has reduced access to healthcare and increased economic hardship and protection risks for displaced communities.”
- The single largest single displacement occurred in May, and went largely unnoticed in much of the Western world. The Cyclone Amphan — which tore through Eastern India and Bangladesh — forced more than 3.3 million people to pre-emptively evacuate their homes. Those numbers would be even higher — the IDMC explains — if not for a fear of COVID-19 that has kept people in their homes in the face of natural disasters.
- With half of the year already over, experts have grim predictions for the remainder of 2020. “We expect even more people to be displaced in the second half of the year compared to the first, because many of the weather-related hazards like tropical storms and monsoon rains are still to come,” said Jan Egeland of the Norweigan Refugee Council. (Guardian)
Additional World News
- I don’t Xi the problem: Brushing off Criticism, China’s Xi Calls Policies in Xinjiang ‘Totally Correct’ (NYT, $)
- Who runs Hong Kong: party faithful shipped in to carry out Beijing’s will (Guardian)
- Federal judge postpones Trump ban on popular app TikTok (AP)
- A tenuous trade: Yemen’s warring parties agree to their largest prisoner swap as UN seeks ceasefire (Reuters)
- Sri Lanka returns illegal waste to Britain (Guardian)
- Swiss voters clearly reject curbs on EU immigration (CNN)
- Justin Trudeau: ‘The World Is In Crisis, And Things Are About To Get Much Worse’ (HuffPost). Harsh truths from Trudeau.
- Africa has defied the covid-19 nightmare scenarios. We shouldn’t be surprised. (WaPo)
- Bill Gates: The Pandemic Has Erased Years of Progress (Atlantic)
- Pandemic Baking Just Got Weirder (NYT)
- Twenty-one states are reporting increased Covid-19 cases as experts warn of a fall surge (CNN)
- Fauci to a Meddling HHS Official: ‘Take a Hike’ & A ‘distressed’ Birx questions how long she can remain on White House task force, sources say (Atlantic, CNN)
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What ACB Means For The ACA
- Over the weekend, Trump forged ahead with plans to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court left by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In what turned out to be a political killing of two birds with one stone, Trump was able to make good promises to both fill America’s courts with conservatives and end the Affordable Care Act with the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
- Barrett — whose judicial philosophy mirrors that of her mentor, Antonin Scalia — poses a novel threat to Barack Obama’s signature piece of healthcare legislation. If she is confirmed before Election Day, she will likely hold a deciding vote on the Supreme Court’s November case that will argue the constitutionality of current regulations surrounding pre-existing conditions.
- This impending fight over the ACA has reshaped the stakes of an already-heated SCOTUS battle in the Senate, as both Democrats and Republicans paint the issue as a referendum on the American healthcare system. At a White House news conference, Trump proclaimed that “Obamacare is terrible” and, if overturned, he would quickly replace it with a “much better health-care system that’s much cheaper and much better.”
- For Joe Biden, the ACB-ACA fiasco has made healthcare a central issue for his campaign. His lead in the polls has remained surprisingly steady as November 3rd inches closer — a WaPo-ABC News Poll released Sunday shows the Democratic nominee leading the Republican incumbent by 53 percent to 43 percent amongst registered voters. However, this new threat to the healthcare status quo could shift those figures in the coming days
- “President Trump sees a chance to fulfill his explicit mission: steal away the vital protections of the ACA from countless families that have come to rely on them for their health, their financial security, the lives of those they love,” Biden said in response to Barrett’s nomination. (WaPo)
Additional USA News
- The state of the race: Biden leads Trump in new Washington Post-ABC News poll & Trump Polls in Red States: Women Favor Joe Biden (WaPo, NYT, $)
- Mitch McConnell, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the crisis of the Senate (Vox)
- How QAnon Conspiracy Theories Spread in My Hometown (The Intercept). When your old pals get Q’d up.
- This Is the Casual Racism That I Face at My Elite High School (NYT, $)
- In Politically Charged Inquiry, Durham Sought Details About Scrutiny of Clintons (NYT, $)
- What’s behind the Barr? Bill Barr’s Long-Held Ideas About America (Atlantic, $)
- Trump Is an Authoritarian. So Are Millions of Americans (Politico)
- The Real Stakes of the Fight Over History (Atlantic, $)
- Let’s look at the lies emanating from Louisville: Correcting the misinformation about Breonna Taylor (WaPo, $)
Meating The Market
- First, it was just specialty supermarkets like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Now, it’s everywhere. From milkless milks to meatless meats, the vegan lifestyle has crossed over into the mainstream and captured the hearts and bellies of everyday Americans. The benefits are manifold: from improving personal health to reducing one’s carbon footprint.
- However, environmentally conscious consumers should consider the latter as they make the shift over to veggie burgers. As a recent report from Vice News suggests, the same companies responsible for the carbon bomb that is Big Meat are now jockeying for a slice of the plant-based market. If they succeed in boxing out the vegan start-ups who popularized the meatless movement, some experts worry that meaningful environmental change will be undermined by agricultural giants who produce around 57% of our food system’s greenhouse gas emissions.
- Studies have shown that the production of just one kilogram of beef emits 60 kilograms of carbon dioxide, and firms like Perdue, Tyson, and Hormel are all major contributors to this emissions crisis. According to Kari Hamerschlag, the deputy director of food and agriculture at Friends of the Earth, the establishment’s foray into the meatless world does not mean they will shutdown their factory farms. “I actually think that these large company investments will do very little to cut the massive impact of the world’s largest meat companies,” she said. “Unless these companies actually slash their emissions, then they are not doing what they need to do to address the climate crisis.”
- So when you meander down the grocery store aisle in search of some delicious plant-based chicken nuggets, be aware of who you’re buying from. Hamerschlag emphasized this point, claiming that while meat companies are meeting the market, they “are not lashing their greenhouse gas emissions—in fact, they continue to grow, because they’re expanding their operations in the meat sector.” (Vice)
- Whole Foods Founder: ‘The Whole World Is Getting Fat’ (NYT, $)
- The wurst is over: why Germany now loves to go vegetarian (Guardian)
- Michelin-starred chefs on their best pasta recipes (Insider)
- Cockroaches and e-commerce: EBay sent cockroaches, porn and a bloody pig mask to bloggers (CNN)
- During COVID-19 lockdown, San Francisco birds sang a new, sexier song (USA Today)
- A shard goal to save the planet: The daring plan to save the Arctic ice with glass (BBC)
- Scientists May Have Found a Material for Building on Mars (Wired)
- The War Crime No One Wants to Talk About (NYT, $)
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