Reconsidering Corruption Cases & Millionaire Minors
November 29, 2022
“Please Stop Prosecuting Politicians” – Politicians
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court began considering a pair of cases that could change the way public corruption cases can be prosecuted. The two cases, one brought to the court by an ex-aide to former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the other pushed by a businessman, reached the Supreme Court as defendants in both cases attempted to get out of their bribery and fraud convictions.
Justices began hearing appeals from Joseph Percoco and Louis Ciminelli, two men charged in related corruption cases from 2016 brought by federal prosecutors’ attempt to crack down on political profiteering in New York state. Percoco, a former aide to Cuomo, was convicted of bribery-related charges in 2018 after seeking $315,000 worth of bribes from two corporate clients of Albany lobbyist Todd Howe looking for benefits and business from the New York state government. Ciminelli, who owned a construction firm, was charged with conspiring with Howe and a man named Alain Kaloyeros in order to secure contracts for his company.
Lawyers for the pair (and their other assorted business partners) defended their clients by arguing that prosecutors overreached by trying to frame their actions as wire fraud ( defined as a scheme to fraudulently obtain money or property). Prosecutors used the “right to control” theory of wire fraud to seek penalties for the pair, a framework where the defrauders are not seeking money or property, but economically valuable information. Prosecutors claim that the defendants’ crimes defrauded a branch of SUNY Polytechnic Institute that oversaw the contracting process. The government says the branch was deprived of the ability to make informed contracting decisions thanks to the defendants’ crimes.
According to former federal prosecutor Jaimie Nawaday, “Prosecutors could face a constriction of their ability to bring charges based on novel and expansive readings of the fraud statutes” if the court rules for the defendants. Over the past few years, the Supreme Court has made it increasingly hard for prosecutors to nail defendants in political corruption cases. The court is expected to give out its ruling on this case by next June. (Reuters)
Some Good News
- Texas woman found by family 51 years after being kidnapped as baby (Guardian)
- Biden-Harris Administration Makes $50 Million Available to Clean Up Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells on Tribal Lands (Department of Interior)
A Not-So-White Christmas
- On Monday, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (also known as Europol) announced the delivery of a haymaker to Europe’s drug trade, arresting 49 suspects in a joint investigation into a “super cartel” that reportedly controlled about one-third of Europe’s cocaine trafficking.
- The arrests took place as part of an operation between law enforcement authorities in six different European countries, with the latest series of raids occurring between November 8-19 in both Europe and the United Arab Emirates. “Operation Desert Light,” as the continental drug bust has been named, seized over 30 tons of drugs between Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the UAE.
- “The scale of cocaine importation into Europe under the suspects’ control and command was massive,” stated Europol. The Netherlands was host to the highest number of suspects with 14 arrested, while six “high-value targets” were arrested in Dubai. Cocaine has been having a bit of a renaissance in Europe as of late, with purity and availability both growing over recent years. 214 tons of coke were seized in Europe in 2020, and authorities state that that number could reach 300 tons this year. (CBS)
Leaning Right In The West Bank
- On Sunday, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Avi Maoz, leader of the far-right ultra-nationalist Noam party, would be serving as a deputy minister for his new coalition government. After winning Israel’s November 1 parliamentary election, Netanyahu and his Likud party have been shopping around for allies to create a coalition government, mainly aiming at far-right groups.
- Maoz is well-known for his homophobic rhetoric and disparaging remarks against non-Orthodox Jews. The Maoz-led Noam party ran on a joint ticket with the Religious Zionism party in the parliamentary election, with the faction earning itself 14 seats in Israel’s parliament, making itself the third-largest party in the Knesset.
- Maoz is well known as a religious fundamentalist. He is a West Bank settler, is an outspoken opponent of LGBTQ+ rights, is against women serving in the military, and has also opposed Arabs teaching Jewish students in Israeli schools. He also denies the legitimacy of non-Orthodox Jews, a minority group in Israel that is dominant in the U.S. and has long supported Israel through funding and lobbying. (Guardian)
Additional World News
- Russia to ban women from being surrogates for foreigners (Al Jazeera)
- 14 years later, NATO is set to renew its vow to Ukraine (AP)
- Adani Port: Violent protests over billionaire’s Kerala project (BBC)
- Daily attacks on Ukraine’s Kherson temper joy at Russian pullout (Reuters)
- China vows more ‘friendly consensus’ amid Vatican complaints (AP)
- Cotopaxi: Plume of gas rises from Ecuador volcano (BBC)
- German government defends plan to ease citizenship rules (Reuters)
“I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.” – Aristotle
Houston, We Have A Water Problem
- A power outage at a water purification plant in Houston, Texas on Monday caused a significant drop in water pressure, leading to a water boil order for over two million people in the city and some surrounding areas. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he expects the notice to be lifted by early Tuesday at the latest, once the state’s environmental agency gives an all-clear after analyzing test results, but there was no indication that any contamination had occurred.
- Houston is the country’s fourth largest city. The notice encouraged people to boil water before it’s used for cooking, bathing, or drinking. Multiple public and private schools and some local colleges closed Monday, while others merely made efforts to provide bottled water and sanitizer. Both the main transformer and its backup “uniquely and coincidentally” failed. (ABC)
Blowing Off Some Lava
- Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano located on Hawaii, is currently erupting for the first time in 40 years. The U.S. Geological Survey said midday Monday that the eruption is not endangering nearby communities, and that the lava is flowing down one side of the volcano.
- “All indications are that the eruption will remain in the Northeast Rift Zone,” the agency said in an advisory. The main risk, it seems, is that “Volcanic gas and possibly fine ash and Pele’s Hair (strands of lava glass) may be carried downwind.”
- No evacuation orders have been issued. Southwest Airlines announced that it had canceled some flights to Hilo International Airport, and the Federal Aviation Administration said it is closely monitoring the ash cloud’s size and will issue advisories accordingly. (CNN)
Additional USA News
- Arkansas GOP governor says Trump’s meeting with Holocaust denier is ‘very troubling’ and ’empowering’ for extremism (CNN)
- Police investigating road rage shooting on I-395 (WaPo, $)
- Final January 6 committee report expected to focus on issues beyond Trump efforts (CNN)
- Cop killed in shootout after police say he catfished California girl, killed her family (USA Today)
- Colorado governor on reducing gun violence: ‘Take the best ideas from all sides’ (Politico)
- Maricopa County report rebuffs claims by Republicans who sowed doubt on election integrity (NBC)
- The Buffalo Tops shooting suspect pleads guilty to state murder charges (NPR)
The Millionaire Child Laborers
- Four kids have more reach than Disney’s iconic mouse. “Vlad and Niki,” “Like Nastya,” and “Kids Diana Show” are three of the most popular YouTube channels in the world, with over 300 million subscribers between them. Vlad, Niki, Diana, and Nastya have converted their success with the “iPad kid” demographic into streaming deals, toy licensing contracts, and other diverse revenue streams, allowing them and their families to rake in millions of dollars every year.
- The children, whose families hail from Russia and Ukraine, all began making videos off the back of an earlier wave of child YouTubers like EvanTubeHD and Ryan Kaji. The kids are generally featured in videos playing with increasingly extravagant toys, enjoying amusement parks, or going on vacations. Some toys include miniature drivable cars meant for children, while vacation spots include luxury resorts in the Maldives and Dubai.
- On the money side of things, toy manufacturers pay the kids anywhere from $75,000 to over $300,000 to play with their toys, and the kids have tapped into deals with everyone from toy makers to HBO Max to Will Smith’s production company Westbrook. The families have also moved to the U.S. in light of their success, settling down in expensive areas like Miami’s Golden Beach suburb. As the kids grow older, their families are looking to move their focus away from simple toys videos into more mature areas, including the music business or even creating Mr. Beast-like channels. (WSJ, $)
- First lady Jill Biden unveils 2022 White House holiday theme and decorations (ABC)
- Marion Barter: The search for a missing mother surfaces claims of her lover’s ‘life of deceit’ (CNN)
- Emperor Charles V’s secret code cracked after five centuries (Guardian)
- Twitter grapples with Chinese spam obscuring news of protests (WaPo, $)
- Pop sensation Dua Lipa has been granted Albanian citizenship (NPR)
- The woman aiming to be the youngest to travel the world by motorcycle (CNN)
- Monkeys in central Thailand city mark their day with feast (AP)
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