Jared Kushner blocked Biden’s access to COVID-19 planning in the final days of the Trump era, former aide says
Joshua Zitser – December 30, 2022
Jared Kushner denied Biden’s team access to COVID-19 plans in late 2020, a former aide said.
Kushner said Biden’s team should “absolutely not” be looped in, claimed Alyssa Farah Griffin.
She made the claim in a newly released transcript of her interview with the Jan. 6 House panel.
Jared Kushner ordered that the incoming Biden administration be excluded from COVID-19 planning in the aftermath of the 2020 election, a former aide said.
Alyssa Farah Griffin made the claim in an interview with the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot, according to a newly released transcript.
Farah Griffin told the panel that Kushner shot down the a suggestion to include President Joe Biden’s transition team in planning discussions after the election had been called for Biden, per the transcript.
At the time, Trump was angrily refusing to concede defeat, and hyping his baseless theory that the election had been stolen. Though he left office in January 2021, he continues to claim he won the 2020 vote.
In the transcript, Farah Griffin described former COVID Task Force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx asking whether they should be “looping” the incoming Biden transition in.
“Jared just said, ‘Absolutely not,'” Farah Griffin told the panel. “And then we just moved on.”
Farah Griffin’s allegation, which was first reported by The Independent, is the first to directly put blame for the stonewalling on Kushner.
Biden officials complained at the time that the Trump administration was refusing them access to COVID-19 data in the weeks after the election.
Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told “Fox News Sunday” on November 15, 2020, that the Trump administration had stonewalled crucial COVID-19 data and plans.
Biden also said that week that Trump officials were harming the US by denying them access, per The New York Times.
“If we have to wait until January 20 to start that planning, it puts us behind,” Biden told reporters, referring to the date of his inauguration. “More people may die if we don’t coordinate.”
In the same speech, Biden pressed the Trump administration to provide more details about the allocation of COVID-19 vaccinations. “The sooner we have access to the administration’s distribution plan, the sooner this transition would be smoothly moved forward,” Biden said, per Politico.
Greta Thunberg’s Response To Andrew Tate Getting Arrested Is One For The History Books
December 30, 2022
Twitter has been pretty fun for the past 24 hours all thanks to Greta Thunberg.
It all started with misogynistic internet personality, Andrew Tate, making a random swipe at Greta.
In case you didn’t know, Andrew Tate was banned from Twitter in 2017 for hate speech.
He was recently allowed back on the platform because of the new changes Elon Musk made.
He took this opportunity to tweet at climate activist Greta Thunberg about owning 33 cars:
Hello Greta Thurnberg: I have 33 cars. My Bugatti has a w16 8.0L quad turbo. My TWO Ferrari 812 competizione have 6.5L v12s. This is just the start. Please provide your email address so I can send a complete list of my car collection and their respective enormous emissions.
yes, please do enlighten me. email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
HelloGreta Thunberg: I have 33 cars. My Bugatti has a w16 8.0L quad turbo. My TWO Ferrari 812 competizione have 6.5L v12s. This is just the start. Please provide your email address so I can send a complete list of my car collection and their respective enormous emissions.
People on Twitter collectively lost their minds over her reply:
George Conway Replying to Greta Thunberg:
“this may well be the greatest tweet of all time”
And then Andrew tweeted this cigar smoking rant:
But there’s something in this video that Andrew is probably regretting…
The pizza box:
The pizza box is from a Romanian chain of restaurants.
That box apparently allowed police to locate him, and he and his brother were arrested on human trafficking charges:
But that’s not all!
Greta got the last word with her response to the arrest:
“this is what happens when you don’t recycle your pizza boxes”
It’s just too real!!!
I think this tweet from George Takei sums it up best:
So…Elon Musk let Andrew Tate back on Twitter, and Tate promptly used it to reveal his whereabouts to authorities in Romania who then arrested him. All because Greta Thunberg owned him so hard his little wee-wee fell off. Do I have that right? Please say I have that right.
Jim Tankersley, Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner – December 30, 2022
Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee have followed through with their vow to make public six years of former President Donald Trump’s tax returns, giving the American public new insight into his business dealings and drawing threats of retaliation from congressional Republicans.
The release Friday morning contained thousands of pages of tax documents, including individual returns for Trump and his wife, Melania, as well as business returns for several of the hundreds of companies that make up the real estate mogul’s sprawling business organization.
The committee had this month released top-line details from the returns, which showed that Trump paid $1.1 million in federal income taxes during the first three years of his presidency, including just $750 in federal income tax in 2017, his first year in office. He paid no tax in 2020 as his income dwindled and his business losses mounted.
The documents contain new details not revealed in those earlier releases. New York Times reporters are combing the pages for key takeaways. Here is a list.
Trump made no charitable contributions in 2020.
As a presidential candidate in 2015, Trump said he would not take “even one dollar” of the $400,000 salary that comes with the job. “I am totally giving up my salary if I become president,” he said.
In his first three years in office, Trump said he donated his salary quarterly. But in 2020, his last full year in office, the documents show that Trump reported $0 in charitable giving.
Also in 2020, as the pandemic recession swiftly descended, Trump reported heavy business losses and no federal tax liability.
In the earlier years, White House officials made a point of highlighting which government agencies were receiving the money, starting with the National Park Service in 2017. The tax documents released Friday show that Trump reported charitable donations totaling nearly $1.9 million in 2017 and just over $500,000 in both 2018 and 2019.
In a bad year for business, Trump didn’t take a full refund.
Trump reported nearly $16 million in business losses in 2020, which swamped his other income and left him with no federal income tax liability. But the tax documents show that he made nearly $14 million in tax payments to the federal government over the course of the year.
Those payments left him with the potential for a large income tax refund from the government — like the ones many taxpayers find when they go to file their taxes every March. In Trump’s case, he chose not to take the full refund available to him. He claimed a refund of just under $5.5 million, then directed the IRS to apply another $8 million to his estimated taxes for 2021.
His own tax law may have cost him.
The tax law Trump signed in late 2017, which took effect the next year, contained some provisions that most likely gave him an advantage at tax time — including the scaling back of the alternative minimum tax on high earners.
But one provision in particular drastically reduced the income tax deductions Trump could claim in 2018 and beyond: limits that Republicans placed on deductions for state and local taxes paid.
The so-called SALT deduction disproportionately hit higher earners, including Trump, in high-tax cities and states like New York. In 2019, he reported paying $8.4 million in state and local taxes. Because of the SALT limits included in his tax law, he was able to deduct only $10,000 of those taxes paid on his federal income tax return.
Those losses could have been mitigated at least in part by other sections of the law that were favorable to wealthier taxpayers like Trump.
Fred Trump is a silent actor in the returns.
Fred Trump, Trump’s long-deceased father, has continued to have an effect on his son’s finances.
In 2018, after a decade in which the former president declared no taxable income, he reported taxable income of more than $24 million and paid $1 million in federal taxes, nearly the entire total he paid as president.
That income, as previously detailed by the Times, appeared to be the result of more than $14 million in gains from the sale of an investment his father made in the 1970s, a New York City housing complex named Starrett City, which became part of Trump’s inheritance.
But the new documents show that the effect of his inheritance in 2018 was far greater: Trump reported $25.7 million in gains from the sale of business properties that he and his siblings inherited or took through trusts, including the sale of Starrett City.
The sales of business properties Trump created himself came at a loss, however, dragging down his net proceeds and somewhat reducing his tax liability, the tax itemization shows.
That included a total of $1 million in property sold at a loss by 40 Wall St., his office building in Manhattan, and DJT Holdings LLC. He recorded another $1 million loss bailing his son Donald Trump Jr. out of a failed business to build prefabricated homes.
Trump also received tens of thousands of dollars in dividends while he was in the White House from trusts that were established for him when he was young, his tax returns show.
A new tax firm got involved in 2020.
For years, Trump used the accounting firm Mazars USA to prepare his taxes and those of his businesses. Donald Bender, Trump’s longtime accountant at Mazars, had long been listed on the former president’s taxes as his accountant.
The firm formally cut ties with Trump and his businesses this year, saying it could no longer stand behind a decade of annual financial statements it prepared for the Trump Organization.
But it turns out Mazars and Trump had begun distancing themselves from each other as early as 2020. That year, BKM Sowan Horan, a Texas-based accounting firm, prepared Trump’s taxes, his returns show.
Republicans are threatening retaliation.
The release of the documents Friday set off a new round of attacks between Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, including threats of escalating — and politically motivated — future releases of private tax information.
Democrats cast the move as necessary oversight on a president who broke decades of precedent in declining to release his returns.
“Trump acted as though he had something to hide, a pattern consistent with the recent conviction of his family business for criminal tax fraud,” Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., a Ways and Means Committee member, said in a news release. “As the public will now be able to see, Trump used questionable or poorly substantiated deductions and a number of other tax avoidance schemes as justification to pay little or no federal income tax in several of the years examined.”
But Republicans — who won control of the House in November — warned Democrats that they had started down a dangerous road and that public pressure could push the incoming majority to release returns from President Joe Biden’s family or a wide range of other private individuals.
“Going forward, all future chairs of both the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee will have nearly unlimited power to target and make public the tax returns of private citizens, political enemies, business and labor leaders, or even the Supreme Court justices themselves,” Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement Friday.
Trump weighed in late Friday morning in an email statement that also raised the threat of retaliation.
“The Democrats should have never done it, the Supreme Court should have never approved it, and it’s going to lead to horrible things for so many people,” he said. “The great USA divide will now grow far worse. The Radical Left Democrats have weaponized everything, but remember, that is a dangerous two-way street!”
Congressman says Donald Trump ‘abused his power’ to hide his finances on a scale not seen since Nixon
Rebecca Cohen – December 30, 2022
Rep. Don Beyer said Donald Trump “abused his power” to hide his finances.
The Democrat compared Trump’s attempts to “block basic transparency” to Richard Nixon.
A House committee published six years’ worth of Trump’s tax returns on Friday after a years-long legal fight.
A Democratic congressman compared former President Donald Trump to Richard Nixon, saying Trump “abused his power” to hide his finances from the public.
“Despite promising to release his tax returns, Donald Trump refused to do so, and abused the power of his office to block basic transparency on his finances and conflicts of interest which no president since Nixon has foregone,” Democratic Virginia Rep. Don Beyer said in a statement Friday.
Six years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns were released by the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday.
Beyer accused the former president of having “something to hide” as he refused to release tax documents as presidents since Nixon had done and fought Congress’ attempts to access them.
“As the public will now be able to see,” Beyer continued, “Trump used questionable or poorly substantiated deductions and a number of other tax avoidance schemes as justification to pay little or no federal income tax in several of the years examined.”
Beyer noted that tax laws in the US are “often inequitable, and that enforcement of them is often unjust.”
“Trump was able to bypass even the mandatory IRS presidential audit program for years, but many other wealthy and powerful people evade billions in tax dues every year through more quotidian tax avoidance. Congress has so much work to do to make tax enforcement in this country fairer, and that will continue to be a major priority for me as a member of the Ways and Means Committee going forward,” Beyer said.
The Ways and Means Committee voted on December 20 to release Trump’s tax returns from 2015 to 2020 after a long legal battle in which none of the courts who heard the case — including the US Supreme Court — sided with Trump.
The returns revealed just how much Trump earned in each of those years, showing that the former president — who campaigned as a successful businessman and passed sweeping tax cuts while in office — told the IRS he lost millions in the years before and during his presidency.
A Town-by-Town Battle to Sell Americans on Renewable Energy
David Gelles – December 30, 2022
MONTICELLO, Ill. — Depressed property values. Flickering shadows. Falling ice. One by one, a real estate appraiser rattled off what he said were the deleterious effects of wind farms as a crowd in an agricultural community in central Illinois hung on his every word.
It was the 10th night of hearings by the Piatt County zoning board, as a tiny town debated the merits of a proposed industrial wind farm that would see dozens of enormous turbines rise from the nearby soybean and corn fields. There were nine more hearings scheduled.
“It’s painful,” said Kayla Gallagher, a cattle farmer who lives nearby and opposes the project. “Nobody wants to be here.”
In the fight against global warming, the federal government is pumping a record $370 billion into clean energy, President Joe Biden wants the nation’s electricity to be 100% carbon-free by 2035, and many states and utilities plan to ramp up wind and solar power.
But while policymakers may set lofty goals, the future of the American power grid is, in fact, being determined in town halls, county courthouses and community buildings across the country.
The only way Biden’s ambitious goals will be met is if rural communities, which have large tracts of land necessary for commercial wind and solar farms, can be persuaded to embrace renewable energy projects. Lots of them.
According to an analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the United States would need to construct more than 6,000 projects like the Monticello one in order to run the economy on solar, wind, nuclear or other forms of nonpolluting energy.
In Piatt County, population 16,000, the project at issue is Goose Creek Wind, which has been proposed by Apex Clean Energy, a developer of wind and solar farms based in Virginia. Apex spent years negotiating leases with 151 local landowners and trying to win over the community, donating to the 4-H Club and a mental health center.
Now, it was making its case to the zoning board, which will send a recommendation to the county board that will make a final call on whether Apex can proceed. If completed, the turbines, each of them 610 feet tall, would march across 34,000 acres of farmland.
The $500 million project is expected to generate 300 megawatts, enough to power about 100,000 homes. The renewable, carbon-free electricity would help power a grid that is fed by a mix of nuclear, natural gas, coal and some existing wind turbines.
But with more and more renewable-energy projects under construction around the country, resistance is growing, especially in rural communities in the Great Plains and Midwest.
“To meet any kind of clean energy goals which brings consumer benefits and energy independence, you’re going to see an increase in projects,” said JC Sandberg, interim CEO of the American Clean Power Association. “And with those increases in projects, we are facing more of these challenges.”
On Election Day last month, Apex saw its development efforts for a wind farm in Ohio die when voters in Crawford County overwhelmingly voted to uphold a ban on such projects. On the same day, voters in Michigan rejected ordinances that would have allowed construction of another Apex wind project. This month, local officials in Monroe County, Michigan, extended a temporary moratorium on industrial solar projects, delaying plans by Apex to develop a solar farm in the area.
“Projects have been getting more contentious,” said Sarah Banas Mills, a lecturer at the school for environment and sustainability at the University of Michigan who has studied renewable development in the Midwest. “The low-hanging-fruit places have been taken.”
In Piatt County, the zoning board decided to conduct a mock trial of sorts. During the first nine hearings, Apex and its witnesses made the case that property values would not decline and that other concerns about wind farms — that they are ugly, that they kill birds or that the low frequency noise they emit can adversely affect human health — were not major issues.
They won some converts. Meg Miner, 61, a resident who was on the fence about the project, decided to support Apex after considering how the project would help fight climate change.
But others were worried about all the issues that the real estate appraiser mentioned, and more. “I moved here for nature, for trees, for crops,” said Sandy Coyle, who lives nearby and opposed the project. “I’m not interested in living near an industrial wind farm.”
Much of that skepticism appeared to be earnest concern from community members who weren’t sold on the project’s overall merits. On the fringe of the debate, however, was a digital misinformation campaign designed to distort the facts about wind energy.
The website of a group called Save Piatt County!, which opposes the project, is rife with fallacies about renewable energy and inaccuracies about climate science. On Facebook pages, residents opposed to the project shared negative stories about wind power, following a playbook that has been honed in recent years by anti-wind activists, some of whom have ties to the fossil fuel industry. The organizers of the website and Facebook groups did not reply to requests for comment.
As part of the Goose Creek Wind project, Apex has secured a commitment from Rivian, an upstart electric truck company, to buy power from the project, a development that drew skeptical replies in one Facebook group. “Scam artists in it together to fleece middle class taxpayers,” wrote one local resident in response to a news story about the deal. “Wake up.”
That milieu of misinformation appeared to sway some residents.
“These things are intrusive,” said Kelly Vetter, a retiree who opposed the project and disputed the overwhelming scientific consensus that carbon dioxide emitted from the burning of fossil fuels is dangerously warming the planet. “The company’s never going to have the community’s interest at heart.”
Apex declined to comment.
‘We All Want What’s Good for Society’
Smack in the middle of the area where Apex wants to erect its turbines sits the Bragg family’s farm, a roughly 1,500-acre plot that on a cold December afternoon was little more than an expanse of mud after the fall harvest and a week of rain.
Braxton Bragg, 40, who grew up on the land and returned after stints in the Peace Corps that took him to Mali and Mongolia, supports the project. He is concerned about climate change and said he already sees its effects. The rain is harder when it comes, the cold sets in later than it used to and, overall, the growing season is less predictable than it was when his grandfather worked the same land.
But his support for wind comes down to economics. Bragg has agreed to let Apex site one of its turbines on his property, and he expects to earn about $50,000 a year if it is built.
“It’s not going to save the farm or allow me to retire,” he said. “But just having that steady income every year, you know what you’re going to get.”
A few miles down the road is Gallagher Farms, another multigenerational operation. Like Bragg, Gallagher, 34, believes in climate change. She has invested in cover crops, which absorb carbon and lock it away in the soil, and other regenerative agriculture practices.
But Gallagher is opposed to the project. The aerial seeding of cover crops will cost more with wind turbines nearby and make it harder for her to sustainably farm. The use of heavy equipment to install turbines can disrupt drainage patterns in agricultural land, and Gallagher believes her farm will suffer.
Adding to her frustration is the fact that about 70% of the landowners who have agreed to let Apex put turbines on their property live outside Piatt County.
“They don’t live here, so they’re not impacted,” Gallagher said as she tended to her cattle before heading to yet another hearing.
More than anything else, Gallagher fears that the wind turbines, which she would see from her front porch, would disrupt the bucolic land she loves. In the predawn hours, she walks outside and listens to the crickets, which she worries will be drowned out by the low thrum of the turbines. At night, she watches the sun set over a grain silo in the west and doesn’t want the view marred by spinning turbines and flashing lights.
“We all want what’s good for society,” she said. “But it seems to be coming at the expense of our day-to-day lives.”
Bragg was sympathetic. “The only real argument that is valid, in my opinion, is that it’s going to change people’s sunsets and the beauty of living out in the country,” he said.
Still, he said, this was working farmland, and it was his right to put it to productive use.
“If you put your nice country house in the middle of my business, I’m sorry, there’s not much I can do about that,” Bragg said. “I think they probably would do the same thing if they were in my boat. The economics takes precedence over everything.”
Landowners such as the Braggs would receive about $210 million in lease payments over the project’s 30-year life, Apex said. And there would be other economic benefits, including $90 million in local taxes. And if the project is built, the company said it would create eight permanent jobs and employ nearly 600 people during construction, including men such as Brendan Burton.
Burton, an ironworker who has helped build several nearby wind farms, said the jobs would help fill the void created by factories that have closed or moved overseas.
“We’re not building things here like we used to,” he said. “We need the jobs.”
Burton added that he wanted to see his community contribute clean energy to the grid as well.
“We can’t keep burning coal or natural gas,” he said.
‘We’re Going to Make People Angry’
The debate in Piatt County has been remarkably civil. Similar hearings elsewhere have descended into shouting matches. In some cases, activists with ties to organizations that shield their donors have turned communities against proposed wind and solar projects.
That was the case in Michigan’s Monroe County, where local officials recently extended a moratorium that is blocking Apex from developing a solar project.
The opposition in Monroe County includes local residents, but also anti-wind activists with ties to groups backed by Koch Industries, which owns oil refineries, petrochemical plants, and thousands of miles of oil and gas pipelines. On Facebook, those skeptical of the Apex project shared negative stories about solar power, and opponents of the project went door to door distributing misinformation.
On another cold night in December, as the 11th hearing on the Goose Creek Wind project began at the Monticello community building, Phil Luetkehans, a lawyer hired by opponents of the project, called more witnesses, including an audiologist, who discussed what he said were the adverse health effects of wind turbines. A lawyer representing Apex cross-examined him, and the hearing stretched for more than four hours.
“Both sides are getting a full opportunity to portray their position and to put forth the facts, and the people who we elect will make those final decisions,” Luetkehans said. “Some communities end up saying, ‘No, we don’t want an industrial scale wind at this proximity to homes.’ Others say, ‘Yeah, we want the money.’”
Among those in the audience was Michael Beem, a newly elected member of the Piatt County board, which will ultimately decide whether Apex can build its wind farm. From the back of the room, Beem was bracing himself to make a choice that will undoubtedly leave this rural community divided.
“No matter what decision we make,” he said, “we’re going to make people angry.”
EPA finalizes water rule that repeals Trump-era changes
Jim Salter and Michael Phillis – December 30, 2022
ST. LOUIS (AP) — President Joe Biden’s administration on Friday finalized regulations that protect hundreds of thousands of small streams, wetlands and other waterways, repealing a Trump-era rule that federal courts had thrown out and that environmentalists said left waterways vulnerable to pollution.
The rule defines which “waters of the United States” are protected by the Clean Water Act. For decades, the term has been a flashpoint between environmental groups that want to broaden limits on pollution entering the nation’s waters and farmers, builders and industry groups that say extending regulations too far is onerous for business.
In recent years, however, there has been a lot of uncertainty. After the Obama administration sought to expand federal protections, the Trump administration rolled them back as part of its unwinding of hundreds of environmental and public health regulations. A federal judge rejected that effort. And a separate case is currently being considered by the Supreme Court that could yet upend the finalized rule.https://s.yimg.com/rq/darla/4-10-1/html/r-sf-flx.html
“We have put forward a rule that’s clear, it’s durable, and it balances that protecting of our water resources with the needs of all water users, whether it’s farmers, ranchers, industry, watershed organizations,” EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox told The Associated Press.
The new rule is built on a pre-2015 definition, but is more streamlined and includes updates to reflect court opinions, scientific understanding and decades of experience, Fox said. The final rule will modestly increase protections for some streams, wetlands, lakes and ponds, she said.
The Trump-era rule, finalized in 2020, was long sought by builders, oil and gas developers, farmers and others who complained about federal overreach that they said stretched into gullies, creeks and ravines on farmland and other private property.
Environmental groups and public health advocates countered that the Trump rule allowed businesses to dump pollutants into unprotected waterways and fill in some wetlands, threatening public water supplies downstream and harming wildlife and habitat.
“Today, the Biden administration restored needed clean water protections so that our nation’s waters are guarded against pollution for fishing, swimming, and as sources of drinking water,” Kelly Moser, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Clean Water Defense Initiative, said in a statement.
Jon Devine, director of federal water policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council, called repealing the Trump-era rule a “smart move” that “comes at a time when we’re seeing unprecedented attacks on federal clean water protections by polluters and their allies.”
But Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito called the rule “regulatory overreach” that will “unfairly burden America’s farmers, ranchers, miners, infrastructure builders, and landowners.”
Jerry Konter, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, struck a similar note, saying the new rule makes it unclear if the federal government will regulate water in places such as roadside ditches and isolated ponds.
A 2021 review by the Biden administration found that the Trump rule allowed more than 300 projects to proceed without the federal permits required under the Obama-era rule, and that the Trump rule significantly curtailed clean water protections in states such as New Mexico and Arizona.
In August 2021, a federal judge threw out the Trump-era rule and put back in place a 1986 standard that was broader in scope than the Trump rule but narrower than Obama’s. U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Marquez in Arizona, an Obama appointee, said the Trump-era EPA had ignored its own findings that small waterways can affect the well-being of the larger waterways they flow into.
Meanwhile, Supreme Court justices are considering arguments from an Idaho couple in their business-backed push to curtail the Clean Water Act. Chantell and Michael Sackett wanted to build a home near a lake, but the EPA stopped their work in 2007, finding wetlands on their property were federally regulated. The agency said the Sacketts needed a permit.
The case was heard in October and tests part of the rule the Biden administration carried over into its finalized version. Now-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in 2006 that if wetlands “significantly affect the chemical, physical, and biological integrity” of nearby navigable waters like rivers, the Clean Water Act’s protections apply. The EPA’s rule includes this test. Four conservative justices in the 2006 case, however, said that federal regulation only applied if there was a continuous surface connection between wetlands and an obviously regulated body of water like a river.
Charles Yates, attorney for the libertarian group Pacific Legal Foundation, said the new rule shows the importance of the Supreme Court case since the definition for WOTUS “shifts with each new presidential administration.”
“Absent definitive guidance from the Supreme Court, a lawful, workable, and durable definition of ‘navigable waters’ will remain elusive,” Yates said in a statement.
The Biden rule applies federal protections to wetlands, tributaries and other waters that have a significant connection to navigable waters or if wetlands are “relatively permanent.” The rule sets no specific distance for when adjacent wetlands are protected, stating that several factors can determine if the wetland and the waterway can impact water quality and quantity on each other. It states that the impact “depends on regional variations in climate, landscape, and geomorphology.”
For example, the rule notes that in the West, which typically gets less rain and has higher rates of evaporation, wetlands may need to be close to a waterway to be considered adjacent. In places where the waterway is wide and the topography flat, “wetlands are likely to be determined to be reasonably close where they are a few hundred feet from the tributary …,” the rule states.
Fox said the rule wasn’t written to stop development or prevent farming.
“It is about making sure we have development happening, that we’re growing food and fuel for our country but doing it in a way that also protects our nation’s water,” she said.
The Associated Press receives support from the Walton Family Foundation for coverage of water and environmental policy. The AP is solely responsible for all content. For all of AP’s environmental coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment
I teach a course on “the politics of taxes,” in which we examine how politics shapes tax policy in the United States and other countries – as well as how taxation affects politics. My students are consistently struck by the extent to which Congress uses taxes as its default go-to policy lever.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
The tax code takes over
In principle, the main function of taxation is to fund the government. But in practice, Congress also uses it to tackle challenges in virtually every policy area, from promoting conservation and charitable giving to encouraging entrepreneurship and ensuring steady business revenue.
All of these policies, however sound they made be individually, make the income tax system more complicated for ordinary taxpayers and creates a vast array of means by which some wealthy people can reduce their tax payments to levels that feel unfair to many voters. They also, ultimately, aren’t a very good way to reach achieve the policy’s explicit goals.
This convoluted system was thus not created in a big bang of malfeasance or ineptitude but mostly through piecemeal changes that increasingly complicated the tax code. Legislative reforms meant to simplify the tax code, such as those passed in 1986 and 2017, have accomplished little.
“The result of this process is a set of very complex provisions that appear to have no overall logic if the tax law were being designed from scratch,” as the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center put it.
Three of the strategies The Times reported that Trump has used to avoid taxes demonstrate this quite well.
In 2006, lawmakers wanted to promote conservation while helping farmers and ranchers, so they expanded conservation easements, in which property holders agree to not develop land in exchange for a tax deduction. Trump used this frequently abused provision to claim a .1 million deduction in 2015 for not developing land near his Seven Springs estate that his family wanted to use as a private retreat anyway.
Another example is how U.S. tax policy allows individuals to walk away from an investment and, if they receive nothing, declare any losses that haven’t yet been taken on their current tax return, reducing income by that amount. The policy aim here is to encourage entrepreneurship by not making business failure too onerous.
Trump used this abandonment rule in 2009 to declare more than 0 million in losses when he walked away from his Atlantic City casinos. Yet it appears he got something in exchange for walking way – stock in a new company – which means he may have technically violated the rules of that tax break.
And in 2009, Congress wanted to help businesses recover from the financial crisis so it made it easier to use the large losses that many companies were experiencing to offset income earned in prior years, which resulted in refunds for taxes already paid. This allowed Trump to claim a refund of .9 million he had paid in taxes in 2005 and 2006.
The government has ways other than tax code to implement a policy with a social or economic aim, such as via regulations or spending on a new or existing government program. Lawmakers have often preferred to use the tax code because it can seem easier and avoids the political costs associated with higher taxes.
Ultimately, however, research shows using tax code is not the best way to achieve a policy’s ends.
Brazil’s haunting graveyard of ships risks environmental disaster, warns activist group
Pilar Olivares – December 29, 2022
Abandoned ships on the shores of Guanabara Bay in Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro state
GUANABARA BAY (Reuters) – On a stormy evening in mid-November, a huge, abandoned cargo ship broke free of its moorings and slowly floated into the massive concrete bridge that carries cars across Brazil’s Guanabara Bay to Rio de Janeiro.
Brazil’s navy said the 200-meter-long (660-ft.) Sao Luiz, a rust-spattered bulk carrier built in 1994, had been anchored in the bay for more than six years awaiting legal proceedings before it crashed into Latin America’s longest over-water bridge. The navy said it was investigating.
“The Sao Luiz is still in the Port of Rio today, with 50 tonnes of fuel oil in it,” Sergio Ricardo, co-founder of socio-environmental group Movimento Baia Viva (Living Bay Movement) told Reuters, also pointing to high levels of corrosion.
“The ship is unsafe and can cause an environmental disaster,” he said.
Worldwide, financial and legal problems are common reasons for owners abandoning ships.
The Sao Luiz is one of dozens of ships left to rust on the iconic but heavily polluted bay, once home to vast mangroves and thriving marine life.
The mangroves are now much reduced and pollution exacerbated by the graveyard of ships is threatening local sea-horses, green turtles and Guiana dolphins, a symbol of Rio de Janeiro.
A survey by the Rio de Janeiro State University found this year that just 34 Guiana dolphins remained in the bay, down from around 800 in the 1990s.
Besides the ships’ effect on marine life and passing vessels, which must navigate an obstacle course of half-floating hulks, pollution in the bay imposes a financial cost of some tens of billions of reais a year with its pollution, Ricardo estimated.
Fernando Pinto Lima, a 62-year-old former fisherman in the bay, told Reuters he used to be able to quickly catch 50 to 100 kilograms of fish. “Now to catch fifty kilograms, it’ll take you a week or a month,” he said.
Following the Sao Luiz crash, local media reported that authorities were studying how to remove the ghost ships. But the derelict vessels continue to molder on and under its muddy waters.
($1 = 5.2186 reais)
(Reporting by Pilar Olivares; Writing by Sarah Morland; Editing by Bradley Perrett)
Home Depot’s 93-year-old cofounder who said ‘nobody works’ anymore because of ‘socialism’ has donated $64 million to elect Trump and the Republican party over the years
Kelsey Vlamis,Madison Hall – December 29, 2022
Bernie Marcus, the billionaire cofounder of Home Depot, said Thursday “nobody works” anymore.
Marcus said he believed if he founded Home Depot today it wouldn’t be as successful.
Marcus donated millions to Trump in 2016 and 2020, and more to other Republicans over the years.
A billionaire cofounder of Home Depot who said “nobody works” has donated nearly $64 million to political causes over the years, including the campaigns of former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Sen. John McCain, according to data from the Federal Election Commission.
“‘Just give it to me. Send me money. I don’t want to work — I’m too lazy, I’m too fat, I’m too stupid,'” he said, adding that he thinks if he founded Home Depot today it may not have been as successful.
Home Depot today is worth $321 billion and has around 2,300 stores in North America. As for the current US unemployment rate, it’s at 3.7%, the lowest in decades, despite the hiring challenges some businesses are still experiencing.
Marcus, who cofounded Home Depot in 1978, has become a mega-donor to the GOP over the years, supporting Trump’s presidential campaigns in both 2016 and 2020. His public support for Trump sparked calls to boycott Home Depot, prompting the company to distance from him.
In a statement provided to Insider, a spokesperson for Home Depot said: “Our co-founder Bernie Marcus left The Home Depot more than 20 years ago, and his views do not represent the company.”
But going back to at least 1978, Marcus has donated a total of $63,801,322 to political campaigns and PACs, FEC data obtained by Insider showed.
Many of the donations went to directly supporting Republican candidates, including the presidential campaigns of Trump, McCain, Sen. Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, and Sen. Mitt Romney, among others.
Some of Marcus’s largest individual donations have gone to conservative super PACS that directly supported Trump.
In 2020, he made two separate donations of $5 million each to the Preserve America PAC, a single-candidate PAC that supports Trump.
In 2016, Marcus made two donations, one for $3 million and one for $2 million, to Rebuilding America Now, a super PAC established to support Trump’s first campaign. He also gave another $2 million to Making America Number 1, a pro-Trump PAC.
Marcus has also donated extensively to House and Senate races, contributing to a long list of Republican lawmakers that includes Sens. Tom Cotton, Mike Lee, Chuck Grassley, Mitch McConnell, and Tim Scott, as well as Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Liz Cheney.
Marcus in 2022 also donated to Herschel Walker, the failed Senate candidate from Georgia, and Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who has been accused of impeding his own party’s agenda.
She almost fainted on her daily walk. She was in heart failure and needed life support
Meghan Holohan – December 29, 2022
When Jamie Waddell tested positive for COVID-19 for the first time in August, she was much sicker than she expected. After 10 days, she felt better and returned to school and work. But a few weeks later, she noticed she struggled to walk down the street without feeling faint. Soon, she couldn’t talk without getting winded. By Labor Day, she was so sick that she visited the emergency room, where she learned she had sepsis, pneumonia and heart failure.
“Based on the fact that I kept feeling worse and worse, I’m guessing my heart function had probably been declining over that whole week, and by the time I got to the ER, I was septic,” Waddell, 36, a nurse from Springfield, Illinois, tells TODAY.com. “They did an echocardiogram. My heart function was really low. I was in heart failure.”
Feeling faint while walking
In early August, Waddell and her husband were preparing to go on vacation and tested positive for COVID-19. She was vaccinated and boosted and felt surprised by how sick she felt.
“Body aches, fatigue, fever, your respiratory stuff, sinus congestion — I was sick for about 10 days before I started to feel better,” she says. “I did start to feel better. I was back to work. I was actually going to school and started.”
After returning to work and school, on Aug. 28, she took a walk, something she usually did for three to five miles a day. But when she was about a half mile from her house, she began to struggle.
“I felt awful, like very faint. I was walking down the street going, ‘Oh God, don’t pass out,’” she recalls. “That’s unusual for me. I am pretty active.”
At first, she worried she pushed herself too hard after recently having COVID-19.
“Maybe I just took too long of a walk. It was fairly warm that day,” she says. “I didn’t think anything of it and went to work the next day.”
Two days later, she was coughing and achy and asked her doctor for a chest X-ray, which came back normal. She called off work two days and went to her local urgent care clinic. She did not test positive for COVID-19 or flu.
“My vital signs at that visit were a little off. My heart rate was a little high. I had a fever,” she recalls. “I came home and basically went to sleep.”
But her symptoms intensified. She experienced body aches, cough, “overwhelmingly bad” fatigue and vomited.
“At that point, I knew something was wrong. You’re not getting better, you’re just feeling bad,” she says. “You can barely move.”
That’s when Waddell went to the emergency room.
“My blood pressure and oxygen levels were really low,” she says. Pretty much immediately, they could tell something was wrong.”
“My lactic acid was high, which is a sign of sepsis, and they did a CT scan, and I had pneumonia pretty bad,” she says. “That is about the last thing I remember. I woke up 10 days later in Chicago.”
Doctors suspected that COVID-19 caused Waddell to develop myocarditis, when the heart muscle becomes inflamed.
Myocarditis and COVID-19
For decades, cardiologists have been trying to understand why some young people experience myocarditis after a viral infection. COVID-19 has also been known to cause the condition, even in seemingly healthy people, Dr. Bow “Ben” Chung, an advanced heart failure specialist at University Chicago Medicine who treated Waddell, tells TODAY.com.
He explains that prior to the pandemic a number of viruses — such adenovirus, coxsackievirus and parvovirus — that usually result in a mild infection would sometimes go on to cause “a very significant heart failure reaction.” But it’s “still very unclear” why heart failure occurs in some patients and not others.
By the time Waddell reached her local hospital, doctors needed to act fast to support her. They implanted an Impella, a temporary device to help her heart pump blood. Patients in heart failure normally need help with the left side of the heart, where Waddell’s device was placed. But her doctors noticed the right side of her heart also struggling, so they implanted another Impella made especially for that side.
“The right side of the heart is very often forgotten. It’s actually the more difficult side to deal with, too,” Dr. Christopher Lawrence, a cardiovascular surgeon at SIU Medicine, part of Southern Illinois University, tells TODAY.com. “When we put the right side Impella in, … literally within minutes she just started dumping urine, which is a good sign that her organs are actually getting good blood flow, and that was just a cool thing.”
But the doctors in Springfield still worried about how sick Waddell was. They thought she’d need a new heart, so she was transferred to Chung’s care at the University of Chicago, one of a handful of transplant centers in the country.
“The amount of life support that she needed when she arrived at the University of Chicago was pretty much the most amount of life support that somebody can do,” Dr. Abdul Hafiz, structural heart disease specialist at SIU Medicine, tells TODAY.com. “Her heart and lungs were basically not working at the time.”
Chung adds: “Anybody who’s on that level of life support, you’d be thinking about a heart transplant for them because there’s a million machines and wires and tubes sticking out of the patient. You think the only way they make it out of the hospital is just by replacing (the heart).”
But after having the two temporary Impella devices implanted, Waddell slowly began improving to the point where it seemed like she would not need a transplant.
“We were amazed,” Chung says. “It was miraculous. … Jamie was listed for a heart transplant. … If a heart transplant offer had come for her, we might have potentially even accepted the offer.”
After waking up in a hospital room in Chicago, Waddell slowly gained strength and started thinking clearly. Then, she learned what she had been through.
“It was definitely surprising to learn that my heart was doing so badly. Again, just nothing I ever would have expected given my lifestyle,” she says. “It’s shocking to go from a person who is very active and no health history whatsoever to needing a new heart.”
In some ways, her recovery was quicker than she expected.
“I was pumping my own blood and breathing my own oxygen, and I was discharged three days later,” Waddell says. “I was in really bad shape and then all of a sudden, I wasn’t.”
Waddell lost a lot of muscle during her time in the hospital — almost three weeks in total. She could walk, but it felt difficult, and she started physical therapy. Now, Waddell sees a cardiologist and needs some medications. She hopes her story encourages people to seek help when something seems off and to rest when they’re sick.
“I work too much. So that’s definitely something that after you’re sick, that … makes you realize if you’re not feeling good, you should take the time to rest,” Waddell says. “Appreciate your body for what it can do.”