House Oversight Panel Has Questions About Trump Businesses And Foreign Emoluments

The Republican chairman and the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are taking a look into the slowly brewing controversy of foreign cash flowing into President Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Constitution forbids government officers to take emoluments — gifts or money — from foreign governments and officials. Trump has a plan to avoid the constitutional issue. With their letter Friday, Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., raise questions about how that plan works.

Trump lawyer Sheri Dillon unveiled the plan at a Jan. 11 press conference with the then-president-elect. She said Trump had decided “that he is going to voluntarily donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotels to the United States Treasury.”

She said the arrangement would apply only to the profits from foreign government payments, not to the overall payments.

The Trump Organization has said the first payments will be made “after the end of the calendar year,” according to USA Today.

Chaffetz and Cummings want documents showing how payments from “foreign government customers” will be identified, the profits calculated and the transfers to the Treasury tracked or disclosed.

They also want to know whether Trump, the Trump Organization or any Trump trust plans to claim the payments as tax-deductible gifts.

In a statement to NPR, Larry Noble of the Campaign Legal Center said the committee “has every reason to question the President’s claim since he has a history of making questionable, misleading or false claims regarding charitable contributions in an effort to deflect criticism.” Trump’s foundation was ordered to stop soliciting contributions in New York because it was not registered to do so. He has also overstated his foundation’s giving.

A group of plaintiffs led by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed an emoluments lawsuit against Trump in January. Their argument rejects Dillon’s analysis that emoluments are only the profit, not the gross amount, in a payment from a foreign government or official.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Episode 766: Georgetown, Louisiana, Part One

Healy Hall, the flagship building of Georgetown University’s main campus in Washington, DC.

MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images

There’s a running joke in Maringouin, Louisiana, a town of 1,100, that everyone is related. It’s funny because, as people in Maringouin will tell you, it’s true. Everyone calls each other ‘cuz’ or ‘cousin,’ and they mean it. People run into each other on the street, recognize a last name, start talking about people they know in common, then discover they’re related.

For a long time, no one knew exactly why. It wasn’t like there was a founding family that had moved there.

Maxine Crump, who grew up in Maringouin, always wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery. People in Maringouin were just… different from many of their neighbors. For one, there were a lot of black Catholics who didn’t speak any French.

“People used to say: You’re from the bayou area where a lot of people speak French. Do you? And it was like: No,” she’d say. “No, none of the black people speak French.” There were rumors and theories, but she never got an answer.

Then one day, Maxine got a call that answered her question about Maringouin’s past.

Today on the show, we tell the story of what happens when people in this little town in Louisiana figure out how they got to Louisiana. The answer put Maringouin and thousands of other people with roots in Maringouin, at the center of a fight over how to pay a very old and very complicated debt.

Music: “Lead Me Away” and “Bad Scene.” Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

Subscribe to our show on iTunes or PocketCast.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Ray Davies On World Cafe

Ray Davies’ latest solo album is Americana.

Steve Gullick/Courtesy of the artist

hide caption

toggle caption

Steve Gullick/Courtesy of the artist

  • “The Mystery Room”
  • “The Invaders”
  • “The Poetry”

In this session, we welcome the legendary frontman of The Kinks, Ray Davies, who is backed by The Jayhawks on his new solo album, Americana. One of the themes Davies writes about in this new batch of songs is his relationship with the United States. He says that when The Kinks first came to the U.S. as part of the British Invasion, they faced a backlash from some Americans. At one point they were banned from entering the country entirely. “One of the first things somebody said to me at the airport was, ‘Are you a boy or a girl?'” Davies recalls. “And that was immigration. So we knew we were off to a bad start.”

Hear the rest of that story and more in the player above.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Resonance Records Transcends The Record Store Day Chase

Wes Montgomery’s Smokin’ in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse captures him in full ascendency, on tour in 1966 with pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Ron McClure and drummer Jimmy Cobb.

Lee Tanner/Courtesy of Resonance Records

hide caption

toggle caption

Lee Tanner/Courtesy of Resonance Records

Record Store Day, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, is a consumer ploy in the guise of a cultural event. Or, depending on your vantage, maybe it’s the other way around. Whatever the case, record stores across the country and around the world are happily (or gamely) bracing for impact: Record Store Day 2017 falls this Saturday, April 22, with a wave of exclusive releases, in-store appearances and other retail enticements.

Much of the advance publicity around this year’s event has revolved around rock royalty: there will be two limited-edition David Bowie releases, as well as a 7″ of two pre-Sgt. Pepper’s songs by The Beatles. There are also dozens of 7-inch and LP releases from across the style spectrum, from Miley Cyrus to Meredith Monk.

But Record Store Day has acquired a special sheen for fans of classic jazz, mainly through the efforts of one tenacious record producer, Zev Feldman. One of his Record Store Day titles this year is Thelonious Monk: Les liaisons dangereuses 1960, an exceptional film soundtrack by the great pianist and composer, a joint release of two European labels, Sam Records and Saga Jazz.

And as general manager of Resonance Records, a Los Angeles label that specializes in deluxe releases of noteworthy but previously unissued material, Feldman has shepherded three more discoveries to market: a 1966 club date by the Wynton Kelly Trio with guitarist Wes Montgomery; a 1968 concert album by pianist Bill Evans, in a trio with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette; and a 3-LP set by bassist Jaco Pastorius, with his Word of Mouth Big Band. Each release is a gem, and for now they’re exclusively on vinyl for Record Store Day.

“I thought that for the 10th anniversary, this would be one hell of a way to remind people that Record Store Day was also designed for jazz fans,” Feldman said this week, between business meetings in New York. “This has become an event now that really speaks to our audience.”

The Bill Evans Trio in 1968.

Giuseppe Pino/Courtesy of Resonance Records

hide caption

toggle caption

Giuseppe Pino/Courtesy of Resonance Records

Resonance has been releasing albums on Record Store Day going back to 2012, when it put out a blue vinyl 10-inch, Selections From Bill Evans Live at Art D’Lugoff’s Top of the Gate. The promotional boost provided by the event has been invaluable for the label, which operates on a tight budget and courts a collector’s sensibilities.“We plan our releases around Record Store Day,” Feldman said. “It’s become that significant for us.”

But the benefit flows both ways, conferring added legitimacy to the event, as Michael Kurtz, a cofounder of Record Store Day, suggested in an email. “It is not only a great honor to work with Zev, and the folks at Resonance Records, but it is also a lot of fun,” Kurtz said. “Every year they surpass my wildest expectations with their Record Store Day offerings, but this year is exceptional.”

Feldman’s background in the record industry has some bearing on his enthusiasm for Record Store Day: Before joining Resonance in 2009, he was in sales and marketing for PolyGram and Universal, working campaigns for blockbuster artists like Shania Twain, Eminem and Andrea Bocelli. His experience with retail and promotion is exhaustive, and he sees Record Store Day as an unmitigated boon.

“It all comes back to the basics with Record Store Day: support your local record shop,” he said. “Support brick-and-mortar retail. This is our way of letting them know how much they matter to us.”

All of the three new Resonance releases will be available on CD and in digital formats later this year. Here is one exclusive track from each.

Resonance has had enormous success with Evans, a pianist of crystalline touch and influential harmonic insight. For Record Store Day last year, the label released Some Other Time: The Lost Session From the Black Forest, a previously unheard studio session featuring Evans’s short-lived trio with Gomez and DeJohnette. Another Time: The Hilversum Concert was recorded in concert two days after the studio session, in Hilversum, Holland, by the Netherlands Radio Union. The depth of rapport between the musicians is remarkable — and as you hear in this version of “Nardis,” they really stretch out in performance. (Don’t miss the spectacular drum solo.)

Wes Montgomery is another artist closely associated with Resonance: the label first made its mark in 2012 with Echoes of Indiana Avenue, and has released other recordings by the guitarist since. What’s striking about Smokin’ in Seattle: Live at the Penthouse is its timeline: rather than a peek at his early years, it captures him in full ascendency, on tour in 1966 with pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Ron McClure and drummer Jimmy Cobb. The title is a nod to Smokin’ at the Half Note, a landmark album by Montgomery and Kelly, recorded the previous year. This track, “Jingles,” is a trademark original that Montgomery naturally knocks out of the park.

Jaco Pastorius, the mercurial electric bass phenom, is new to the Resonance roster, and in many respects this is the biggest of the three new releases. Truth, Liberty & Soul — Live in NYC: The Complete 1982 NPR Jazz Alive! Recording is a deluxe 3-LP boxed set, with expansive annotation and photographs. It documents a concert at Avery Fisher Hall during the KOOL Jazz Festival, originally broadcast on NPR’s Jazz Alive! (but now presented in full, with 40 minutes of previously unheard material). Pastorius is working with his Word of Mouth big band, which includes close compatriots like trumpeter Randy Brecker and drummer Peter Erskine. (For a portion of the concert, harmonica virtuoso Toots Thielemans joins as a featured soloist.) This track, “Invitation,” is the opening salvo, practically exploding with kinetic energy.

The care that Resonance has put into these releases is obvious, and has become a signature: It’s almost a bygone conclusion that these will be among the best-received historical jazz albums of 2017. For a certain breed of music fan, they’ll be a strong incentive to head to a local record store on Sunday.

For his part, Feldman will be at Joe’s Record Paradise in Silver Spring, Maryland — a shop that he has frequented since he was a kid. He’ll be promoting the Thelonious Monk release along with his Resonance titles, and general soaking up the atmosphere. “For years, I combed through this place,” he said. “This store was my education.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Murder Video Again Raises Questions About How Facebook Handles Content

A conference worker passes a demo booth at Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference, on Tuesday in San Jose, Calif.

Noah Berger/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

Noah Berger/AP

Video of a murder uploaded to Facebook this week upset many users, especially since it took Facebook two hours to take it down. But the incident illustrates a dilemma for the company as it becomes an open platform for both recorded and livestreamed video.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was contrite about the incident when he appeared on stage at the company’s F8 developer’s conference.

“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Robert Godwin Sr.,” said Zuckerberg, referring to the man whose murder was posted on Facebook. “And we have a lot of work, and we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening.”

But, doing more may not be so easy for Facebook. On the one hand, its users want to be free to express themselves; on the other hand, they do want some protection.

“Half the time it’s, ‘Oh no, Facebook didn’t take something down, and we think that’s terrible; they should have taken it down,’ ” says Daphne Keller, a law professor at Stanford University. “And the other half of the time is, ‘Oh no! Facebook took something down and we wish they hadn’t.’ “

Keller points to an incident last year when Facebook took down a post of an iconic Vietnam War photo of a naked girl running from a napalm attack. The removal upset users.

Keller says Facebook isn’t actually under legal obligation to keep anything up or to take down a video of a crime. The company wants to respond to keep users happy. “They want to take things like this down, and they’re working really hard to have a good way to do that,” she says.

Keller thinks part of Facebook’s dilemma is that society isn’t sure yet whether the company should be like the phone company, which isn’t responsible for what people say, or if it should be like a traditional broadcaster, subject to strict regulations on what can be put on air.

“And I think Facebook isn’t really exactly like either of those two things,” says Keller, “and that makes it hard as a society to figure out what it is we do want them to do.”

Nearly 2 billion people use Facebook each month, and millions of them are uploading videos every day. Facebook also pays media outlets, including NPR, to upload videos. That volume of content makes Facebook’s job a lot harder.

The company has three ways of monitoring content: There are the users — like the ones who flagged the murder videos from Cleveland. Facebook also has human editors who evaluate flagged content. And, there’s artificial intelligence, which can monitor enormous amounts of content.

But, even AI has its limits, says Nick Feamster, a professor of computer science at Princeton University. Take that iconic naked girl photo from Vietnam, he says. “Can we detect a nude image? That’s something that an algorithm is pretty good at,” he says. “Does the algorithm know context and history? That’s a much more difficult problem.”

Feamster says it’s not a problem that’s likely to be solved anytime soon. However, he says AI might be able to detect signs of a troublesome account. It’s sort of like the way a bank assesses credit ratings.

“Over time you might learn a so-called prior probability that suggests that maybe this user is more likely to be bad or more likely to be posting inappropriate or unwanted content,” Feamster says.

So, Facebook would keep a closer eye on that account.

Between artificial intelligence and more human monitoring, it might be possible to stop the posting of criminal videos and hate speech.

But, Stanford’s Keller wonders if that’s really what we want.

“Do we want one of our key platforms for communication with each other to have built-in surveillance and monitoring for illegal activity and somebody deciding when what we said is inappropriate and cutting it off?” she asks. “That’s kind of a dystopian policy direction as far as I’m concerned.”

Keller is willing to make a prediction — very soon someone else will upload another video that forces the country to be asking these same questions again.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

U.K. May Have 24 Hours Without Coal Power

Britain expects to go 24 hours without using coal to generate electricity Friday. It would be the first full day since the Industrial Revolution.

David Davies/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

David Davies/AP

The United Kingdom may be in its first full day without coal power in more than a century, its National Grid announced Friday.

“It looks likely that today will be the first ever working day in Britain without #coal since the industrial revolution!” the agency tweeted.

It looks likely that today will be the first ever working day in Britain without #coal since the industrial revolution!

— NG Control Room (@NGControlRoom) April 21, 2017

Great Britain has never had a continuous 24 hour period without #coal. Today is looking like it could be the first.

— NG Control Room (@NGControlRoom) April 21, 2017

Britain has been phasing out coal, relying more on natural gas and wind power, in a plan to close its plants by 2025. The efforts have thus far resulted in yearly reductions in coal burned, the Guardian reports:

Coal has seen significant declines in recent years, accounting for just 9% of electricity generation in 2016, down from around 23% the year before, as coal plants closed or switched to burning biomass such as wood pellets.

“Britain’s last power station will be forced to close in 2025, as part of a government plan to phase out the fossil fuel to meet its climate change commitments.

“Hannah Martin, head of energy at Greenpeace UK, said: ‘The first day without coal in Britain since the Industrial Revolution marks a watershed in the energy transition. A decade ago, a day without coal would have been unimaginable, and in 10 years’ time our energy system will have radically transformed again.'”

Reuters adds that last year, natural gas accounted for 42 percent of the country’s electricity, with renewable and nuclear energy making up 45.

Electricity generation from #coal dropped to zero today between 8:30am and 4:00pm, the first time in 2017!

— NG Control Room (@NGControlRoom) April 14, 2017

The country’s grid managed nearly eight coal-free hours earlier this month. Just a little under a year ago, they went 19 hours without consuming the fossil fuel.

Still, a benchmark of 24 hours will mean Britain’s first day without coal-produced electricity since London’s Holborn Viaduct fired up in 1882.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

#CuriousGoat: Will Climate Change Help Ticks And Mosquitoes Spread Disease?

The black-legged tick, ixodes scapularis, can spread Lyme disease.

Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Most creepy, crawly bugs are pretty much harmless when it comes to infectious diseases.

What Is #CuriousGoat?

#CuriousGoat is a monthly series from Goats and Soda that asks our audience to share a question on a special topic about global health and development.

In March, we asked: What do you want to know about climate change and its effect on global well-being. This post has the answer to an audience member’s question about the impact on infectious diseases.

Take part in our next #CuriousGoat here, focusing on the current world hunger crisis.

But there are two classes of little critters that cause big — and we’re talking big — problems: ticks and mosquitoes.

To learn how climate change could alter the course of tick- and mosquito-borne diseases, we talked to two scientists who have devoted a major chunk of their careers to answering that question.

Let’s start with the bloodsuckers that can stay on your skin for days.

Ticks

Cocktail party chatter: These little guys aren’t insects. They’re arachnids. That’s the same class of animals as spiders.

What they cause: Ticks are best known for transmitting Lyme disease. But these arachnids carry more than a dozen diseases in the U.S., including spotted fevers, a malaria-like disease and several rare but deadly viruses, such as Heartland virus and Powassan.

How climate change will affect the spread of these diseases:

Lyme disease is rapidly expanding in the U.S. In the past 30 years, the number of cases has more than tripled. The disease — and the ticks that transmit it — have spread northward all the way to Maine in New England and Minnesota in the Midwest.

Part of the reason? A warming climate, says Rick Ostfeld, an ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y. “We know that climate change has contributed to Lyme disease spreading northward and to higher elevations.”

Here’s why.

Ticks need to feed on the blood of three animals over the course of two years to complete their life cycle, Ostfeld says. That meal could be a mouse, a chipmunk, a human — just something with nice, warm blood.

Ticks can look for this yummy meal only when the weather is warmer — the cold-blooded insects can’t move when temperatures drop near freezing.

If they don’t have a long enough season to find a host, they’ll use up their reserves and drop dead,” Ostfeld says.

A few decades ago, many places in the U.S. just didn’t have a long enough summer to keep the ticks healthy. And tick-borne diseases weren’t a problem in northern states.

But with spring coming earlier in many places, ticks end up having more time to look for their food. So they’re surviving in more places.

States in the northern U.S., such as Maine and Vermont, used to be inhospitable to ticks. Now they have huge outbreaks of Lyme disease each summer.

And these earlier springs mean ticks are out on the prowl earlier. Ticks typically become a big problem in mid-May. But Ostfeld and his colleagues have found warmer springs have bumped up the peak feeding time a few weeks, to early May or even late April.

Bottom line: Climate change is likely to make Lyme disease more common in the U.S. The ticks are creeping northward and starting to bite people earlier in the year.

Now there is one big caveat to this. Ticks don’t like dry weather, Ostfeld says. So if climate change brings drier springs, we might actually see a decline in tick activity in some places.

Mosquitoes

Cocktail party chatter: Known as Mozzies in Australia and New Zealand, mosquitoes don’t actually “bite” people. Instead they “saw” into our skin with a set of six needles.

What they transmit: The list of mosquito-borne diseases is long, including chikungunya, dengue, malaria, West Nile Virus, yellow fever and Zika.

How climate change will likely affect the spread of these diseases: It’s no secret that mosquitoes like warm weather. Just like ticks, these critters become inactive at low temperatures and stop growing because they’re cold-blooded. And winters that drop below freezing can actually wipe out particular mosquito species, including the one that spreads dengue, yellow fever and Zika.

But warmer weather doesn’t necessarily mean a greater chance of mosquitoes spreading more dengue, more yellow fever and more Zika, says Erin Mordecai, who studies the ecology of infectious diseases at Stanford University.

In fact, hotter weather could mean fewer cases of mosquito-borne diseases in some places.

Here’s why.

When a mosquito bites a person with a virus or parasite, the insect swallows the pathogen. Eventually, the mosquito can pass that pathogen onto another person. But not right away.

“That pathogen has to basically go through an incubation period within the mosquito — anywhere from a couple of days to over a week,” Mordecai says.

The amount of time depends on the temperature outside. The warmer weather, the faster the pathogen will be ready to infect another person.

But there’s a major obstacle for pathogen: Mosquitoes don’t live very long, only about a few weeks to a month.

The mosquito’s lifespan also depends on the outside temperature — but in the opposite direction. The warmer the weather, the shorter the mosquito’s life.

So in a way, it’s a race between maturation of the pathogen and the mosquito’s lifespan.

At cooler temperatures, the pathogen will take too long to mature. The mosquito will be dead before it has a chance to infect another person. At high temperatures, the pathogen will mature quickly but the mosquito will also die quickly.

But in places where the temperature is currently just slightly too cool for transmission of mosquito-borne diseases, warmer summers could spell trouble for mosquito-borne diseases.

“That’s why we’re worried about climate change in temperate zones,” Mordecai says. “Warmer temperatures will speed up the parasite’s development rate and just make the region more suitable for transmission of diseases.”

So in the southern U.S., for example, the transmission season might expand from just summer into spring and fall. “Or in a place like Miami, that already has warm temperatures, transmission could occur year-round,” she says.

Bottom line: The jury is still out on how climate change will alter mosquito-borne diseases. The final outcome will likely depend on the place, the disease and the specific mosquito that carries them. But here in the U.S., warmer springs and summers are likely to make transmission worse in the south and possibly cause diseases to creep northward.

Thanks to our readers who submitted questions to #CuriousGoat. Want to propose a question for our next callout, on the topic of world hunger and famine? Click here.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Pop Culture Happy Hour: 'Fate Of The Furious' Plus Clapbacks And Feuds

Dwayne Johnson stars as Hobbs in The Fate of the Furious.

Matt Kennedy/Universal Pictures

hide caption

toggle caption

Matt Kennedy/Universal Pictures

The first thing you should know about this week’s show is that PCHH regular Glen Weldon has a strict rule against seeing Fast And The Furious movies, and while he would have waived it if he absolutely had to, we fortunately had willing correspondents in beloved fourth chairs Gene Demby and Chris Klimek, so they joined me and Stephen Thompson for our first segment. We talk about whether you can rightly exclude considerations of quality from a discussion of anything, whether there’s any point in preferring a film full of explosions to be smart, and whether Vin Diesel’s acting choices are bringing all of us down.

Our second segment takes you to our recent live show in Chicago for a segment we did with NPR’s own Sam Sanders. Sam has been writing recently about tweetstorms, and we used that as part of a broader conversation about the culture place and execution of the “clapback” (whether it still needs quotation marks is up for debate, but we’ll play it safe). Sam explains a couple of his favorite recent examples, Stephen compares the whole thing to awards-show feuds, I return to one of my favorite/least favorite TV writers, and Glen is just uncomfortable about the entire thing.

Then, also from Chicago, we close with what’s making us happy this week. Stephen discusses how a favorite piece of theme music has become synonymous with rough days on the job. Glen tells a delightful story about his youth and how it intersected with walking around Chicago and also recommends a graphic novel. Sam is happy about new seasons of a couple of different interesting shows, and he’s also happy about staying in touch with his love of Prince. (And Sam and Glen have restaurant recommendations if you are in Chicago.) And I am happy about one play, another play, and a musical I got to see in New York.

Thank you so much to those of you who came to see us in Chicago, and thank you to those of you who listen every week. Find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter: the show, me, Stephen, Glen, Sam, Gene, Chris, producer Jessica, and producer emeritus and pal for life Mike.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)