Tag Archives: capital

Cities are shutting down bikeshares during curfews, stranding their own residents

Over the past several days, hundreds of thousands of Americans have hit the streets to protest the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was asphyxiated by a police officer on May 25 in Minneapolis. The protests started in the city where Floyd was killed and spread rapidly to all 50 U.S. states and at least three U.S territories.

In response, mayors and governors have instituted rare nighttime curfews in an effort to deter clashes between police and protestors — which videos show are often instigated by police — and waves of looting and property damage. But the curfews aren’t keeping protesters off the streets: People in major cities have been out long past nightfall protesting the national crisis of police brutality. And essential workers are largely exempt from the curfews, leading to confusion among people who work night shifts.

No matter the reason they’re out during curfew, people trying to get home are finding that their options are limited. Some cities, like Los Angeles and Chicago, have shut down public transportation systems in response to the protests, stranding people who are out after curfew. In some areas, like parts of Manhattan, even driving has been prohibited. And bikeshare programs, which have been a key source of safe transportation for essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic, have been directed to hit the pause button by city officials during the curfews.

That means protesters and other people just trying to get around in the middle of an ongoing pandemic are being forced to get places by foot. In New York City, the city’s privately-owned bikeshare program, CitiBike, was directed by the mayor to shut down during the curfew on Monday and Tuesday. “We disagree with this decision,” the company said in a tweet thread.

On Wednesday, CitiBike will be required to end service at 6 p.m. — two hours before the curfew begins.

Similar programs in D.C., Houston, Chicago, Minneapolis, and L.A. shut down during curfews too. Some of those programs, like Houston’s BCycle and Minneapolis’ Nice Ride, are owned by nonprofits. Others, like Chicago’s Divvy and D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare, are housed within each city’s Department of Transportation. Philadelphia’s city-run bikeshare program, Indego, bucked the trend by staying open during curfew.

Alan Mitchell, former chief of staff at Motivate, the company that owned and operated CitiBike before Lyft bought the program in 2018, thinks shutting down bikeshare programs amid protests is a bad idea. “I think it prevents essential workers from getting to their jobs, I think it makes people less safe, and I think it’s a disgrace for the mayor to have ordered that,” he told Grist, referring specifically to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

As it is, bikeshare programs, which have been touted as a greener, healthier, and better way for city-dwellers to get around, have an equity problem. A huge majority of bikeshare users are white and wealthy, in large part because bikeshare docks tend to get built in majority-white neighborhoods while leaving majority-nonwhite neighborhoods behind. In D.C., a city that is 50 percent black, only 4 percent of bikeshare members were African American in 2016. Just 2 percent of Chicago’s bikeshare program users were black, according to 2017 data.

And when people of color do use bikeshare programs, or just cycle in general, they’re more likely to face police harassment for it. A study on sidewalk biking bans in NYC between 2008 and 2011 found that bans were disproportionately enforced on Black and Latino bikers. In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 86 percent of police citations for biking violations were issued to African Americansin the years between 2010 and 2013.

On Wednesday, World Bicycle Day, Bublr Bikes, Milwaukee’s nonprofit bikeshare program, which stayed open during its city’s curfew, said it will commit to building a more just bikeshare program.

One way city officials and bikeshare programs could start doing just that? Make bikeshares available around the clock, whether or not there’s a curfew.

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Cities are shutting down bikeshares during curfews, stranding their own residents

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New study pinpoints the places most at risk on a warming planet

As many as five billion people will face hunger and a lack of clean water by 2050 as the warming climate disrupts pollination, freshwater, and coastal habitats, according to new research published last week in Science. People living in South Asia and Africa will bear the worst of it.

Climate activists have been telling us for a while now that global warming isn’t just about the polar bears, so it’s hardly breaking news that humans are going to suffer because nature is suffering. But what is new about this model is the degree of geographic specificity. It pinpoints the places where projected environmental losses overlap with human populations who depend on those resources and maps them with a nifty interactive viewer.

This model identifies not just the general ways climate change harms the environment and how people will feel those changes, but also where these changes will likely occur, and how significant they’ll be. It’s an unprecedented degree of detail for a global biodiversity model.

Patricia Balvanera, a professor of biodiversity at National University of Mexico who wasn’t involved in the study, said the new model “provides an extremely important tool to inform policy decisions and shape responses.”

The model looks at three specific natural systems that humans benefit from: pollination (which enables crops to grow), freshwater systems (which provide drinking water), and coastal ecosystems (which provide a buffer from storm surges and prevent erosion). Using fine-scale satellite imagery, the team of scientists mapped predicted losses to these natural systems onto human population maps. The resulting map allows you to see how many people could be impacted by environmental changes, and where.

“We were specifically trying to look at how nature is changing in delivering [a] benefit, and then where it overlaps with people’s needs,” said Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer, the lead scientist at the Natural Capital Project, a Stanford University-based research group that produced the study.

To understand why the Natural Capital Project’s model is groundbreaking, you need to understand a little bit about past attempts to gauge how the environmental effects of climate change will impact people. It’s a pretty hard thing to do — natural processes are interconnected systems, and many of the ways that humans benefit from these natural processes (what scientists call “ecosystem services” or “nature’s contributions to humanity”) aren’t obvious.

“The real challenge, with nature’s contributions to people, is that it benefits us in so many ways that it’s sort of mind-boggling,” Chaplin-Kramer said. “It’s just so abstract that it tends to be disregarded.”

The Natural Capital Project’s model was initially intended to support the massive U.N. biodiversity report released this spring. That report coalesced 15,000 scientific studies into the most comprehensive survey ever done of how climate change threatens global biodiversity — science-speak for “every living thing.” Even if you didn’t read the whole thing, you probably saw headlines like “One million species at risk of extinction, UN report warns.” The IPBES report included a 200-odd page chapter that laid out how all the different things we could see happen to nature will affect people — depending on how humanity reacts in the next few decades to the climate crisis.

But the IPBES report bumped up against one of the biggest challenges when it comes to quantifying nature’s contributions to humankind: Most occur on a local scale. “Spatial context really matters,” said Chaplin-Kramer. “It’s not just the total amount of nature we have, but where we have it, and if it’s in the place where it can deliver the most benefits to people.”

Bee pollinator habitats, for example, only provide benefits to people if they’re within a few miles of the farms that grow our food. Plants that filter nitrogen out of a stream are only “useful” for humans if they’re downstream of the pollution source and upstream of the population. So while the IPBES was able to offer lots of predictions about the aggregate consequences of biodiversity loss — e.g., food supplies will suffer as we lose habitats for bees — they weren’t able to say specifically where they’d occur.

The new model does more than illustrate a problem with great detail — the framework behind it also has the potential to be a powerful tool for avoiding the worst effects of climate change. It could help people prepare for the catastrophes it forecasts.

Unai Pascual, a lead author of the IPBES report and co-author of the Science article, sees this model as taking the IPBES report’s findings a step further, translating a conceptual framework “into something that really can be applied.”

Scientists and non-scientists alike are interested in understanding how to maximize the benefits provided by nature. Just this week a study published in Science Advances found that biologically diverse fields yielded more crops than farms practicing monoculture. Iowan farmers are finding that planting strips of land that mimic native prairies has a range of benefits. In China, a national “Ecological Redline Policy” takes ecosystem services into account in zoning decisions.

These sorts of programs will be more necessary as climate change continues to threaten ecosystems around the world, and policymakers and businesses are increasingly looking to scientists for information about how to protect the natural resources humans need most.

Chaplin-Kramer’s team is working with the World Bank to develop a “Natural Capital” index so that countries can track the condition of their natural resources. They’re also working on an optimization framework to figure out which interventions will have the greatest impact. That will help policymakers use this information to implement conservation policies in the places where, as Chaplin-Kramer put it, “you can get the most bang for your buck.”

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New study pinpoints the places most at risk on a warming planet

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Indonesia might need a new capital because of climate change

Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, has its fair share of problems: terrible traffic that can turn a 25 mile drive into a two hour endeavor, dangerous air pollution, and the largest uncovered landfill in Southeast Asia. And now, with climate change in the mix, 10 million people live in one of the fastest sinking cities in the world.

Jakarta, built next to the Java Sea with 13 rivers criss-crossing the city, is sinking as fast as 9 inches a year in some neighborhoods. The problem is compounded by unlicensed groundwater extraction, which empties aquifers and causes the ground to cave. Right now, about half the city is below sea level. By 2050, if emissions aren’t drastically cut, 95 percent of Northern Jakarta is expected to be submerged.

Indonesia’s likely re-elected President Joko Widodo’s solution? Change the capital. In a closed cabinet meeting on Monday, Widodo made the decision to move the executive branch and associated ministries and parliament to a new city. Which city? He opened the discussion on Twitter:

“Jakarta now bears two burdens at once: as a center of government and public services as well as a business center,” Widodo tweeted. “Where do you think Indonesia’s capital should be?”’

Widodo isn’t the first to suggest relocating Indonesia’s capital. In 1957, Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, suggested that very thing. Every so often, presidents have brought up the issue to no avail, to the point where Indonesian residents are skeptical that the move will ever occur. And many are not sure they want it to, either.

“You don’t solve a problem by just moving it away,” Elisa Sutanudjaja, director of the Rujak Center for Urban Studies, told The Guardian. “Jakarta is quite similar to Tokyo in the 1960s, with its land subsidence, flooding, natural disasters and overcrowding. If you really want to solve the problem then they should tackle it, not just move it.”

That being said, this might be the time it finally happens. Things are approaching a tipping point, with natural disasters like last week’s floods increasing in regularity and severity. As Jakarta’s population continues to grow, and unsanctioned water extraction and climate change pull Jakarta below sea level, it’s about time that something happens.

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China’s plan to reduce smog in cities basically just moved it to other areas

The Beijing air was so polluted, you couldn’t see to the other side of the street. Thousands of parents and children overflowed the hospitals, and rows of babies were hooked up to machines, suffering from respiratory issues. If you zoomed out on a map, the smog cloud covered one-sixth of the entire country.

It was 2013, and the particulate matter in China’s air, often bad, had gone off the charts into a full-on “airpocalypse,” due to increases in iron and steel production, diesel trucking, and coal-fired energy production.  

“A ‘normal bad’ pollution day is like a rating of 160. I think [one] day the rating was above 600,” said Anthony Singleterry, a Seattle resident who was living in Beijing at the time.

In response to the pollution, the Chinese government quickly drafted and launched a plan to mitigate smog in its big cities. It set aggressive clean air goals for the capital region, and met them, too: By 2017, particulate air pollution in the area was reduced by 25 percent.

But, as a team of Chinese and international scientists found, that quick pursuit of cleaner air for cities meant outsourcing much of the country’s coal-based energy production, and with it the air pollution, to poorer neighboring regions.

A new study in Science Advances looks at the unintended harm the plan did to bordering regions.

Under the policy, 53 percent of Beijing’s energy production was moved elsewhere. More rural regions often have less efficient technologies and lower environmental standards.

The study found that the plan actually increased particulate pollution and carbon emissions nationwide. It also resulted in increased water scarcity in the more rural provinces, which are now providing water to the coal plants. Overall, the study said, these measures may just be passing off pollution problems to less-developed regions of the country.

“Our intention is certainly not to blame or discourage environmental policies designed to reduce air pollution,” but rather to examine the unintended side effects of isolated environmental policies, said University of Maryland’s Kuishuang Feng, a co-author of the study. 

Some smog from these new power plants in neighboring areas will also travel back to the cities, canceling out some of the gains made in reaching the 25 percent pollution reduction goal.

“Especially with an issue like air pollution, it’s not the smartest scientific approach to these problems,” Chris Nielsen, executive director of the Harvard-China Project, told Grist and added that policies should be more holistic and long-term. “Chinese environmental air pollution policies can be overly narrow, both in their spatial focus and environmental focus by being single-pollutant driven.”

Nielsen said there is a benefit, though, to the Chinese government in setting such narrow targets: They are easily measured, and easily communicated to the public. Multi-faceted environmental policy takes “messy, complicated science,” he said. “So it’s hard to explain what you’re chasing.”

Lara Cushing, a public health researcher at San Francisco State University, said she’s seen this kind of spillover effect before: here in the states. She’s published work on similar issues with California’s cap-and-trade emissions program.

“The challenge is that without a broader coordinated strategy, there’s these really big problems of leakage — of pollution just moving around,” Cushing said.

After a 2018 study found California had significantly lowered emissions statewide, but at the expense of poorer communities, the state developed its own environmental justice tool to map pollution by county, and show the areas where people are particularly vulnerable to its effects.

The China study is important, Cushing said, because it not only sheds light on the spillover effect; it shows how unintended consequences can impact water and climate, too.

Since meeting its initial goals set after the “airpocalypse” for 2017, China has rolled out a new climate plan that is a bit more comprehensive. Its name translates to: “Action Plan for Winning the Blue Sky War.” No city in China yet meets the World Health Organization’s recommended particulate levels, so the new policy expands air pollution goals to all cities, rather than just those in the capital region.

Since 2013, the Chinese government also restructured its environmental policy staff. Climate policy used to be under the economic and development commission, and now it has its own branch. This was done, according to Nielsen, to allow scientists to coordinate more closely with government officials on policy.

“It’s evidence that the government recognizes, at least to some degree, what is described in this paper,” Nielsen said.


China’s plan to reduce smog in cities basically just moved it to other areas

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The Goodness Paradox – Richard Wrangham


The Goodness Paradox

The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution

Richard Wrangham

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $13.99

Publish Date: January 29, 2019

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC

“A fascinating new analysis of human violence, filled with fresh ideas and gripping evidence from our primate cousins, historical forebears, and contemporary neighbors.” —Steven Pinker, author of  The Better Angels of Our Nature We Homo sapiens can be the nicest of species and also the nastiest. What occurred during human evolution to account for this paradox? What are the two kinds of aggression that primates are prone to, and why did each evolve separately? How does the intensity of violence among humans compare with the aggressive behavior of other primates? How did humans domesticate themselves? And how were the acquisition of language and the practice of capital punishment determining factors in the rise of culture and civilization? Authoritative, provocative, and engaging, The Goodness Paradox offers a startlingly original theory of how, in the last 250 million years, humankind became an increasingly peaceful species in daily interactions even as its capacity for coolly planned and devastating violence remains undiminished. In tracing the evolutionary histories of reactive and proactive aggression, biological anthropologist Richard Wrangham forcefully and persuasively argues for the necessity of social tolerance and the control of savage divisiveness still haunting us today.

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The Goodness Paradox – Richard Wrangham

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Macron Campaign Hit With "Massive and Coordinated" Hacking Attack

Mother Jones

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A massive trove of documents purporting to contain thousands of emails and other files from the campaign of Emmanuel Macron—the French centrist candidate squaring off against right-wing nationalist Marine Le Pen—was posted on the internet Friday afternoon. The Macron campaign says that at least some of the documents are fake. The document dump came just over a day before voting is set to begin in the final round of the election and mere hours before candidates are legally required to stop campaigning.

At about 2:35 p.m. ET, a post appeared on the 4chan online message board announcing the leak. The documents appear to include emails, internal memos, and screenshots of purported banking records.

“In this pastebin are links to torrents of emails between Macron, his team and other officials, politicians as well as original documents and photos,” the anonymous 4chan poster wrote. “This was passed on to me today so now I am giving it to you, the people. The leak is massvie and released in the hopes that the human search engine here will be able to start sifting through the contents and figure out exactly what we have here.”

The Macron campaign issued a statement Friday night saying it was the victim of a “massive and coordinated” hacking attack. That campaign said the leak included some fake documents that were intended “to sow doubt and misinformation.”

The Macron camp compared the document dump to last year’s hacking of emails associated with Hillary Clinton. The US intelligence community has concluded that Russia was responsible for the Clinton hacks. “This operation is obviously a democratic destabilization as was seen in the United States during the last presidential campaign,” the Macron statement said.

The timing of the leak is particularly noteworthy. Under French law, candidates and their campaigns cannot speak to the media or do anything in public in the 24 hours before the start of Sunday’s election. The Macron campaign’s statement was issued three minutes before the deadline.

It’s unclear when the files originally appeared on the internet. The official Twitter account for WikiLeaks—the group that released the Clinton emails last year—tweeted a link to a page where the Macron data was hosted at 1:13 p.m. ET.

“Fully analyzing the hacked documents to verify that they are genuine will take some time, but from what I’ve seen so far, it looks very serious,” said Matt Tait, a former information security specialist for the GCHQ (the United Kingdom’s equivalent of the National Security Agency) and CEO of Capital Alpha Security.

In February, Macron said he had evidence his campaign had “suffered repeated and multiple attacks from hackers” and that “many come from Ukraine.” At the time, the Macron campaign blamed the Russian government for the attacks, a claim the Kremlin denied. The campaign suspected the attacks were coming their way because of Macron’s tough stance on Russia. Le Pen, on the other hand, has taken a much more favorable stance toward Russia.

Earlier on Friday, according to the New York Times, the Le Pen campaign claimed in a statement that its campaign website had been the victim of “regular and targeted” attacks, and that a hacker “close to extreme-left circles” had been arrested.

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Macron Campaign Hit With "Massive and Coordinated" Hacking Attack

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Trump’s Tax Return Suggests He’s the Most Incompetent Billionaire in the Nation

Mother Jones

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Tonight’s exciting news: David Cay Johnston somehow got hold of the first page of Donald Trump’s 2005 federal tax return. He released it on the Rachel Maddow show tonight:

Here are Trump’s major sources of income:

Interest income: $9 million
Business income: $42 million
Capital gains: $32 million
Rental income: $67 million
Miscellaneous: $2 million
Total: $152 million

After a writeoff of $103 million, his adjusted gross income clocked in at $49 million. His taxable income came in at $31 million and his tax bill for this was $5 million. That’s a tax rate of about 3 percent. Ka-ching!

Sadly for Trump, the Alternative Minimum Tax kicked in, which meant he had to pay $38 million in taxes. I guess it’s no wonder that Trump doesn’t think very highly of the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Without more pages from his tax return, there’s a limit to what we can learn from this. Trump’s income of $150 million fits fairly well with the estimates I’ve seen. But I will add one thing.

Trump’s total investment income was $108 million, and Trump claims to be worth $5 billion or so, depending on what day you ask him. That means he earned a return on his assets of about 2 percent. In 2005! During the housing bubble! I’m no tax expert, and maybe he had hundreds of millions in capital gains that he didn’t realize that year. Who needs more than $150 million in income, after all? It still seems pretty low, though, and if Trump really did earn a return of only 2 percent he is, by long odds, the most incompetent billionaire in the country.

Alternatively, of course, Trump is actually worth about $1-2 billion and he earned something like a 5-10 percent return. Take your pick.

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Trump’s Tax Return Suggests He’s the Most Incompetent Billionaire in the Nation

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A Guide To Donald Trump’s Huge Debts—and the Conflicts They Present

Mother Jones

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Donald Trump has announced that on December 15 he will hold a press conference to reveal to the world his plan to address the many conflicts of interest between his vast business empire and his new role as president. Trump has indicated that he will remove himself from the daily “business operations” of the Trump Organization—but not sell off his holdings or create a truly blind trust.

Ethics experts have criticized this approach because Trump would continue to own his properties, benefiting from their success and suffering from their losses. He would know when his policy decisions and actions—or those of others (including corporations and foreign governments)—could affect his assets. Consequently, he would not be separating his presidential decision-making from his own personal financial circumstances. Yet, arguably, the biggest conflicts he faces aren’t related to what he owns. Rather, they relate to what he owes.

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All of Trump’s top properties—including Trump Tower, the Trump National Doral golf course, and his brand new luxury hotel in Washington, DC—are heavily mortgaged. That means Trump maintains critical financial relationships with his creditors. These interactions pose a significant set of potential conflicts, for his creditors are large financial institutions (domestic and foreign) with their own interests and policy needs. Each one could be greatly affected by presidential decisions, and Trump certainly has a financial interest in their well-being.

Below is a list of all the financial players that Trump owes money to and how much Trump directly has borrowed from each one. This roster is based on publicly available loan documents. According to his own public disclosure, Trump, as of May, was on the hook for 16 loans worth at least $713 million. This list does not include an estimated $2 billion in debt amassed by real estate partnerships that include Trump. One of those loans is a $950 million deal that was cobbled together by Goldman Sachs and the state-owned Bank of China—an arrangement that ethics experts believe violates the Constitution’s emolument clause, which prohibits foreign governments from providing financial benefits to federal officials.

Deutsche Bank: $364 million

The troubled German bank is Trump’s top lender and has been for years. When the rest of Wall Street essentially abandoned Trump years ago, apparently frustrated by his business tactics, Deutsche Bank stuck by the celebrity developer. Well, not all of Deutsche Bank. In 2005, Trump borrowed $640 million from a group of banks, including Deutsche Bank, to build his Chicago tower. But by 2008, the real estate market had gone bad, and Trump was in financial trouble. Shortly before he was due to pay Deutsche Bank $40 million for a portion of the loan he had personally guaranteed, Trump filed a lawsuit against the German bank, demanding $3 billion to compensate him for the international economic turmoil that Trump claimed the bank had helped cause and that Trump now said was hurting his investment in Chicago.

The dispute was eventually settled, but Trump’s relationship with the division of the bank handling big commercial loans was done. Instead, he began working with what’s known as the “private bank” side of Deutsche Bank—the division that caters to high-net-worth individuals and which has significantly more leeway to lend money. His various corporations now have four outstanding loans from that part of Deutsche Bank, worth a combined $364 million.

Trump’s Deutsche Bank loans include:

$125 million for two mortgages on his Trump National Doral golf course in Miami. Both were taken out in 2012.
$69 million for a 2014 loan tied to the Chicago tower that Trump and Deutsche previously bickered over. This loan is listed within Cook County property records. Trump’s personal financial disclosure form lists a loan that appears similar but doesn’t match the official record. That document notes he has a 2012 loan for the Chicago tower valued at between $25 million and $50 million.
$170 million for a loan related to the Trump’s hotel in the Old Post Office in Washington, DC. Trump doesn’t own the building—he leases it from the federal government—but he borrowed the money to finance the building’s extensive renovation. It’s not clear when Trump borrowed the money, but it was likely after he announced his bid for the presidency.

Trump has an enormous conflict of interest on his hands with Deutsche Bank. As Trump himself noted in his 2008 lawsuit against the bank, Deutsche played a prominent role in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis. The Obama administration has targeted Deutsche Bank and other banks for creating and repackaging bad mortgage products, and earlier this fall the Justice Department announced it was seeking to settle claims against the bank for about $14 billion. That was much more than Deutsche Bank was expecting to pay, and the news sent the bank into a tailspin. Its stock price plummeted amid speculation that it could not remain afloat if the Justice Department pressed the bank for such a big settlement.

Negotiations between the bank and the Justice Department over the size of the settlement are underway. But if they are not resolved by January 20, Trump’s administration will be in charge of handling this case. So a federal government run by Trump will have to decide how hard to push the bank that Trump owes so much to and that has been critical to Trump’s personal fortunes.

Ladder Capital: $282 million

Ladder Capital is not a traditional bank or a big name on Wall Street, but in the last several years it has joined Deutsche Bank as a main source of financing for Trump. In fact, since 2012, these two outfits have been the only ones to lend Trump money. Ladder Capital is a small Wall Street firm that specializes in loaning money for commercial real estate projects and, with the help of the big Wall Street banks, combining pieces of these loans into bigger packages that it then sells to investors.

One big issue with Trump’s loans from Ladder Capital is that he appears to be personally liable for at least $26 million of the debt. So if a problem with the loan emerges, Ladder Capital could ask Trump, not his business, to cover this amount personally. Even if Trump does remove himself from the operations of the Trump Organization and lets his adult children run the business, this conflict of interest would not be addressed. The man in the Oval Office would still be in hock to this financial institution.

There’s another major issue with the Ladder Capital loans. As was reported last week, Ladder Capital has hired Citibank to help organize a possible sale. Sources at the firm told Reuters that new federal regulations covering the repackaging of loans were making the company’s core business more complicated.

It’s possible then that if the firm does go on the block, Trump’s loans could end up being bought by another party. It could be an investor or a financial institution based in the United States or overseas. Imagine, say, a Russian bank owning the debt of an American president. In any event, another troubling conflict of interest could exist—and the public might not even know about this at first, for Trump would be under no obligation to update the personal financial disclosure until it was time to file his annual disclosure report.

Trump’s loans with Ladder Capital include:

$160 million for a loan related to Trump’s 40 Wall Street office tower. Trump took out the mortgage in 2015 to replace a similar loan he had from Capital One with a higher interest rate.
$100 million for a mortgage on Trump Tower. This is Trump’s most prized possession and the possible “White House North,” but he only owns a small portion of the property. (Most of the condo units were sold years ago.) This mortgage provides Trump a line of credit secured by the building.
$7 million for a mortgage on several commercial condo units in the Trump International Hotel Tower on New York City’s Columbus Circle. This loan doesn’t appear on Trump’s most recent personal financial disclosure. He filed that document in May, and he borrowed this money in July. The loan replaced an earlier one of the same amount that Trump had obtained from Swiss bank UBS Capital.
$15 million for a mortgage on three condo units in the Trump Plaza apartment building on New York’s upper East Side.

Investors Savings Bank: $23 million

In 2010, Trump combined an earlier mortgage on his Westchester County golf course into a much larger $23 million mortgage that also leveraged his ownership of condo units in the Trump Park Avenue building in New York City.

Amboy Bank: $16 million

In 2010, Trump took out a mortgage on his Trump National Golf Club-Colts Neck in Monmouth County, New Jersey, for $16 million from Amboy Bank, a tiny New Jersey bank.

Chevy Chase Trust Holdings: $10 million

In 2009, Trump purchased a golf course in Loudon County, Virginia, for $13 million. To make the deal happen, he borrowed $10 million from the land development company that previously owned the property.

Bank of New York Mellon Trust: $9.25 million

Trump’s personal financial disclosure lists bonds, first issued in 1996, against a commercial property on New York’s East 56th Street. Paperwork filed with the State of New York shows the due date on the bonds has been extended to 2020.

Royal Bank of Pennsylvania: $8 million

In 1995, Trump purchased a lavish estate in Westchester County, New York, and in 2000 he refinanced that purchase with an $8 million mortgage from the Royal Bank of Pennsylvania. Trump originally planned to turn the large estate into a golf course, but opposition from local residents blocked the project. The property has been used as a family retreat and a playground for Trump’s two oldest sons. Trump has long had a personal relationship with the bank’s founder, and he allowed the banker’s 10-year-old grandson to perform magic tricks at Trump’s Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City.

Merrill Lynch: Less than $750,000

In the early 1990s, Trump purchased two houses next to his Mar-A-Lago estate, borrowing about $2 million from Merrill Lynch for these purchases. The loans, which were taken out in 1993 and 1994 and come due in 2019, are now worth between $350,000 and $750,000.

Originally posted here: 

A Guide To Donald Trump’s Huge Debts—and the Conflicts They Present

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Donald Trump Promised to Release a List of His Creditors. We’re Still Waiting.

Mother Jones

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During the first presidential debate, moderator Lester Holt asked Donald Trump about his refusal to release his tax returns, explaining that part of “the reason nominees have released their returns for decades” is so voters can determine if a potential president’s debts reveal any conflicts of interest. “Don’t Americans have a right to know if there are any conflicts of interest?” Holt asked. Trump brushed the question off, saying that “you don’t learn that much from tax returns.” (As the New York Times reported this weekend, just a few pages of Trump’s tax records from 1995 reveal that the GOP nominee may not have paid federal income taxes for 18 years.) He claimed that the personal financial disclosures he had already filed with the Federal Election Commission provided a more detailed overview of his finances, though those records do not reveal income, tax rates, charitable donations, and loan interest payments. “But,” Trump told Holt, “I could give you a list of banks, I would—if that would help you, I would give you a list of banks. These are very fine institutions, very fine banks. I could do that very quickly.”

Mother Jones has been trying to determine Trump’s full roster of creditors, so we immediately contacted his campaign to request the list Trump offered. A week later, we’re still waiting.

Even without the release his tax returns—a standard practice for presidential candidates since the Nixon era—it is clear that should he reach the White House he would face significant conflicts of interest due to his complex business interests. His personal financial disclosure report provides an incomplete view of his finances. Filed in May, the form lists 16 loans that are valued in vague ranges that make it impossible to determine the total amount he owes. For instance, five of Trump’s loans are valued at $50 million or more (the FEC doesn’t require anything more specific). According to this disclosure, Trump owes a minimum of $315 million. But the real amount appears to be much higher. A search of property records throughout the United States shows that those 16 loans are valued, conservatively, at $675 million.

His financial disclosure forms likely do not reveal the full scope of his intricate finances. As the New York Times reported in August, Trump has invested in partnerships that owe nearly $2 billion—loans, including one from the Bank of China, that are not identified within his personal financial disclosure. Trump’s representatives told the Times that Trump would not be liable for those loans, but because he is an investor in the buildings used as collateral for these loans, his investments are certainly linked to the loans.

And Trump’s most recent financial disclosure is already out of date. For instance, Trump reported to the FEC in May that he owed UBS Real Estate, a subsidiary of the Swiss banking giant, between $5 million and $25 million in connection with a loan for commercial property at New York City’s Trump International Hotel and Tower. But Trump no longer has this loan. According to New York City property records, the loan was for $7 million, and his company paid it off with a new $7 million loan from a much smaller lender named Ladder Capital Finance. Trump’s history of failed deals and repeated bankruptcies has made him persona non grata with many of the world’s top banks, forcing him to rely on smaller institutions such as Ladder Capital. According to public documents, Trump currently owes Ladder Capital at least $275 million.

Ladder Capital specializes in packaging loans into larger portfolios that are eventually sold off to other lenders. This is significant because it would be important to know exactly who owns Trump’s debt—a potential source of leverage over a commander-in-chief. Tax returns would reveal to whom Trump is paying interest. It would be a small step forward in transparency, if the Trump campaign issues a list of his creditors. But the full scope of his finances—and his creditors—will not be known unless he releases his tax returns.


Donald Trump Promised to Release a List of His Creditors. We’re Still Waiting.

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Wall Street Billionaires To Advise Trump On Populist Economics

Mother Jones

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Excellent. Donald Trump has introduced his blue-chip economic advisory team:

The list includes strikingly few academic policy experts, usually the bread-and-butter of campaign policy teams. Instead, the advisory team of 13 men — and no women — consists largely of personal friends or longtime business associates of Trump. The median net worth of Trump’s official economic advisers appears to be at least several hundred million dollars.

That wealthy group includes Harold Hamm, a self-made oil billionaire…. Dan DiMicco, a former chief executive of steelmaker Nucor…. Steven Mnuchin…. chief executive of the hedge fund Dune Capital Management…. Steve Roth…. Vornado Realty Trust; hedge fund billionaire John Paulson…. The only academic economist on the team — the only one who has a doctorate in economics — is Peter Navarro of the University of California at Irvine, who focuses on trade with China.

….Trump’s outsider crew at times conflicts with his message of economic populism….His team is filled with hedge fund managers, bankers and real estate speculators.

A whole bunch of Wall Street billionaires plus Stephen Moore, an annual contender for stupidest man in the world. This fits Trump perfectly, especially since he’s not going to listen to any of them anyway. Why should he, after all? He knows more about how the economy works than any of them, believe me.

Original article: 

Wall Street Billionaires To Advise Trump On Populist Economics

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