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Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Dick Russell


Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Men Who Are Destroying the Planet—And How They Explain Themselves to Their Own Children

Dick Russell

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $2.99

Publish Date: May 2, 2017

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Seller: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC

Two New York Times –bestselling authors team up to name names in “a must read for anyone concerned with climate and energy issues” (Leonardo DiCaprio).   The science is overwhelming; the facts are in. The planet is heating up at an alarming rate and the results are everywhere to be seen. Yet, as time runs out, climate progress is blocked by the men who are profiting from the burning of the planet: energy moguls like the Koch brothers and former Exxon Mobil CEO and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, along with powerful politicians like Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Jim Inhofe, who receive massive contributions from the oil and coal industries. Most of these men are too intelligent to truly believe that climate change is not a growing crisis. And yet they have put their profits and careers ahead of the health and welfare of the world’s population—and even their own children and grandchildren. How do they explain themselves to their offspring, to the next generations that must deal with the environmental havoc that these men have wreaked? Horsemen of the Apocalypse takes a personal look at this global crisis, literally bringing it home.   “This may be the most important book yet on the climate crisis . . . and by the way, it’s fun to read. Dick Russell’s keen research and sharp writing unpacks the complex sordid tale of fossil fuel corporations and their henchmen, from the Koch brothers to Exxon to Peabody coal, who have systematically held us back from solving climate change, using denial, deception, and ruthless power.” —Kert Davies, director, Climate Investigations Center

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Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Dick Russell

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Russians Bragged That They Could Use Michael Flynn to Influence Trump, CNN Reports

Mother Jones

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Russian officials believed that Michael Flynn was an ally whom they could use to influence President Donald Trump, CNN reported Friday night. The network cites “multiple government officials” who were aware of conversations within the Russian government that were intercepted during the 2016 campaign.

“This was a five-alarm fire from early on,” one former Obama administration official said, “the way the Russians were talking about him.” Another former administration official said Flynn was viewed as a potential national security problem.

The conversations picked up by US intelligence officials indicated the Russians regarded Flynn as an ally, sources said. That relationship developed throughout 2016, months before Flynn was caught on an intercepted call in December speaking with Russia’s ambassador in Washington, Sergey Kislyak. That call, and Flynn’s changing story about it, ultimately led to his firing as Trump’s first national security adviser.

Flynn resigned from the position of National Security Adviser in February, 18 days after then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates warned the White House that Flynn had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his contact with the Russian ambassador and, as a result, could be a target of blackmail.

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Russians Bragged That They Could Use Michael Flynn to Influence Trump, CNN Reports

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Trump Told Russians That Comey Was a "Nut Job," as FBI Investigation Inches Closer to the White House

Mother Jones

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Two bombshell reports on Friday afternoon shed more light on President Donald Trump’s rationale for firing FBI Director James Comey and showed just how close the FBI’s Russia investigation is getting to Trump’s inner circle.

The day after he fired Comey, Trump met with top Russian diplomats in the Oval Office. There, the New York Times revealed Friday afternoon, he badmouthed Comey and seemed to imply that his firing was prompted by the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. “I just fired the head of the FBI,” Trump said, according to the Times. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer did not dispute this account.

Moments later, the Washington Post reported that a current White House official in Trump’s inner circle is now under scrutiny in the Russia investigation:

The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter.

The senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president, according to these people, who would not further identify the official.

The White House did not dispute this report either. Both reports came out shortly after Trump departed for his first overseas trip as president.

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Trump Told Russians That Comey Was a "Nut Job," as FBI Investigation Inches Closer to the White House

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The Crazy Story of the Professor Who Came to Stay—and Wouldn’t Leave

Mother Jones

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Elizabeth Abel walked up to the front door of her house for the first time in four months and rang the bell. She’d just flown halfway around the world to drop in, unannounced, on the man who’d taken over her home.

When he came to the door, Abel says, the man didn’t seem surprised to see her—or the police officer standing beside her. “Oh, hi,” he said.

Abel peered behind him into her living room, which was practically empty. Most of her furniture was gone: a dining table and four chairs, two easy chairs, an antique piece. Her books and rugs were nowhere to be seen. Even the artwork had been taken off the walls.

As Abel walked around the place she’d called home for three decades, she had the distinct feeling that her life had been erased. In the family room, a small sofa, a table, and a television had been removed. Out on the back deck, the wooden table and benches were missing. The bedrooms were emptied out, her mattresses crammed into the office. Closets were sealed with blue painter’s tape. She turned to the man, who had been renting her place for the past several months—without paying. “What is going on here?” she demanded. “What are you doing?”

In October 2015, as she was planning a semester-long research trip to Paris, Abel logged on to SabbaticalHomes.com to find someone to rent her house. The site bills itself as a sort of Airbnb for academics; its motto is “A place for minds on the move.” Abel, an English professor at the University of California-Berkeley, quickly received a bunch of responses, the first of which came from a political scientist at Sarah Lawrence College named David Peritz.

Peritz visited Abel’s cozy two-bedroom Spanish Revival in Kensington, a pocket of suburban affluence just north of Berkeley. He’d grown up in nearby Sonoma County, and he said he and his wife and their teenage son were spending some time on the West Coast to be close to family and friends. Peritz liked what he saw—the view of the Golden Gate, the office in the detached garage. There was one small thing, however: His wife had severe allergies, Peritz told Abel; could he store the small rug in the bedroom elsewhere for the duration of the rental? She was hesitant at first but agreed when he later suggested a storage facility.

Abel, now 71, didn’t feel much of a connection with Peritz, two decades her junior. Still, she thought to herself, “Oh, come on. He’s a professor.” She found him polite and gracious, and she didn’t bother asking for references, let alone do a background check. She didn’t notice until much later that his personal checks lacked a home address. Why would she? That was precisely the point of Sabbatical Homes; unlike Craigslist or Airbnb, it was opening your home not to random people, but to colleagues. (As the site’s founder put it in a press release, “There is an implicit degree of trust amongst academics.”) When Abel discussed her would-be renter with her husband, a professor of molecular genetics and microbiology who spends most of the year at the University of Texas-Austin, she didn’t mention any misgivings.

So in January 2016, Abel headed to the Latin Quarter to work on a new book on Virginia Woolf, and Peritz moved into her home.

In early February, Abel noticed that Peritz hadn’t paid the rent by the first of the month, as they’d agreed upon. After a week’s delay and several apologies, the money appeared in Abel’s account. “Okay,” she thought, “he’s a little disorganized.”

In March, Peritz again failed to pay on time. He said his wife had an emergency dental procedure that they’d had to pay for out of pocket, and he once again profusely apologized for the inconvenience. Getting worried, Abel gave him a chance to break the lease, but he declined, promising to catch up on his payments.

By the time April 1 came and went without a rent check, Abel had had enough. She wrote Peritz to tell him she was taking him to small-claims court. Around the same time, Abel’s neighbors began writing her increasingly concerned emails. One of them had even seen Peritz taking her furniture down the driveway to the office in the garage late at night. They rarely, if ever, saw his wife or son.

Abel got in touch with the Kensington Police Department, which sent an officer by the house to talk with Peritz. The officer emailed Abel to tell her that he thought Peritz was “trying to establish squatters rights or lock you out,” and that she should have a cop accompany her when she eventually came back home. Someone from the police department would tell her she should start the eviction process as soon as possible. It might take weeks, even months, to get Peritz out of her house.

It’s not easy to evict someone in California. Generally that’s a good thing—especially in the Bay Area, one of the nation’s most expensive places to live. In a region where it’s not uncommon for one-bedroom apartments to rent for more than $3,000 a month, there’s an obvious incentive for landlords to find excuses to force out tenants and jack up the rent.

When a tenant stops paying rent, the eviction process goes like this: First, he or she must be served a three-day notice of what he owes. Once that notice has expired without payment, the landlord has to file what’s known as an unlawful detainer complaint, which must then be served to the renter along with a court summons. The renter has five days to respond, and either party can request a court date within the next 20 days. Along the way, the case can get delayed for any number of reasons, stretching out the process to a couple of months. In the meantime, the tenant stays put, rent-free.

This process was set up in part to protect tenants from predatory landlords. But in some instances it has provided cover for people looking to score a few months of free housing. In 2008, SF Weekly reported that there were between 20 and 100 serial evictees operating in San Francisco—bouncing from home to home without ever paying a dime.

The sharing economy has provided new opportunities for grifters to game the system. So-called Airbnb squatters—like the pair of brothers who refused to leave a Palm Springs condo in the summer of 2014 after paying one month’s rent—have become more common. It’s enough of an issue that Airbnb has a page devoted to the topic; it warns that local laws may allow long-term guests to establish tenants’ rights.

“I’m always amazed at how many risks people take with their home,” says Leah Simon-Weisberg, the legal director at a Bay Area tenants’ rights organization and a commissioner on Berkeley’s rent board. “You let these total strangers in, you know nothing about their credit, you’ve never met them before, and you let them into your home with your stuff. I mean, it kind of blows my mind.”

A day after Abel cut her sabbatical short and flew home to confront Peritz in person, she sent him an email to confirm that she wanted him out so she could move back in on May 1.

Peritz responded several days later. He wrote that he wasn’t “presently in a position to vacate the premises.” He also told her he’d been in touch with an attorney, and said if Abel tried to evict him, they’d end up in court, which “could be expensive, time consuming and draining for both of us.”

Peritz also blamed Abel for his inability to find a new place to stay, claiming that she had “submitted a false feedback report” on SabbaticalHomes.com. The lawyer, he said, had called it a “textbook case of libel.” “I realize that your intentions in making that report were good,” Peritz wrote, “but it remains the case that what you reported was false and that we have been damaged by it.” He said if she was willing to negotiate or arbitrate a settlement, he was “amenable to releasing you from all potential liability that could result from your false report.”

Abel was stunned. Not only had a tenured professor who lists “social contract theory” among his research interests exploited her trust, but now he was digging in and dragging things out. How much time, effort, and money would it take to get back into the home where she’d raised her son, written a couple of books, and lived for the better part of her adult life?

In early May, Abel moved into a neighbor’s house right across the street from her home. There, in an upstairs bedroom, she set up what she semi-jokingly refers to as “command central.” “I became,” she says, “relatively obsessed with all this.”

The room had two windows, one facing Abel’s home. She would often sit in the comfortable chair she’d placed next to the front window—alongside a stack of folders full of correspondence with her lawyer and various state and local agencies. Every day, she looked out and saw Peritz’s red pickup truck parked on the street.

With the help of a private investigator, Abel began to learn about Peritz’s erratic rental history. For starters, she discovered that when he first reached out to her—assuring her in an email, “We have sublet and house-sat several times before, and have references to say that we are responsible, considerate, quiet, clean and reasonably easy going”—he was in the middle of being evicted from another rental home in Berkeley. (The case was eventually settled out of court.) The PI also turned up at least one eviction attempt in New York City, as well as multiple federal and New York state tax liens.

There was more. After Abel had complained to SabbaticalHomes.com, the site’s founder, Nadege Conger, alerted several other users whom Peritz had been in touch with and blocked his account. When he created a new account with a different email address, that was blocked, too. Conger also connected Abel with a New York City couple, both professors, who’d threatened Peritz with a lawsuit when he stopped paying rent while subletting their apartment in 2015. When the couple returned from a six-month trip, they claimed Peritz owed them approximately $5,375. Photos show that their apartment was a mess: Furniture was broken, paintings had gone missing, and the floors had been stripped from what looked like repeated scrubbing. (Peritz had told them in an email that he’d been mopping frequently to keep down the dust from construction next door.) The couple didn’t write a negative review of Peritz because they didn’t think it would make much of a difference, and they didn’t contact his supervisors at Sarah Lawrence—a small liberal arts college in nearby Westchester County—because they feared a lawsuit.

Armed with this information, Abel reached out to people who knew Peritz—colleagues at UC-Berkeley, old classmates, anyone who might have some insight into his motivations. Some of his longtime friends agreed to try to convince him to leave her house, and soon.

As May stretched on, an anonymous blog called David Peritz—Unlawful Detainer popped up. “Do Not Rent Your Home to David Peritz,” the site blares; Peritz’s official headshot is stamped “Serial Evictee.” It’s not clear who made it; Abel says she had nothing to do with it. (“I wouldn’t know how to, first of all,” she told me.)

Abel eventually reached out to Sarah Lawrence to see if it might investigate Peritz’s behavior. In a brief, apologetic response, Dean of the College Kanwal Singh wrote that the school “cannot take any action in this case as it has nothing to do with the College.”

Abel’s colleagues at UC-Berkeley, on the other hand, weren’t shy about getting involved. She had seen that Peritz had a copy of a book by political scientist Wendy Brown; figuring that he might admire Brown’s work, Abel asked her and her longtime partner, renowned gender theorist Judith Butler, if they’d mind contacting him. They agreed.

Butler sent Peritz two epic, eviscerating emails. The first began, “I have recently become aware of your scurrilous behavior—effectively squatting in the home of my colleague, Elizabeth Abel. If you are not out of that apartment within five days time, I will write to every colleague in your field explaining the horrible scam you have committed.” The second, written less than a week later, bore the subject line “your miscalculation” and included this withering coup de grâce:

…please accept the fact that you have painted yourself into a corner, and that you have to leave promptly, and with an apology and a payment plan, in order to avoid any further destruction to your professional and personal world. Your itinerary of self-destruction is a stellar one.

Brown’s email was equally harsh. “It’s past time for you to leave. And in case you are wondering whether there are any future possibilities of teaching at Berkeley, the answer is an emphatic no,” she wrote. “The game is up.”

I’ve reached out multiple times to Peritz to get his side of the story. In his response to my initial email, he denied “the veracity of most of what is said about me” on the blog about him. He said he would meet with me, if only to correct the record. He then stopped responding to my emails and phone calls. After a later exchange of messages to set up a meeting, Peritz said his lawyer had “strongly advised” him against commenting further. He ultimately responded to just one of the many questions I emailed him and his attorney.

Without hearing from Peritz, it’s impossible to know why he’s jumped from one messy rental fight to another. Some of his old friends shake their heads at his situation but will not speculate on the record about his motivations. One longtime acquaintance declined an interview request, writing in an email, “David Peritz was once a friend of mine, and I am reluctant to play a part in a story that would make his life more difficult.”

As news of his run-in with Abel has spread among the academic community, it has trickled into his professional life. While Peritz was in California over the summer (and part time in the fall), he gave lectures in a number of continuing-education institutes and at area senior centers. A group of students pushed to cancel his continuing-education classes at UC-Berkeley and other Bay Area universities. Acknowledging the buzz about Peritz’s rental history, the director of San Francisco’s Fromm Institute, a nonprofit offering classes to retirees, told a group of colleagues in an email that he’d written Peritz to assure him that “attempts to besmirch your reputation will have no bearing on our mutually rewarding relationship.” (The director, Robert Fordham, responded to a request for comment by writing, “Prof. David Peritz continues to be a teacher at the Fromm Institute who is highly evaluated by his students for his work in the classroom with them.”)

Peritz returned to Sarah Lawrence to teach this past fall; a college spokeswoman declined to comment for this story. But it appears that he will continue to live at least part time in the Bay Area through the spring. He told me in an email that he was making frequent trips between New York and California to help care for his mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease. “I will continue to do so so long as I am able to,” he wrote. “I have done some teaching in the Bay Area to help offset the costs of my trips.”

According to the course registry for San Francisco State University’s continuing-education program, he’ll be teaching a class there starting in January. The name of the course: “Ethics and Politics of New Technology.”

In late May, a superior court judge ruled in Abel’s favor: Peritz had to vacate her house by 4 p.m. on Memorial Day and pay what he still owed her starting in the fall.

When the day came, she gathered across the street with a few friends and neighbors, watching Peritz slowly load his truck. At four o’clock, Abel crossed the street, walked up to Peritz, and asked for the keys. He handed them over, and, after a testy back-and-forth about his belongings that were still inside the house, Abel’s friends hauled them out to the curb.

When Peritz drove off, Abel popped open some champagne and her friends toasted his departure. He was finally gone.

Moving back into her house, though, wasn’t without incident. First of all, Abel had to move all her furniture back into her house from her office and basement, where Peritz had stored it. And when she went to put her pictures back on the walls, Abel realized she couldn’t figure out where exactly they’d previously hung: The nails had been removed, the holes had been spackled over, and the walls had been repainted.

Abel holds out hope that her experience could lead to a change in California’s eviction laws, or at least keep someone else from being duped. And while her trust in people was “radically challenged” by her encounter with Peritz, she says she has felt that soften as time has gone by. “I still feel that most people are trustworthy,” she says. “It’s something about my temperament and inclination to believe what people say.”

According to the terms of their settlement, Peritz was scheduled to begin paying Abel his back rent at the end of September, though she resigned herself to never seeing that money. But one night, Abel returned home to find an envelope containing an $800 money order—his first settlement payment. It had been slipped through the mail slot in her front door. “He does manage,” Abel told me the next day, “to keep one off-guard.”

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The Crazy Story of the Professor Who Came to Stay—and Wouldn’t Leave

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Obama Orders a Review of Russian Meddling in the US Election—But How Much of It Will Be Public?

Mother Jones

President Barack Obama has added momentum to the call for an investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. On Friday morning, Lisa Monaco, a top White House aide on homeland security, told a group of reporters that the president has directed the national intelligence community to conduct a “full review” of Russian interference in the campaign.

Obama’s decision comes as members of Congress have upped the volume on demands that the Russian hacking of Democratic targets be probed. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House government oversight committee, has urged Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the chairman of that committee, to mount a congressional investigation of Moscow’s intervention in the election. But Chaffetz, who prior to the election vowed to fiercely investigate Hillary Clinton should she win, has not responded to Cummings’ request, according to a Cummings spokeswoman. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York have seconded Cummings’ call for a congressional investigation.

This week, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he will mount a probe of Russian cyber penetrations of US weapons systems and noted that he expects this inquiry will also cover hacking related to the election. “The problem with hacking,” McCain said, “is that if they’re able to disrupt elections, then it’s a national security issue, obviously.” And the Washington Post reported that Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Richard Burr (R-S.C.), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, have also expressed interest in examining the Russian hacking.

Meanwhile, a group of high-ranking House Democrats sent a letter to President Barack Obama requesting a classified briefing on Russian involvement in the election, and seven Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee publicly pressed the Obama administration to declassify more information about Russia’s intervention in the election. Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio have also urged a congressional investigation of Russian interference. “I’m going after Russia in every way you can go after Russia,” Graham told CNN. “I think they’re one of the most destabilizing influences on the world stage, I think they did interfere with our elections, and I want Putin personally to pay a price.”

Cummings has also joined with Rep. Eric Swalwell, (D-Calif.), a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, to introduce legislation to create a bipartisan commission to investigate attempts by the Russian government or persons in Russia to interfere with the election. The commission would consist of 12 members, equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, and would be granted subpoena power, the ability to hold public hearings, and the task of producing a public report.

And that’s the key thing: a public report.

With the Obama administration and its intelligence services having already declared that Russia hacked Democratic targets during the election and swiped material that was ultimately released through WikiLeaks, the public certainly deserves to know more about this operation. How did it happen? How has it been investigated by US agencies? How can future cyber interventions be prevented and future US elections secured from foreign influence?

The Obama-ordered probe is due before he leaves office on January 20, and it will likely be the first of all the possible investigations to be completed. (Presumably, the CIA, the FBI, and the National Security Agency were already looking into the topic.) But there’s no telling how much of this review, if any, will be released publicly. A White House spokesman tells Mother Jones, “Hard to say right now, but we’ll certainly intend to make public as much as we can consistent with the protection of classified sources and methods and any active law enforcement investigations.”

In response to the news of the Obama review, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top member of the House Intelligence Committee, declared, “The Administration should work to declassify as much of it as possible, while protecting our sources and methods, and make it available to the public.”

Yet this review may or may not yield a public accounting. And a congressional investigation might or might not include public hearings and a public report. Only the independent bipartisan commission proposed by Cummings and Swalwell would mandate the release of a public report.

While all the recent developments on this front are heartening for citizens who want to know to what degree American democracy was affected by covert Russian actions, there is so far no assurance that Americans will be presented the full truth. For Obama’s review to be released publicly, it will likely have to be scrubbed for classified information—a process that can take time. And if time runs out, the new Trump administration might not be keen on putting out a declassified version of the report. President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly refused to acknowledge Russian involvement with the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other Democratic targets. Would he want to release a report that contradicted him or that could be seen as tainting his electoral victory?

Talking to reporters, Monaco declined to say what she expected the Obama-ordered review to unearth. “We’ll see what comes out of the report,” she said. “There will be a report to a range of stakeholders, including Congress.”

But the biggest stakeholder of all is the American voter.

UPDATE: On Friday night bombshell news reports noted that the CIA had assessed Russia intervened in the US election to help Trump win; that during the campaign senior congressional Republicans, including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, had resisted a private White House request to be part of a bipartisan effort to call out Russian hacking of Democratic and political targets; and that Moscow had penetrated the computer system of the Republican National Committee but had not publicly disseminated any of the stolen material.

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Obama Orders a Review of Russian Meddling in the US Election—But How Much of It Will Be Public?

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Confessions of a Gun Range Worker

Mother Jones

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Editor’s note: Americans today aren’t just stockpiling guns in record numbers; they are also shooting them at upward of 2,100 gun ranges across the country. In February, the pseudonymous author of this piece—a former employee at a gun range in Orange County, California—contacted Mother Jones reporter Josh Harkinson, who interviewed the author and corroborated his account (as told to Harkinson below) through official documents, news reports, and interviews with two other former employees of the gun range. The management and owner of the gun range did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

I’ve worked in the firearms industry for decades, including at a range in Orange County, California. It’s inside an industrial park, in your standard warehouse type of building. People come in and say, “Oh, I never knew this place existed.” Once you check in, there are two entryways and 16 lanes. The lanes are monitored by video cameras, and there are also large double-paned windows, which, it turns out, are not made of bulletproof glass.

I later worked as a contractor at ranges all over the region. I’ve seen a lot. I’ve witnessed multiple suicides. Three rampage shooters practiced at the Orange County range. The general vibe at the ranges has gotten much more extreme and paranoid. I don’t think this is unique to where I worked. The gun industry is really changing for the worse.

I was attracted to guns as a teenager because my family had been victims of violent crime. My dad had been mugged and my family has been held up in their store at least a couple of times at gunpoint. I guess you could say it’s a way of reclaiming some sense of power over a powerless situation.

My first gun was a military surplus bolt-action, a Lee Enfield. The ATF has a category for these things: curio and relic weapons. It was the only gun that at 18 years old I could legally purchase and walk out the door with. It was fully capable of punching through a car or a cinder block. I started buying and fixing up other relic firearms. At the time I was a college student; I’d sell a gun and use the money to pay for my books. I can’t even remember all the guns I’ve owned. That’s part of what attracted me to working at the range. You would see all sorts of different guns come through. I also came to enjoy the camaraderie. In some ways it’s not just a range so much as a gathering place for a certain type of crotchety old man. You sit there on the bench and drink your nasty cup of coffee and trade lies and war stories. For me, it was something that I kind of didn’t have growing up, because my dad wasn’t always there.

But there were certain people who were difficult. At some point during the day, you would have a gun pointed at you. I had a guy with Parkinson’s, and he had severe muscle tremors. He can’t hold the gun properly, and it jams. He walks off the range, he’s pointing the gun at me, and he’s saying, “Hey, hey, my gun is jammed!” I sidestep the muzzle and say, “Let’s have a look, shall we?” All the while that I am handling it I am saying, “You really shouldn’t be doing that.” And the guy, without missing a beat, says, “It’s all right, the safety’s on the gun.” I pull the slide back and there’s a live round that ejects from the chamber. And I’m thinking, okay, I was a three-pound trigger pull away from getting shot.

The ranges make a lot of their money from renting guns to people—those are the people you really have to watch out for. Like the time we rented a Ruger handgun to this woman. After I turned my back to her, she put the gun behind her ear and blew a nice, clean, round hole through the center of her head. I didn’t really feel anything at the time. At first it was disbelief, and then I thought, “Oh, I’ve got to take care of stuff.” Different guys handle it differently. I know a guy who quit right after something like this happened.

Our standard operating procedure when this happens is to call a cease-fire. Then we clear the range so that nobody is in any danger. Then sometimes you’d go up and, if it’s safe to do so, you’d kick the gun out. I still remember this: The manager at the time wound up putting gloves on and plugging the side of her head with his fingers. I’m thinking, “This isn’t going to do a whole lot. She’s toast, dude.” Not to be callous about it, but she was dead. Her eyes were flapping, there was nothing there.

Gun ranges often have policies that require anyone who rents a gun to be accompanied by a friend. It’s supposed to be a way to prevent suicides, but it doesn’t always work very well. Eventually the range started paying a service to come pick up the bodies and scrub everything. But before that happened, Christ, what was it? Bleach and kitty litter. I remember one time I had come in for a shift change and there was a pool of blood. We didn’t have any bleach but we did have some kitty litter. I remember using that to soak up the blood. And because we didn’t have the bleach, some of my members were kind enough to go across the street to the grocery store and buy some. In hindsight, we had no protocols, we had no protective suits. I could have exposed myself to blood-borne pathogens.

Another one was a father who was getting divorced. He was a pretty big guy. I felt the impact, and when I turned around there was pandemonium. Some of my members came rushing out the door yelling at me to call the police, and we did. The guy had sent suicidal text messages to his family. It made the paper because he was a beloved figure in the community, big into Little League. He was totally normal acting. And the next thing you know, you have 300 pounds hitting the floor.

I feel sorry for the families. Anybody who is that depressed for the most part has my sympathy. I do get a little bit irritated that they have to do it while I’m on duty. I think it’s kind of—I don’t know if you’d say inconsiderate—but almost that. You can’t really ask these people, “Hey, if you are going to kill yourself, why don’t you do it out in the desert or something like that?”

Around 2002, a middle-aged guy named Hesham Hadayet came into the range. He’d purchased a gun at a store. He asked me, “Hey, can you show me how to load and operate this gun?” I am thinking, “Wait a minute, didn’t you just take a class?” I’m like, “Fine, not a problem.” I think he came in two or three more times. I didn’t pay any attention to it. Well, a few months later, I turn on the TV and I see this guy’s face. He’d shot up a ticket counter at LAX. He killed two people and injured two more before being fatally shot by a security guard.

The second guy, Phong Thuc Tran, also shot at the range. He worked for the gas company and had been forced to resign. After he killed his supervisor and his co-worker, he was running around for like a day or two before he parked his car in front of a police station. That’s where he shot himself. We only found out about it when the local cops walked in. The guy, he was a little off, but he was very quiet, respectful. No outward signs of anger. You never would’ve known.

The third one, Scott Dekraai, practiced at the range in 2011 and after that he goes on a shooting rampage. He shot nine people at the Salon Meritage hair salon in Seal Beach, including his ex-wife. Only one of them survived.

We talked about them amongst ourselves, but if a member of the shooting public comes in and wants to, we pretty much dummy up. Because who wants to say, “Hey, yeah, there was a mass murderer here at the range?”

There are some good bosses that run these ranges, but for the most part they willingly overlook the fact that this stuff is dangerous. And I’m not just talking about the guns. They’re supposed to properly train people for handling lead, which gets released in large quantities by spent bullets. There’s not really a safe level for lead in your body once you get above five micrograms per deciliter of blood. At the end of the day, you’ve got various things that you have to clean up: the brass shells, paper from the targets, un-burnt powder from the ammunition, little bits of atomized lead. Anything with high enough concentrations of lead is supposed to be put into a canister and treated as hazardous material, but that didn’t always happen.

We’d get tested for lead in our bodies maybe once or twice a year. They would kind of look sideways at you if you asked for the test results. I knew better than that. I just said, “The hell with it.” But the last test that I had, it came back high. I was contacted by the California Department of Public Health, and the guy said, “Uh, why is your lead level so high?”

I started noticing a difference in the type of people coming to the range when Bill Clinton was president. It was the first time I had actually seen somebody post a picture of the president as a target. I told them, “Look, you can’t do that.” Now there’s a company that sells targets with images of Obama, and they put apelike features on him.

You never would have seen something like that 20 years ago when I started. It’s an echo chamber. It’s a place where people feel safe because they feel that people are of like mind. A few months ago, this woman wanted to know about getting her license. I asked her, “What do you need the gun for, if you don’t mind my asking? Was there a crime?” She said, “No, I think there’s going to be an influx of Muslims coming in from our southern border and then they are going to start killing people.” I’ve had people come up to me and say, “I don’t like it that you show these ragheads how to shoot.”

Paranoid? What would you call it when people have six months worth of food? What would you call it when people have 30-plus guns? What would you call it when they are stockpiling ammunition? The gun industry is making a killing, and it’s doing its best to fan the flames. You see stuff in internet gun forums like, “Hey, FEMA is purchasing a million and a half rounds of ammunition.” It’s supposedly because the government is preparing to come around and knock on your door and round you up into camps.

It all plays into people’s paranoid fantasies, and guns are always the solution. They give people a sense of control in a world that is out of control. You go into the NRA convention and look around at the sea of faces— I’m sorry, it’s a bunch of paranoid white guys who see their country slipping away from them. They think people like Trump, or the gun industry, are the “real” Americans. The gun industry could give a rat’s ass. They are laughing all the way to the bank.

I’m leaving the industry to make better money. Dude, I will still be into guns. I like working on ’em. My friends and I still shoot. But the other motivation, just as strong perhaps, is that I don’t want to have to be around a bunch of crazy people.

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Confessions of a Gun Range Worker

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Former Models for Donald Trump’s Agency Say They Violated Immigration Rules and Worked Illegally

Mother Jones

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Republican nominee Donald Trump has placed immigration at the core of his presidential campaign. He has claimed that undocumented immigrants are “taking our jobs” and “taking our money,” pledged to deport them en masse, and vowed to build a wall on the Mexican border. At one point he demanded a ban on Muslims entering the country. Speaking to supporters in Iowa on Saturday, Trump said he would crack down on visitors to the United States who overstay their visas and declared that when any American citizen “loses their job to an illegal immigrant, the rights of that American citizen have been violated.” And he is scheduled to give a major address on immigration in Arizona on Wednesday night.

But the mogul’s New York modeling agency, Trump Model Management, has profited from using foreign models who came to the United States on tourist visas that did not permit them to work here, according to three former Trump models, all noncitizens, who shared their stories with Mother Jones. Financial and immigration records included in a recent lawsuit filed by a fourth former Trump model show that she, too, worked for Trump’s agency in the United States without a proper visa.

Foreigners who visit the United States as tourists are generally not permitted to engage in any sort of employment unless they obtain a special visa, a process that typically entails an employer applying for approval on behalf of a prospective employee. Employers risk fines and possible criminal charges for using undocumented labor.

Founded in 1999, Trump Model Management “has risen to the top of the fashion market,” boasts the Trump Organization’s website, and has a name “that symbolizes success.” According to a financial disclosure filed by his campaign in May, Donald Trump earned nearly $2 million from the company, in which he holds an 85 percent stake. Meanwhile, some former Trump models say they barely made any money working for the agency because of the high fees for rent and other expenses that were charged by the company.

Canadian-born Rachel Blais spent nearly three years working for Trump Model Management. After first signing with the agency in March 2004, she said, she performed a series of modeling gigs for Trump’s company in the United States without a work visa. At Mother Jones‘ request, Blais provided a detailed financial statement from Trump Model Management and a letter from an immigration lawyer who, in the fall of 2004, eventually secured a visa that would permit her to work legally in the United States. These records show a six-month gap between when she began working in the United States and when she was granted a work visa. During that time, Blais appeared on Trump’s hit reality TV show, The Apprentice, modeling outfits designed by his business protégés. As Blais walked the runway, Donald Trump looked on from the front row.

Former Trump model Rachel Blais appeared in a 2004 episode of Donald Trump’s hit NBC reality show, The Apprentice. Trump Model Management had yet to secure her work visa. NBC

Two other former Trump models—who requested anonymity to speak freely about their experiences, and who we are giving the pseudonyms Anna and Kate—said the agency never obtained work visas on their behalf, even as they performed modeling assignments in the United States. (They provided photographs from some of these jobs, and Mother Jones confirmed with the photographers or stylists that these shoots occurred in the United States.)

Each of the three former Trump models said she arrived in New York with dreams of making it big in one of the world’s most competitive fashion markets. But without work visas, they lived in constant fear of getting caught. “I was pretty on edge most of the time I was there,” Anna said of the three months in 2009 she spent in New York working for Trump’s agency.

“I was there illegally,” she said. “A sitting duck.”

I Spent 5 Years With Some of Trump’s Biggest Fans. Here’s What They Won’t Tell You.

According to three immigration lawyers consulted by Mother Jones, even unpaid employment is against the law for foreign nationals who do not have a work visa. “If the US company is benefiting from that person, that’s work,” explained Anastasia Tonello, global head of the US immigration team at Laura Devine Attorneys in New York. These rules for immigrants are in place to “protect them from being exploited,” she said. “That US company shouldn’t be making money off you.”

Two of the former Trump models said Trump’s agency encouraged them to deceive customs officials about why they were visiting the United States and told them to lie on customs forms about where they intended to live. Anna said she received a specific instruction from a Trump agency representative: “If they ask you any questions, you’re just here for meetings.”

Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, declined to answer questions about Trump Model Management’s use of foreign labor. “That has nothing to do with me or the campaign,” she said, adding that she had referred Mother Jones‘ queries to Trump’s modeling agency. Mother Jones also sent detailed questions to Trump Model Management. The company did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls requesting comment.

Fashion industry sources say that skirting immigration law in the manner that the three former Trump models described was once commonplace in the modeling world. In fact, Politico recently raised questions about the immigration status of Donald Trump’s current wife, Melania, during her days as a young model in New York in the 1990s. (In response to the Politico story, Melania Trump said she has “at all times been in compliance with the immigration laws of this country.”)

Kate, who worked for Trump Model Management in 2004, marveled at how her former boss has recently branded himself as an anti-illegal-immigration crusader on the campaign trail. “He doesn’t want to let anyone into the US anymore,” she said. “Meanwhile, behind everyone’s back, he’s bringing in all of these girls from all over the world and they’re working illegally.”

Now 31 years old and out of the modeling business, Blais once appeared in various publications, including Vogue, Elle, and Harpers Bazaar, and she posed wearing the designs of such fashion luminaries as Gianfranco Ferré, Dolce & Gabbana, and Jean Paul Gaultier. Her modeling career began when she was 16 and spanned numerous top-name agencies across four continents. She became a vocal advocate for models and appeared in a 2011 documentary, Girl Model, that explored the darker side of the industry. In a recent interview, she said her experience with Trump’s firm stood out: “Honestly, they are the most crooked agency I’ve ever worked for, and I’ve worked for quite a few.”

Rachel Blais appeared in this Elle fashion spread, published in September 2004, while working for Trump’s agency without a proper visa. Elle

Freshly signed to Trump Model Management, the Montreal native traveled to New York City by bus in April 2004. Just like “the majority of models who are young, have never been to NYC, and don’t have papers, I was just put in Trump’s models’ apartment,” she said. Kate and Anna also said they had lived in this apartment.

Models’ apartments, as they’re known in the industry, are dormitory-style quarters where agencies pack their talent into bunks, in some cases charging the models sky-high rent and pocketing a profit. According to the three former models, Trump Model Management housed its models in a two-floor, three-bedroom apartment in the East Village, near Tompkins Square Park. Mother Jones is withholding the address of the building, which is known in the neighborhood for its model tenants, to protect the privacy of the current residents.

When Blais lived in the apartment, she recalled, a Trump agency representative who served as a chaperone had a bedroom to herself on the ground floor of the building. A narrow flight of stairs led down to the basement, where the models lived in two small bedrooms that were crammed with bunk beds—two in one room, three in the other. An additional mattress was located in a common area near the stairs. At times, the apartment could be occupied by 11 or more people.

“We’re herded into these small spaces,” Kate said. “The apartment was like a sweatshop.”

Trump Model Management recruited models as young as 14. “I was by far the oldest in the house at the ripe old age of 18,” Anna said. “The bathroom always smelled like burned hair. I will never forget the place!” She added, “I taught myself how to write, ‘Please clean up after yourself’ in Russian.”

Living in the apartment during a sweltering New York summer, Kate picked a top bunk near a street-level window in the hopes of getting a little fresh air. She awoke one morning to something splashing her face. “Oh, maybe it’s raining today,” she recalled thinking. But when she peered out the window, “I saw the one-eyed monster pissing on me,” she said. “There was a bum pissing on my window, splashing me in my Trump Model bed.”

“Such a glamorous industry,” she said.

Blais, who previously discussed some of her experiences in an interview with Public Radio International, said the models weren’t in a position to complain about their living arrangements. “You’re young,” she remarked, “and you know that if you ask too many questions, you’re not going to get the work.”

A detailed financial statement provided by Blais shows that Trump’s agency charged her as much as $1,600 a month for a bunk in a room she shared with five others. Kate said she paid about $1,200 a month—”highway robbery,” she called it. For comparison, in the summer of 2004, an entire studio apartment nearby was advertised at $1,375 a month.

From April to October 2004, Blais traveled between the United States and Europe, picking up a string of high-profile fashion assignments for Trump Model Management and making a name for herself in the modeling world. During the months she spent living and working in New York, Blais said, she only had a tourist visa. “Most of the girls in the apartment that were not American didn’t have a work visa,” she recalled.

Here’s How Trump (Allegedly) Stiffed an 82-Year-Old Immigrant Over an Unpaid Bill

Anna and Kate also said they each worked for Trump’s agency while holding tourist visas. “I started out doing test-shoots but ended up doing a couple of lookbooks,” Anna said. (A lookbook is a modeling portfolio.) “Nothing huge, but definitely shoots that classified as ‘work.'”

Employers caught hiring noncitizens without proper visas can be fined up to $16,000 per employee and, in some cases, face up to six months in prison.

The three former Trump models said Trump’s agency was aware of the complications posed by their foreign status. Anna and Kate said the company coached them on how to circumvent immigration laws. Kate recalled being told, “When you’re stuck at immigration, say that you’re coming as a tourist. If they go through your luggage and they find your portfolio, tell them that you’re going there to look for an agent.”

Anna recalled that prior to her arrival, Trump agency staffers were “dodging around” her questions about her immigration status and how she could work legally in the United States. “Until finally,” she said, “it came to two days before I left, and they told me my only option was to get a tourist visa and we could work the rest out when I got there. We never sorted the rest out.”

Arriving in the United States, Anna grew terrified. “Going through customs for this trip was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life,” she added. “It’s hard enough when you’re there perfectly innocently, but when you know you’ve lied on what is essentially a federal document, it’s a whole new world.”

“Am I sweaty? Am I red? Am I giving this away?” Anna remembered thinking as she finally faced a customs officer. After making it through immigration, she burst into tears.

Industry experts say that violating immigration rules has been the status quo in the fashion world for years. “It’s been common, almost standard, for modeling agencies to encourage girls to come into the country illegally,” said Sara Ziff, the founder of the Model Alliance, an advocacy group that claimed a major success in 2014 after lobbying the New York State legislature to pass a bill increasing protections for child models.

Bringing models into the United States on tourist visas was “very common,” said Susan Scafidi, the director of Fordham University’s Fashion Law Institute. “I’ve had tons of agencies tell me this, that this used to happen all the time, and that the cover story might be something like ‘I’m coming in for a friend’s birthday,’ or ‘I’m coming in to visit my aunt,’ that sort of thing.”

Read a letter from an immigration attorney confirming Rachel Blais’ eligibility to work in the US. Pierre Roussel/ZUMA

For their part, modeling agencies have complained about the time and resources required to bring a foreign model into the country and have insisted that US immigration laws are out of step with their fast-paced industry. “If there are girls that we can’t get into the United States, the client is going to take that business elsewhere,” Corinne Nicolas, the president of Trump Model Management, told the New York Daily News in 2008. “The market is calling for foreign girls.”

In 2007, a few years before his career imploded in a sexting scandal, former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) sponsored a bill that would give models the same kind of work visas that international entertainers and athletes receive. The tabloids had a field day­—”Give me your torrid, your pure, your totally smokin’ foreign babes,” screamed a Daily News headline—and the effort ultimately failed.

Trump Model Management sponsored only its most successful models for work visas, the three former models said. Those who didn’t cut it were sent home, as was the case, Blais noted, with many of her roommates.

“It was very much the case of you earn your visa,” Anna said. “Essentially, if you got enough work and they liked you enough, they’d pay for a visa, but you weren’t about to see a dime before you could prove your worth.”

The company eventually secured an H-1B visa for Blais. Such visas allow US companies to employ workers in specialized fields. According to financial records provided by Blais, the company deducted the costs of obtaining a work visa from her earnings. (The agency did not obtain work visas for Anna and Kate, who each left the United States after their stints with Trump Model Management.)

H-1B visas have been increasingly popular in the high-tech field, and Trump’s companies, including Trump Model Management, have used this program extensively in the past. But on the campaign trail, Trump has railed against the H-1B program and those who he says abuse it. “I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program,” Trump said in March. “No exceptions.”

Nearly three years after signing with Trump’s agency, Blais had little to show for it—and it wasn’t for lack of modeling jobs. Under the contracts that she and other Trump models had signed, the company advanced money for rent and various other expenses (such as trainers, beauty treatments, travel, and administrative costs), deducting these charges from its clients’ modeling fees. But these charges—including the pricey rent that Blais and her roommates paid—consumed nearly all her modeling earnings. “I only got one check from Trump Models, and that’s when I left them,” she said. “I got $8,000 at most after having worked there for three years and having made tens of thousands of dollars.” (The check Blais received was for $8,427.35.)

“This is a system where they actually end up making money on the back of these foreign workers,” Blais added. She noted that models can end up in debt to their agencies, once rent and numerous other fees are extracted.

This is known in the industry as “agency debt.” Kate said her bookings never covered the cost of living in New York. After two months, she returned home. “I left indebted to them,” she said, “and I never went back, and I never paid them back.”

The experiences the former Trump models related to Mother Jones echo allegations in an ongoing class-action lawsuit against six major modeling agencies by nine former models who have claimed their agencies charged them exorbitant fees for rent and other expenses. One plaintiff, Marcelle Almonte, has alleged that her agency charged her $1,850 per month to live in a two-bedroom Miami Beach apartment with eight other models. The market rate for apartments in the same building ran no more than $3,300 per month, according to the complaint. (Trump Model Management, which was initially named in an earlier version of this lawsuit, was dropped from the case in 2013, after the judge narrowed the number of defendants.) Models “were largely trapped by these circumstances if they wanted to continue to pursue a career in modeling,” the complaint alleges.

Read Alexia Palmer’s complaint against Trump Model Management. Wavebreakmedia/iStock

“It is like modern-day slavery” Blais said of working for Trump Model Management—and she is not alone in describing her time with Trump’s company in those terms. Former Trump model Alexia Palmer, who filed a lawsuit against Trump Model Management for fraud and wage theft in 2014, has said she “felt like a slave.”

Palmer has alleged that she was forced to pay hefty—sometimes mysterious—fees to Trump’s agency. These were fees on top of the 20 percent commission she paid for each job the company booked. Palmer charged that during three years of modeling for Trump’s company, she earned only $3,880.75. A New York judge dismissed Palmer’s claim in March because, among other reasons, she had not taken her case first to the Department of Labor. Lawyers for Trump Model Management called Palmer’s lawsuit “frivolous” and “without merit.”

Palmer filed a complaint with the Department of Labor this spring, and in August the agency dismissed the case. Palmer’s lawyer, Naresh Gehi, said he is appealing the decision. Since he began representing Palmer, he said, fashion models who worked for other agencies have approached him with similar stories. “These are people that are coming out of the closet and explaining to the world how they are being exploited,” he said. “They are the most vulnerable.”

Documents filed in Palmer’s case indicate that she worked in the United States without a work visa after being recruited by Trump’s agency from her native Jamaica. Gehi declined to discuss his client’s immigration status.

Former Trump model Alexia Palmer posed for this Teen Vogue shoot in January 2011. She secured a work visa in October 2011. Teen Vogue

A Caribbean model contest launched Palmer’s career in 2010, and at age 17 she signed an exclusive contract with Trump Model Management in January 2011. Department of Labor records show she received approval to work in the United States beginning in October 2011. Yet according to a financial statement filed as evidence in her case, Palmer started working in the United States nine months before this authorization was granted. Her financial records list a January 22, 2011, job for Condé Nast, when she posed for a Teen Vogue spread featuring the cast of Glee. (The shoot took place at Milk Studios in Los Angeles.)

“That whole period, from January to September, was not authorized,” said Pankaj Malik, a partner at New York-based Ballon, Stoll, Bader & Nadler who has worked on immigration issues for over two decades and who reviewed Palmer’s case for Mother Jones. “You can’t do any of that. It’s so not allowed.”

Trump has taken an active role at Trump Model Management from its founding. He has personally signed models who have participated in his Miss Universe and Miss USA competitions, where his agency staff appeared as judges. Melania Trump was a Trump model for a brief period after meeting her future husband in the late 1990s.

The agency is a particular point of pride for Trump, who has built his brand around glitz and glamour. “True Trumpologists know the model agency is only a tiny part of Trumpland financially,” the New York Sun wrote in 2004. “But his agency best evokes a big Trump theme—sex sells.” Trump has often cross-pollinated his other business ventures with fashion models and has used them as veritable set pieces when he rolls out new products. Trump models, including Blais, appeared on The Apprentice—and they flanked him at the 2004 launch of his Parker Brothers board game, TRUMP.

Part of Blais’ job, she said, was to serve as eye candy at Trump-branded events. Recalling the first time she met the mogul, she said, “I had to go to the Trump Vodka opening.” It was a glitzy 2006 gala at Trump Tower where Busta Rhymes performed, and Trump unveiled his (soon-to-be-defunct) line of vodka. “It was part of my duty to go and be seen and to be photographed and meet Donald Trump and shake his hand,” she remembered.

Trump made a strong impression on her that night. “I knew that I was a model and there was objectification in the job, but this was another level,” she said. Blais left Trump Model Management the year after the Trump Vodka gala, feeling that she had been exploited and shortchanged by the agency.

Kate, who went on to have a successful career with another agency, also parted ways with Trump’s company in disgust. “My overall experience was not a very good one,” she said. “I left with a bad taste in my mouth. I didn’t like the agency. I didn’t like where they had us living. Honestly, I felt ripped off.”

These days, Kate said, she believes that Trump has been fooling American voters with his anti-immigrant rhetoric, given that his own agency had engaged in the practices he has denounced. “He doesn’t like the face of a Mexican or a Muslim,” she said, “but because these models are beautiful girls, it’s okay? He’s such a hypocrite.”

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Former Models for Donald Trump’s Agency Say They Violated Immigration Rules and Worked Illegally

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The Corrections Corporation of America, by the Numbers

Mother Jones

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Read Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer’s firsthand account of his four months spent working as a guard at a corporate-run prison in Louisiana.

The Corrections Corporation of America launched the era of private prisons in 1983, when it opened a immigration detention center in an former motel in Houston, Texas. Today the Nashville-based company houses more than 66,000 inmates, making it the country’s second-largest private prison company. In 2015, it reported $1.9 billion in revenue and made more than $221 million in net income—more than $3,300 for each prisoner in its care. More on CCA’s operations:

Where CCA operates

CCA runs 61 facilities across the United States.

These include 34 state prisons, 14 federal prisons, 9 immigration detention centers, and 4 jails.
It owns 50 of these sites.
38 hold men, 2 hold women, 20 hold both sexes, and 1 holds women and children.
17 are in Texas, 7 are in Tennessee, and 6 are in Arizona.

No vacancy

CCA and other prison companies have written “occupancy guarantees” into their contracts, requiring states to pay a fee if they cannot provide a certain number of inmates. Winn Correctional Center was guaranteed to be 96 percent full.

Who owns CCA?

CCA’S biggest investor: The Vanguard Group, the country’s second-largest money management firm, holds 14 percent of CCA stock, valued at $447 million as of late 2015.

Notable company figures:

Thurgood Marshall Jr.: CCA board member, lawyer, and son of the first African American Supreme Court justice.
Charles Overby: CCA board member and former CEO of the Freedom Forum, a foundation that promotes press freedoms.
C. Michael Jacobi: CCA board member and chairman of gunmaker Sturm Ruger.
Harley Lappin: CCA’s chief corrections officer and former director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

CCA stock price, 1997-2016

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Getting out of prisons

A divestment movement targeting private-prison companies has convinced some major investors to cash in their CCA stocks. Some recent divestments and their estimated values:

Pershing Square Capital Management: $196 million
Systematic Financial Management: $93 million
General Electric: $54 million

“Frankly, we’re delighted to have a greater share of investors who are thoughtful about our business, can tell the difference between rhetoric and reality.” —CCA spokesman commenting on the University of California’s decision to divest in 2015.

CCA in court

CCA told shareholders it faced $4.2 million in liabilities related to lawsuits in 2015, but it said no pending cases would seriously affect its bottom line.

CCA will not disclose details about the lawsuits it faces. But data on more than 1,200 cases obtained by Prison Legal News offers a snapshot of the types of civil cases commonly filed against the company by its prisoners and employees.

Subjects of lawsuits filed against CCA

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Prisoners filed 82 percent of the more than 1,000 federal civil cases naming CCA as a defendant between 2010 and 2015. Federal prisoner suits against CCA have fallen since they peaked in 2000, perhaps due to a 1996 federal law that made it more difficult for inmates to sue prisons.

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The Corrections Corporation of America, by the Numbers

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Trump Delegate Says Current US Leaders May Need to Be "Killed"

Mother Jones

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Last December, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign approved David Riden to be a delegate candidate on the Tennessee ballot, and when the state held its primary in March, voters selected Riden to go to the Republican National Convention. When Riden represents Trump there in July, it will not be his first time as a delegate to a political gathering. Seven years ago in Illinois he attended the so-called “Continental Congress of 2009,” where he and other delegates put forth “Articles of Freedom” that called for abolishing all federal firearms laws, replacing the Department of Homeland Security with citizen militias, and, if necessary, launching an insurrection against the federal government.

Riden explains that his views today go even further than those of the Continental Congress of 2009—his involvement in which he says he explicitly disclosed to the Trump campaign when he applied to be a delegate. Riden told Mother Jones in an interview that US leaders who violate the Constitution may have to be done away with: “The polite word is ‘eliminated,'” he said. “The harsh word is ‘killed.'”

Riden said he keeps in contact with a militia group based in Tennessee, though he is not a militia member himself. He said all three branches of the US government are “way off away from the Constitution right now.” Americans may need to attack with assault weapons and bombs in the nation’s capital and elsewhere, he said:

There’s only one reason why the Founding Fathers put the Second Amendment…If the federal government were to follow the path of all other governments, at some point it will turn to tyranny against the people. And at that point, when it stops to uphold and abide by the Constitution—and we’re talking about the Supreme Court, Congress, and the executive branch, all three are way off away from the Constitution right now—the people have the right to assemble, bear arms, go to Washington, DC, or wherever necessary, and go into military battle against the government and replace those in government with individuals that will uphold the Constitution. The Constitution should remain, but the people that are abusing it should be, the polite word is, eliminated. The harsh word is killed. And they’re killed by American citizens with weapons. And if people have tanks, assault weapons, if they have bombs—they need to have the weaponry necessary to be able to overthrow the federal government.

Riden, a retired nuclear engineer, is one among an unknown number of Trump supporters with ties to the Patriot Movement, a loose-knit array of right-wing militias, nativists, and so-called “sovereign citizen” groups. These groups have swelled during the Barack Obama presidency. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, nearly 1,000 anti-government groups now operate in the United States, including as many as 276 armed militias, which have increased more than sixfold in number since Obama was elected in 2008.

The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

A different Trump delegate wrote an article, obtained by Mother Jones, that was published in the 1990s by a group opposing the federal government. And that delegate’s son—also a Trump delegate—was arrested recently on federal weapons charges.

Collins A. Bailey of Waldorf, Maryland, who was approved by Trump as a delegate from that state’s 5th Congressional District, wrote an article in 1995 that appeared in the newsletter of a Patriot group called United Sovereigns of America. Back then the militia movement was mushrooming in the aftermath of violent government crackdowns at Ruby Ridge and Waco. Bailey wrote about the Christian beliefs of America’s Founding Fathers: “These were men of conviction, men who had ‘No King But King Jesus.'” Bailey lauded a speech by Patrick Henry about organizing militias against the British, though he made no references to contemporary militias. An accompanying article in the newsletter, however, urged readers to “stockpile food, water, guns and ammunition,” and to “never surrender your weapons.”

Bailey is well known in Maryland Republican politics, having run unsuccessfully for Congress in 2008 and 2010. His campaigns have sounded themes of constitutional fundamentalism popular with the Patriot Movement. “Things are out of control,” he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 2008, around that year’s GOP national convention. “We should be a nation of laws under the Constitution; we should have the rule of law, not the rule of man.” Bailey used starker language on his personal MySpace page: “The Second Amendment does not address duck hunting,” he wrote in 2008. “Our Founding Fathers…wisely made many provisions to guard against tyranny, including tyranny from our own government.”

Reached briefly by phone and asked about the 1995 article, Bailey told Mother Jones: “No, we don’t have any ties to any militia groups, and I don’t remember ever submitting that to the organization you’re talking about. And that’s the only comment I can give you.” Then he hung up. (Mother Jones was unable to reach the Oklahoma-based United Sovereigns of America that published the 1995 newsletter; it appears to no longer exist.)

Read our investigation of the Patriot group called Oath Keepers.

By “we,” Bailey was also referring to a question about his son, Caleb A. Bailey, whom the Trump campaign also approved to be a delegate from Maryland to the Republican National Convention. The Trump campaign announced on May 19 that the younger Bailey would be “replaced immediately,” after Mother Jones and other media reported that he was indicted on federal weapons and child pornography charges. Unidentified federal investigators told local TV news station ABC 7 that when they raided Caleb Bailey’s 75-acre gated compound in Waldorf they found a fortified subterranean room under his home stocked with grenades, tear gas, and illegal machine guns.

It is unclear what Bailey’s intentions were for the stockpile, which federal prosecutors further described at a court hearing for him on May 26 as “a vast array of weapons found in an underground bunker.” Among the charges brought against Bailey, prosecutors allege that he attempted to mail ammunition and explosives to an individual in Wisconsin whose identity remains unclear. According to the US Attorney’s Office, “The contents of the package included 119 rounds of reloaded .50 caliber cartridges with M48A1 incendiary projectiles, and 200 rounds of 14.5mm M183A1 spotting projectiles which contain an explosive charge.”

The Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives (ATF), which led the raid, declined to comment specifically about the weapons discovered under Bailey’s home. Approached at the May 26 court hearing by Mother Jones and other media, Caleb Bailey’s attorney declined to comment.

The Patriot Movement, after quieting during the Bush years, has returned with a vengeance since Obama became president, animated by conspiracy theories including Mexican plans to “reconquer” the American Southwest and the infiltration of the United States by Muslims. As Obama’s reelection campaign ramped up in 2011, Trump became a ringleader for the conspiracy theory that Obama is not a native-born citizen of the United States. “I want to see the birth certificate,” Trump said on NBC’s Today show. “How come his family doesn’t know which hospital he was born in?” Trump later suggested that Obama might be withholding his long-form birth certificate for fear of revealing that he was born a Muslim. The New York business mogul became so well known for leading this line of attack that Obama (a Christian, born in Hawaii) was moved to rebuke him in what proved a memorable moment at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner.

Trump backed off the birther talk once Obama released his long-form birth certificate and Trump’s own presidential campaign began—though when pressed about it by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Trump continued to float doubts about whether Obama was born in the United States. “I don’t know,” Trump said last July. “I really don’t know. I don’t know why he wouldn’t release his records.”

Birtherism has remained a focus for Riden, the Tennessee delegate for Trump. “I am 100 percent convinced that Obama was not born in Hawaii,” he said.

Riden said he listed the Continental Congress of 2009 on the resume he submitted as part of his delegate application to the Trump campaign. He said he also included it among the subjects he wanted to discuss with the media during the Republican National Convention.

“There is no question that Trump is giving these groups more fuel,” says Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project for the Southern Poverty Law Center. Patriot groups have thrilled to Trump’s calls to deport undocumented immigrants and ban Muslim refugees. The leader of the anti-immigrant Minuteman Project, Jim Gilchrist, who recently endorsed Trump for president, hailed him last year for having “unified” the Patriot Movement’s fractious groups: “He is the go-to guy.”

Trump has also courted these constituents with subtler messaging. He criticized Obama for not swiftly evicting an armed group that occupied a federal office in early 2016 in rural Oregon. But Trump also tacitly legitimized the occupiers—led by the infamously anti-government Bundy familytelling the New York Times that if he were president, he would personally invite them to meet with him in Washington.

“This is dog-whistle politics,” says Beirich. “He is directly energizing sections on the extremist right.”

Riden said his wife, Perry Riden, who is an alternate Trump delegate from Tennessee’s 3rd Congressional District, also thinks Obama is dangerous. “My wife looks at me and says, ‘Remember, he is one of them.’ Meaning he is a Muslim, he is on the side of the terrorists, he will…let Iran have nuclear weapons, which would destroy Israel and the United States, because his way of thinking is right in line with Iran, North Korea, and Russia.”

After Mother Jones broke the story in early May that Trump had selected William Johnson, a white nationalist leader, as a delegate from California to the GOP convention, the Trump campaign blamed Johnson’s inclusion on a “database error.” That came not long after Trump refused in a CNN interview to denounce an endorsement from a former head of the Ku Klux Klan. He later blamed that on a “bad ear piece.” Trump has also brushed off criticisms for perpetuating racist and anti-Semitic content spread by his followers on Twitter.

When it comes to Trump answering for his most controversial supporters, says Beirich, “He knows exactly what game he is playing.”

Additional reporting contributed by Russ Choma.

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Trump Delegate Says Current US Leaders May Need to Be "Killed"

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Agency That Investigates Plant Explosions "Grossly Mismanaged"

Mother Jones

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This story was originally published by the Center for Public Integrity.

Editor’s note, April 18: An explosion Wednesday at a fertilizer plant north of Waco, Texas, killed between five and 15 people, authorities say, and injured more than 160. The US Chemical Safety Board, an independent agency that investigates chemical accidents and issues safety recommendations, says it expects a “large investigative team” to arrive at the scene this afternoon. As the Center for Public Integrity reported Wednesday, the board has been criticized for failing to complete investigations in a timely manner.

On April 2, 2010, an explosion at the Tesoro Corp. oil refinery in Anacortes, Washington, killed five workers instantly and severely burned two others, who succumbed to their wounds.

Eighteen days later, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig blew up in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and unleashing a massive oil spill.

In both cases, the US Chemical Safety Board—an independent agency modeled after the National Transportation Safety Board—launched investigations. Like the NTSB, the Chemical Safety Board is supposed to follow such probes with recommendations aimed at preventing similar tragedies.

Yet three years after Tesoro and Deepwater Horizon, both inquiries remain open—exemplars of a chemical board under attack for what critics call its sluggish investigative pace and short attention span. A former board member calls the agency “grossly mismanaged.”

The number of board accident reports, case studies, and safety bulletins has fallen precipitously since 2006, an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity found. Thirteen board investigations—one more than five years old—are incomplete.

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Agency That Investigates Plant Explosions "Grossly Mismanaged"

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