Twice as Many Corporations Paying No Taxes Under Trump’s New Laws!

Dear Commons Community,

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy has just issued a study stating that President Donald Trump’s new tax law aided corporations so radically that twice as many companies paid no federal taxes whatsoever in 2018.  despite billions of dollars in profit, according to the new study.  As reported by Bloomberg and The Huffington Post.

The study found that 60 of some of the largest publicly held companies paid no taxes — compared with an average of about 30 each year from 2008 to 2015, before Trump and congressional Republicans passed the tax law that took effect in 2018. The measure heavily favors corporations and the wealthy.  Companies such as Amazon, Netflix, Chevron, Eli Lilly, Delta Airlines, General Motors, IBM and Goodyear were among the tax-free corporate titans.

The analysis is based on 2018 financial filings of the country’s largest 560 publicly held companies.         

The companies that paid nothing in taxes were “able to zero out their federal income taxes on $79 billion in U.S. pretax income,” according to the study, first  reported by the Center for Public Integrity and NBC News.

Corporations reaped the benefits of a tax rate slashed from 35% to 21% in Trump’s tax law, and exploited various deductions, tax credits and rebates. 

“Instead of paying $16.4 billion in taxes, as the new 21 percent corporate tax rate requires, these companies enjoyed a net corporate tax rebate of $4.3 billion, blowing a $20.7 billion hole in the federal budget last year,” the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy report says. 

Farm equipment manufacturer John Deere, for example, reported earning $2.15 billion in U.S. income before taxes. It owed no U.S. taxes in 2018 and reported the government owes the company $268 million because of various deductions and credits, the report says. 

The cut in the corporate tax rate alone will save corporations $1.35 trillion over the next 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

As for the nation, revenues from the corporate tax fell by 31% in 2018  to $204 billion.

“This was a more precipitous decline than in any year of normal economic growth in U.S. history,” Matthew Gardner, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy senior fellow, wrote in the report.

Trump insisted before his law was passed that the corporate tax cut would pay for itself. He argued that the giveback would trigger a boom in business operations that would lead to increased taxes on ballooning income, which would plug the giant hole in the budget.

But it hasn’t worked out that way. The nation’s budget deficit is now the biggest in history. 

During his campaign, Trump vowed to eliminate the $19.9 trillion national debt in eight years. Instead, it jumped 41.8 percent in just the first four months of this fiscal year (which runs from October through September). 

An April Government Accountability Office report called the “federal government’s current fiscal path … unsustainable.” The cost of interest alone on the national debt runs $896 million each day.

Trump’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow insisted Thursday that “economic growth” has already “paid for a good chunk” of the tax cuts. The budget outlook is “not as bad as many people say,” he said.

Bloomberg pointed out that Kudlow’s declaration defies data from his own administration.

What a fiscal mess Trump has gotten the country into.

Tony

New York State Officials Threaten Lawsuit over EPA Sign Off on General Electric’s PCB Cleanup in the Hudson River!

 

Dear Commons Community,

New York State officials ripped the Trump Administration after federal environmental officials signed off on General Electric’s clean-up of PCB-tainted Hudson River sediment, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo announcing plans for a lawsuit over the decision.

The Environmental Protection Agency, ignoring the complaints of New York politicians and environmentalists, granted GE a “Certificate of Completion” for its $1.7 billion removal of 2.75 million cubic yards of PCB-contaminated river sediment north of Albany. Critics supported additional dredging to lower the level of contaminants.

“We take this effort seriously,” said EPA Regional Administrator Peter Lopez. “No person or organization will be let off the hook for the contamination of this historic and valuable waterway.”

Cuomo and state Attorney General Letitia James immediately declared plans for a lawsuit against the EPA over its decision regarding the tainted stretch of the 315-mile Hudson.

 “We know PCB levels remain unacceptably high in the riverbed and in fish,” said Cuomo. “Since the EPA has failed to hold GE responsible for fulfilling its obligation to restore the river, New York state will take any action necessary to protect our waterways — and that includes suing the EPA to demand a full and complete remediation. Anything less is unacceptable.”

Cuomo said the White House “time and time again puts corporations and polluters’ interests ahead of public health and the environment.”

GE spilled and discharged tons of PCBs — or polchlorinated biphenyls — from its factories north of Albany into the Hudson decades ago. The final “Certificate of Completion of the Work” for GE is likely more than five decades down the road, the EPA said.

“The EPA’s decision today is a failure of leadership by the Trump Administration to protect clean water for New Yorkers who are demanding a full cleanup of the Hudson River,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

Lopez said the remedial certificate did not rule out future dredging on the river.

“The dredging was very effective in removing the contaminated sediments,” added Lopez. “There are no hot spots in the Upper Hudson, only three localized areas of interest, as we call them.”

A GE statement said the EPA ruling confirmed that its clean-up project was a success, and the company promised to go forward with its Hudson River commitment.

“GE will continue to collect environmental data to assess ongoing improvements in river conditions and to work closely with EPA, New York State, and local communities on other Hudson environmental projects,” the statement said.

For those of us who live in New York, the Hudson River is one America’s remarkable waterways that was contaminated for decades by factories along its shores.  G.E. was a major polluter and legally fought any attempts by state and local governments to assume any responsibility for the damage done.  In 2005, G.E. agreed to dredge millions of yards of silt containing PCBs and other carcinogens.  The question is whether the dredging was enough.  According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the answers is no.  G.E. is admired in some corporate circles  but along the Hudson it is despised by many for what it did to our waterway.

Tony

Julian Assange Was Dragged Kicking and Screaming During His Arrest at the Equadorean Embassy in London- Now What?

Image result for julian assange

Julian Assange Arrest in London

Dear Commons Community,

The following analyis is provided by the New York Times editorial staff.

“The arrest in London of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange ends one bizarre saga, but opens a legal drama that is likely to stretch over many years and could probe uncharted areas of press freedoms and national security in the United States in the digital era. There is good reason to be watchful as the case unfolds.

Mr. Assange, a 47-year-old Australian, had spent almost seven years holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy, initially to avoid arrest on Swedish sex charges that have since been dropped, then British charges of skipping bail. But extradition to the United States was what Mr. Assange really feared, and what the cat-and-mouse game was always about.

It was in the United States that the materials posted on WikiLeaks created the greatest furor, first through the publication of a trove of classified documents supplied by an Army private, Chelsea Manning, and then by releasing material stolen from the computers of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

The Obama administration was wary of pursuing Mr. Assange because WikiLeaks was essentially involved in investigative work common to a free press. But the Trump administration saw Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks as targets as soon as it took office. (Mr. Trump loved WikiLeaks in 2016 when it was embarrassing top officials of the Clinton campaign.) Two years ago, as director of the C.I.A., Mike Pompeo labeled WikiLeaks “a nonstate hostile intelligence service” after it released a cache of C.I.A. hacking tools. Efforts got underway then to build a case against Mr. Assange. This was confirmed through an inadvertent mention in a federal court filing last November.

Mr. Assange, meanwhile, managed to exhaust his welcome at the Ecuadorean Embassy, and on Thursday British police officers unceremoniously bundled the scraggly-bearded refugee off in a van. Soon after, Scotland Yard acknowledged that it was also acting on an American extradition warrant, after which a federal indictment was unsealed in the United States charging Mr. Assange with conspiring to hack a government computer.

The single charge is straightforward: It alleges that Mr. Assange helped the Army private break into a government computer in 2010 to steal classified and sensitive documents. According to the indictment, when Ms. Manning told Mr. Assange that she had no more material to send him, he replied, “Curious eyes never run dry in my experience.” Ms. Manning served almost seven years of a 35-year sentence for the leak, and is now back in jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks.

The still-unproven charge is far less contentious than had it been, as widely anticipated, for espionage-related crimes. That would have been a direct challenge to the distinction between a journalist exposing abuse of power through leaked materials — something traditional newspapers like The Times do all the time — and a foreign agent seeking to undermine the security of the United States through theft or subterfuge.

These questions will arise in any event — starting with the extradition hearings, at which Mr. Assange’s lawyers are likely to argue that the American charges are politically motivated. And if Britain does extradite him, there is no certainty that the Trump administration, with its combative stance toward the press and its documented recent antipathy for Mr. Assange, will not throw more charges at him.

The issues WikiLeaks raises are vitally important. The responsibilities, ethics and rules of journalism are fast changing in an era when terabytes of secret data can be dumped in a flash, and when hostile governments like Russia’s can burrow into foreign computers for compromising information and then launder it through other channels.

The case of Mr. Assange, who got his start as a computer hacker, illuminates the conflict of freedom and harm in the new technologies, and could help draw a sharp line between legitimate journalism and dangerous cybercrime. Once in the United States, moreover, he could become a useful source on how Russia orchestrated its attacks on the Clinton campaign.

The administration has begun well by charging Mr. Assange with an indisputable crime. But there is always a risk with this administration — one that labels the free press as “the enemy of the people” — that the prosecution of Mr. Assange could become an assault on the First Amendment and whistle-blowers.”

This will indeed be a case that will be followed for years to come!

Tony

Arrest Made of Arsonist Who Burned Down Black Churches in Louisiana!

Holden Matthews

 

Dear Commons Community,

Louisiana authorities announced the arrest of Holden Matthews for arson in connection with the burning of three black churches.  As reported in the New York Times:

“While the victims prayed for the soul of the arsonist who burned down their houses of worship, investigators rushed to assemble clues, worried the assailant would strike again.

The detectives had noticed the same pickup truck in surveillance video footage near each of the three predominantly black churches that had been set ablaze and destroyed. They found the charred remains of a particular brand of gas can sold at a local Walmart.

Then the pieces came together, and the authorities announced the arrest of a 21-year-old white man who is the son of a local sheriff’s deputy and an aficionado of a subgenre of heavy metal, called black metal, whose most extreme practitioners in Norway have engaged in church burning, vandalism and killing.

In a Thursday morning news conference announcing the arrest of the man, Holden Matthews, the authorities said that they had not concluded their investigation and could not say whether racism had played a role.

Though the motive was less than clear, the results brought a measure of peace for a rural Cajun community that had been on edge since late March, when the first of the fires occurred.”

Congratulations to the authorities for taking quick action on these crimes.  And may the communities where the burnings took place find comfort in knowing that they can worship without fear.

Tony

New Jersey High School Principal Derrick Nelson Dies Donating Bone Marrow!

Dear Commons Community,

Westfield High School Principal Derrick Nelson, 44, died Sunday after he lapsed into a coma during a bone marrow donation procedure, according to NJ.com. His bone marrow went to a 14-year-old boy in France.  As reported:

“He couldn’t speak” as he was lying in a hospital bed after the procedure,” his father, 81-year-old Willie Nelson, said. “His eyes were open and he realized who [family members] were. But he couldn’t move. He never spoke again.”

Derrick Nelson couldn’t go under general anesthesia for the procedure because of sleep apnea, which makes sedation extremely dangerous, according to Inside Edition.

Nor were doctors able to draw blood from his arms either because he carried the trait for the sickle cell anemia blood disorder.

Instead, they put Nelson under local anesthesia and extracted cells from his bone marrow and sent them to the boy in France.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the most serious risk associated with donating bone marrow stems from the use and effects of anesthesia during surgery.

Nelson had served as Westfield High’s principal since February 2017. Before that, he was the vice principal of Westfield Junior High School. He also had been a member of the Army Reserve for more than 20 years, according to CBS New York.

Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle was among those mourning his death.

 “He lived his life with daily acts of selflessness and kindness, so it’s a tremendous loss and people are reeling from it,” Brindle told reporters. “He just lived a life of service above self, and I think there is a lesson that we’re all going to take away from his untimely passing that hopefully we can apply to our own lives.”

Besides his father, Nelson is survived by his mother, Juanita, his fiancé, Sheronda, and the couple’s 6-year-old daughter, according to NJ.com.

A funeral will be held later at St. John’s Baptist Church in Scotch Plains. 

What a role model for his students and his community!

Tony

Video: Scientists Explain First-Ever Photograph of a Black Hole!

 

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday scientists revealed the first ever photograph of a blackhole.  The image itself (below)looks essentially like an orange blob, however, the effort that went into taking the photograph was incredible.  The video above has scientists explaining the Event Horizon Project which took ten years to develop and which synchronized eight telescopes from around the world.

Tony

Higher Education Has Been Left Behind Since the Great Recession in Many States!

Dear Commons Community,

The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that after five straight years of growth in state support, nationally there was no change in state and local per student support for higher education.  Citing the 2018 “State Higher Education Finance” report, state appropriations per student remained essentially flat from the 2017 to 2018 fiscal years. In 11 states, higher-education appropriations have not recovered at all from the worst years of the Great Recession, according to the report released on Tuesday by the association of State Higher Education Executive Officers.   As reported.

“Tuition revenue, which had risen in all but two of the past 25 years, also remained flat compared with the previous fiscal year, the report said. State spending on student financial aid increased by nearly 9 percent, the fourth consecutive increase, according to the study.

But the impact of the recession still casts a long shadow on state appropriations for higher education, the report noted: “Ten years out from the start of the Great Recession, per-student higher education appropriations in the U.S. have only halfway recovered.”

Nationally, state appropriations, on average, fell more than $2,000 per student in the years after the recession, the report said, and remain nearly $1,000 below their pre-recession levels.

The situation is far worse in more than a fifth of states, where appropriations per student are still less than they were in 2012 or 2013, the low point for most state budgets. That’s after federal dollars — part of the $54-billion that went to states to avoid cuts in education spending — ran out, creating a fiscal cliff for public colleges.

The states where per-student spending still has not rebounded are Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Higher-education appropriations now exceed those before the recession in only six states: Alaska, California, Hawaii, New York, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.”

Tony

New York City Department of Education Announces $7,500 Salary Differentials for Teachers in Hard-to-Staff Schools!

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday the New York City Department of Education released its plan to pay salary differentials in hard-to-staff schools.  Essentially staff with specific titles at 60 historically under-served schools in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens will receive an additional $7,200 in salary for the upcoming school year. Titles include bilingual teachers, bilingual special education teachers, bilingual guidance counselors, bilingual social workers, and bilingual school psychologists; and middle and high school science and math teachers.

The $7,200 “hard-to-staff” salary differential is part of the Mayor and Chancellor’s Bronx Plan. The plan is named to reflect the challenges many Bronx schools face, and adds resources to improve teacher retention and recruitment, reduce teacher vacancies and teacher turnover. The differential is available at 50 previously announced Collaborative Schools, and ten Bronx District 75 schools.

The complete announcement including the schools in the plan is below.

Thank you to Maryann Polesinelli for passing this on to me.

Tony

——————————————————————————————————————————

New York City Department of Education

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 9, 2019
N-25, 2018-19 

CHANCELLOR CARRANZA ANNOUNCES BRONX PLAN HARD-TO-STAFF SALARY DIFFERENTIALS

 

Initiative will include 10 Bronx District 75 schools in addition to 50 previously announced Collaborative Schools

 

NEW YORK –Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza today announced that staff with specific titles at 60 historically underserved schools in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens will receive an additional $7,200 in salary for the upcoming school year. Titles include bilingual teachers, bilingual special education teachers, bilingual guidance counselors, bilingual social workers, and bilingual school psychologists; and middle and high school science and math teachers.

 

The $7,200 “hard-to-staff” salary differential is part of the Mayor and Chancellor’s Bronx Plan. The plan is named to reflect the challenges many Bronx schools face, and adds resources to improve teacher retention and recruitment, reduce teacher vacancies and teacher turnover. The differential is available at 50 previously announced Collaborative Schools, and ten Bronx District 75 schools.

 

“Never underestimate the power of great teachers and their ability to shape the lives of our students,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The Bronx Plan is about upending the status quo and building a fairer school system. With these hard-to-staff salary differentials, we’ll be able to recruit and retain excellent teachers to ensure that all students across the city, no matter their zip code, will get the education they deserve. This is equity and excellence in action.”

 

“Great teaching is the foundation of great schools, and this innovative approach will encourage our teachers to take jobs and stay in historically underserved schools,” said Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza. “In particular, the Bronx Plan hard-to-staff differentials will help support our multilingual learners and students with disabilities, including in ten Bronx District 75 schools. The Bronx Plan advances equity now, rights historic wrongs, and helps provide an excellent education for all students regardless of their zip code.”

 

“The Bronx plan is designed to help schools find their own answers to the challenges they face, and then provides the resources to help make that happen,” said Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers. “Schools will now have a chance to use hard-to-staff differentials to help them recruit and retain teachers.”

 

The Bronx Plan, launched in October 2018 as part of the UFT contract agreement, will support a total of up to 180 historically underserved schools citywide, with an additional 120 Collaborative Schools and Hard-to-Staff Only schools to join the initiative next year. Through collaborative decision-making, teachers and principals will create specific solutions tailored to the needs of their school communities to increase student achievement.

 

The hard-to-staff differential will apply to educators who are hired or retained this spring to work at Bronx Plan schools in 2019-20. Current staff, new hires and transfers are eligible for the salary differential, which will be paid out over three equal payments with the final payment in 2020-21, to incentivize continued retention.

 

At the 50 Bronx Plan Collaborative Schools, educators in these license areas or who teach more than 50 percent in the following roles or subject areas, will be eligible for the differential and receive an additional $7,200 on top of their base teaching salary:

  • Teachers in all bilingual licenses, including bilingual special education and bilingual speech
  • English as a Second Language (ESL) Teachers
  • General Science Teachers (Middle School)
  • Earth Science, Physics, and Chemistry Teachers (High School licenses)
  • Mathematics Teachers (Middle and High School)
  • Bilingual Guidance Counselor, Bilingual School Psychologist, Bilingual School Social Workers

 

In ten District 75 Schools in the Bronx, Bilingual Special Education Teachers will be eligible. This represents a majority of the District 75 Schools in the Bronx.

 

Bilingual Guidance Counselors, Bilingual School Psychologists, and Bilingual Speech Teachers in district-based positions in the Bronx are also eligible. These staff work for School Districts 7-12 or 75, and support multiple schools.

 

“As a lifelong Bronx resident, the education of our community’s children has always been a top priority,” said New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. “The Bronx Plan will support underserved schools across the city and prioritize one of our greatest challenges – teacher retention.  The retention of great teachers has been proven to have a direct correlation to the academic performance of our students.”

 

“This new Bronx Plan, with $7,200 ‘hard-to-staff’ salary differentials for teachers, will give a greater chance in succeeding in their academic career by providing the necessary resources they need to combat the many difficult challenges that Bronx schools face,” said New York State Senator Luis Sepulveda. “This initiative is the right step to ensuring that our Bronx students are better prepared for their educational, professional, and personal futures.”

 

“I am pleased to see that five schools in Senate District 19, and several nearby, will finally receive much-needed attention this fall under the Bronx Plan,” said New York State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud. “While these positions are considered ‘hard-to-staff,’ our students are suffering without the support they deserve; and I commend their diligent teachers in their efforts to help them achieve success.”

 

“The Bronx Plan is a step in the right direction that focuses on increasing resources and opportunities in undeserved schools in New York City and in particular, the Bronx. I applaud the Administration for recognizing the importance of recruiting and retaining quality teachers while reducing vacancies and turnovers,” said Council Member Vanessa Gibson. “District 9 and other districts, face a high concentration of students in temporary housing and the Bronx Plan will further invest more resources and collaborative measures to ensure our students achieve academic success. By adding $7,200 on top of the base salary to bilingual teachers, guidance counselors, social workers and more, this plan will support and retain the vital educators of our students, especially within District 75 schools.  I am thankful for the six schools within my district who took advantage of being a part of the Bronx Plan and I look forward to working with Chancellor Carranza as these investments are made in our Bronx schools.”

 

“For far too long, public schools in the Bronx, specifically those in the South Bronx, have been at a competitive disadvantage,” said Council Member Rafael Salamanca. “In addition to the unfair stigmatization of our neighborhoods, our schools have historically suffered from underfunding and low teacher retention rates, among other issues. Caught in the middle of decisions made by adults are our children who are purely seeking an opportunity to enrich theirs and their family’s lives. With the creation of the Bronx Plan, however, positive change is occurring. Instituting a ‘hard-to-staff’ salary differential scale is an important step in ensuring high-level teachers and counselors remain in the schools in which they are making a difference in, while making prospective jobs in traditionally underserved schools more attractive to educators. I applaud the de Blasio Administration for taking much needed action, and look forward to working with Chancellor Carranza on behalf of students in the Bronx.”

 

The Bronx Plan is aligned to the Mayor and Chancellor’s Equity and Excellence for All agenda, which is building a pathway to success in college and careers for all students. Our schools are starting earlier – free, full-day, high-quality education for three-year-olds and four-year-olds through 3-K for All and Pre-K for All. They are strengthening foundational skills and instruction earlier – Universal Literacy so that every student is reading on grade level by the end of 2nd grade; and Algebra for All to improve elementary- and middle-school math instruction and ensure that all 8th graders have access to algebra. They are offering students more challenging, hands-on, college and career-aligned coursework – Computer Science for All brings 21st-century computer science instruction to every school, and AP for All will give all high school students access to at least five Advanced Placement courses. Along the way, they are giving students and families additional support through College Access for All, Single Shepherd, and investment in Community Schools. Efforts to create more diverse and inclusive classrooms through Diversity in New York City Public Schools, the City’s school diversity plan, are central to this pathway.

 

Below is a complete list of the schools eligible for the salary differential:

 

BRONX 

Elementary & Middle Schools 

P.S. 277

M.S. 301 Paul L. Dunbar

Soundview Academy for Culture and Scholarship

J.H.S. 022 Jordan L. Mott

P.S. 063 Author’s Academy

New Millennium Business Academy Middle School

The Highbridge Green School

MS 593

MS 594

North Bronx School of Empowerment

Leaders of Tomorrow

Pelham Gardens Middle School

P.S. 214

Fannie Lou Hamer Middle School

Fairmont Neighborhood School

I.S. X318 Math, Science & Technology Through Arts

Bronx Envision Academy

P.S. 536

High Schools 

Mott Haven Village Preparatory High School

Bronx Leadership Academy II High School

The Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters (Grades 6-12)

Renaissance High School for Musical Theater & Tech

Bronx River High School

The Hunts Point School

Gotham Bronx Planorative High School

Bronx Arena High School

School for Tourism and Hospitality

Kingsbridge International High School

High School for Teaching and the Professions

Fordham Leadership Academy

Academy for Scholarship and Entrepreneurship: A College Board School

Bronxdale High School

 

BROOKLYN 

Elementary & Middle Schools 

P.S. 150 Christopher

P.S. 165 Ida Posner

The Gregory Jocko Jackson School of Sports, Art, and Technology

P.S. 327 Dr. Rose B. English

Brownsville Bronx Planorative Middle School

Mott Hall Bridges Academy

High Schools 

High School for Civil Rights

World Academy for Total Community Health High School

The School for Classics: An Academy of Thinkers

Frederick Douglass Academy VII High School

Teachers Preparatory High School

 

QUEENS 

Elementary & Middle Schools 

P.S./M.S 042 R. Vernam

P.S. 043

M.S. 053 Brian Piccolo

P.S. 197 The Ocean School

Village Academy

High Schools 

Rockaway Park High School for Environmental Sustainability

Rockaway Collegiate High School

 

BRONX DISTRICT 75 SCHOOLS

J.M. Rapport School Career Development

P.S. X811

P.S. X010

P.S. X017

P.S. 168

P186X Walter J. Damrosch School

P.S. X188

The Vida Bogart School for All Children

P469X – The Bronx School for Continuous Learners

P.S. X721 – Stephen McSweeney School

Contact:  Chancellor’s Press Office (212) 374-5141

“They burned down a building,” the Rev. Harry J. Richard of Greater Union, “They didn’t burn down our spirit.”

 

 

Dear Commons Community,

U.S. Congressman Clay Higgins from Louisiana has urged anyone responsible for burning down three predominantly black churches in the state to come forward, as state and federal authorities investigate what appears to have been coordinated arson.  Authorities said last week they had found suspicious “patterns” among fires that burned down three churches between March 26 and April 4 in St. Landry Parish, about 100 miles (160 km) northwest of New Orleans.

Congressman Higgins, a Republican, who represents a district that includes St. Landry Parish, stood in front of the rubble of St. Mary’s Baptist Church and addressed the arsonist he presumed was behind the fires.

“I advise you to hear my heart and turn yourself in,” Higgins said. “You’re going to jail one way or another.”

Authorities declined to say whether arson was to blame for the church fires at a news conference on Saturday, but local media reported that Butch Browning, the state fire marshal, had told parishioners on Sunday that his office was treating the fires as criminal activity and would find whoever was responsible.

The FBI and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) have joined local authorities in the investigation, bringing the number of people involved up to 200, The Daily Advertiser reported on Monday.

The, FBI, ATF and the Louisiana Office of State Fire Marshal did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

The fires destroyed St. Mary Baptist Church in the community of Port Barre, and Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, the seat of the parish, the Louisiana equivalent to a county. All the churches have mostly black congregants, raising authorities’ suspicion that the fires could have been racially motivated hate crimes.

“For decades, African-American churches have served as the epicenter of survival and a symbol of hope for many in the African-American community,” Derrick Johnson, the N.A.A.C.P. president, said in a statement on Monday condemning the fires. “As a consequence, these houses of faith have historically been the targets of violence.”

“They burned down a building,” the Rev. Harry J. Richard of Greater Union preached at a makeshift gathering Sunday in Opelousas. “They didn’t burn down our spirit.”

Tony

Jeffrey Toobin: Donald Trump – “The Great Reputation Killer”

Image result for jeffrey toobin

Dear Commons Community,

Jeffrey Toobin, CNN chief legal analyst and New Yorker staff writer, said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s abrupt resignation is a cautionary tale of “what happens when you go to work for Donald Trump.”

“He is the great reputation killer,…” Toobin said.

“Here’s this woman who  was a reasonably admired bureaucrat, and for the rest of her life, people will look at her and think, ‘Oh, that’s the woman who put children in cages, that’s the woman who broke up families across the border.’ And you know what? They’ll be right. Because she implemented that policy. … She’s going to get what she deserves.”

Trump announced Nielsen’s ouster on Sunday and said she’d be replaced by Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. She had repeatedly clashed with Trump privately over his anti-immigration demands, but publicly defended the administration’s zero-tolerance policy of separating children from their parents at the border.

Nielsen infamously claimed in testimony before Congress that the policy was “not a policy.” She also quibbled over the definition of a cage, arguing during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing last month that the chain-link pens in which minors were being held were simply “detention space[s].”

Pennsylvania Avenue is lined with the career corpses of the dozens of people who have worked for Donald Trump.  He is a user and could not care less about human decency or loyalty when it comes to the people who have worked for him in government.

Tony