News Digest for Sunday, April 22, 2018

Paul Krugman on Twitter –

I’ve been pretty much staying out of the Trump scandal business, bc it’s being well covered by other people, and I think I add more value added by concentrating on my comparative advantage. But I remain deeply puzzled by Putin’s obvious hold on DJT.

I mean, let’s be realistic: everything, and I mean everything, indicates that the president of the US is a Russian puppet; it almost has to be blackmail. But then the question is, blackmail with what? What could be worse than what we already know?

I mean, by now it’s clear that key Trump support groups don’t care about any of it. In particular, evangelical leaders have made it perfectly clear that his personal morality doesn’t matter; they’d stick with him if there was video of … actually, use your imagination

Oh, and Republicans in Congress have also made it clear that no scandal, financial or otherwise, will cause them to break with Trump. So what can Putin possibly have?


Scott Pruitt before the E.P.A.: Fancy homes, a shell company and friends with money

The New York Times
Steve Eder and Hiroko Tabuchi

Early in Scott Pruitt’s political career, as a state senator from Tulsa, he attended a gathering at the Oklahoma City home of an influential telecommunications lobbyist who was nearing retirement and about to move away.

The lobbyist said that after the 2003 gathering, Mr. Pruitt — who had a modest legal practice and a state salary of $38,400 — reached out to her. He wanted to buy her showplace home as a second residence for when he was in the state capital.

Soon Mr. Pruitt was staying there, and so was at least one other lawmaker, according to interviews. Mr. Pruitt even bought Ms. Lindsey’s dining room set, art and antique rugs, she said.

A review of real estate and other public records shows that Mr. Pruitt was not the sole owner: The property was held by a shell company registered to a business partner and law school friend, Kenneth Wagner. Mr. Wagner now holds a top political job at the Environmental Protection Agency, where Mr. Pruitt, 49, is the administrator.


It’s becoming clear that Trump won’t run in 2020

The Washington Post
Joe Scarborough

It is true that GOP leaders stand silent as President Trump trashes the rule of law, attacks federal judges and declares America’s free press the “enemy of the people.” These lap dogs even remain muzzled as younger Americans are chained to a future of crippling debt. And they shame the memory of the first Republican president — who gave his life ending slavery — by marching alongside a bumbling bigot who labels Hispanics“breeders” and “rapists,” seeks to bar tens of millions of Muslims from entering the country, and defends white supremacy in the ugly aftermath of Charlottesville.

And yet these same morally enfeebled enablers have become muted when asked whether they’ll support their fearless leader’s reelection bid.


Richmond

The Washington Post
Melanie D.G. Kaplan

A Virginia city stuck in the middle is full of superlatives, with noted architecture, natural wonders (white water inside its confines!) and thriving scenes involving food and the arts.


Democrats say looser marijuana laws attract young voters, and some Republicans are catching on

The Washington Post
Sean Sullivan and Seung Min Kim

Democrats are increasingly embracing looser restrictions on marijuana — and a growing number of high-profile Republicans are joining them, marking a shift in the politics of cannabis.

As Democrats try to regain control of Congress in the November elections and make gains in state races, some strategists are wagering that being firmly on the side of easing marijuana laws will help boost turnout among millennials, a key bloc in the party’s coalition. Many of those voters have sat out recent midterms.

While pot enthusiasts celebrated their unofficial “4/20” holiday on Friday, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced his support for decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level. Echoing others who have revised their positions, Schumer said his thinking had “evolved.”

Democrats are not alone in moving toward greater acceptance of a drug once broadly seen as taboo. Schumer’s new stance came a week after a top Republican senator announced an agreement with President Trump to keep his state’s legalization of recreational marijuana protected from federal interference.


These whales will be extinct in 25 years, scientists say — unless we act now to save them

The Washington Post
Sarah Kaplan

Lately North Atlantic right whaleshave acted in strange and disturbing ways. Females are having fewer calves; not a single newborn was seen this year. The whales are skipping favored feeding grounds and showing up in unusual places. And in the past 11 months, 18 whales have been found floating, dead — the worst mortality event since scientists began keeping records decades ago.

In an era when species are vanishing 100 times faster than usual, “the whales are a metaphor for what we have done to the planet,” marine biologist Charles Mayo says.

A century ago, humans had slaughtered nearly every right whale in the Atlantic. Now climate change seems to be shifting the animals’ food source. Their habitat has been polluted with sewage and made noisy by construction and seismic tests. Speeding ships and tangles of hard-to-break fishing rope pose deadly threats.

New technology and tightened regulations could protect the whales from some of the biggest hazards. Yet political efforts have stalled, lawsuits linger unresolved, and fishermen fear what potential remedies might cost them.

Fewer than 450 North Atlantic right whales remain, including just over 100 breeding females. With so many dying and so few being born, it is thought that the population will no longer be viable in 25 years unless something changes.

For the first time in his career, Mayo, 74, is using a word he had long avoided: “Extinction.”


Michael Cohen, once at pinnacle of Trump’s world, now poses threat to it

The Washington Post
Michael Kranish, Tom Hamburger, and Rosalind S. Helderman

When Donald Trump won the presidency, his longtime attorney Michael Cohen seemed in position for a coveted spot in the senior ranks of the White House.

At one point, Cohen topped a list of five candidates for White House counsel, according to documents reviewed by The Washington Post. He suggested to some Trump allies that he might make a good chief of staff.

But when Trump built his West Wing team, the brash New York lawyer did not make the cut.

Some in Trump’s inner circle worried about blowback from Cohen’s associations and un­or­tho­dox tactics in fixing the New York developer’s problems, Trump associates said.

Among those opposed, the associates said, were Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. For his part, Cohen had warned Trump against giving Ivanka Trump and Kushner White House jobs, saying the president would be hammered by complaints of nepotism, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The rebuff wounded Cohen, according to people familiar with his views, although he continued to publicly express admiration for his longtime boss.

Now, the bond between the president and his self-proclaimed fixer is under much more punishing pressure: a wide-ranging criminal investigation into Cohen’s business dealings and actions he took to quash negative stories about Trump during the 2016 campaign.

The outcome — and Cohen’s response to the investigation — could determine the fate of both men, who have relied heavily on each other for years.


Amazon’s typical worker is in a warehouse making $28,446 a year

The Wall Street Journal
Georgia Wells, Rachel Feintzeig, and Theo Francis

When Amazon.com Inc. revealed its workers’ median annual salary of $28,446 last week, the predominantly blue-collar nature of its workforce became clear.

The figure puts Amazon on par with chocolate manufacturer Hershey Co., slightly above retailer Home Depot Inc.—and miles below the $240,430 median annual compensation at Facebook, according to the companies’ latest proxy statements.

Amazon is often compared with Silicon Valley tech giants like Facebook, Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, but a vast logistical apparatus separates it from its tech peers.

Most of the roughly half-million employees at Amazon.com Inc. don’t make six figures and spend their workdays writing code. They unload trucks, drive forklifts and walk miles collecting products to fill orders—all for around the same pay as workers in other companies’ warehouses.

One researcher likened Amazon to the child produced by a three-way merger between Google, United Parcel Service Inc. and Walmart Inc.


 

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At least 14 dead in Canadian junior hockey team bus crash

The Washington Post
Amy B Wang

At least 14 people are dead after a crash between a tractor-trailer and a bus carrying a Canadian junior hockey league team, police said.

The deadly crash occurred around 5 p.m. Friday on Highway 35 in Saskatchewan, about 150 miles northeast of Saskatoon, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The bus was carrying members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey league team, on their way to the town of Nipawin for a game, the team said.