Goldman Sachs is making it easier to plug its services into other tech platforms like Amazon or Apple’s iPhone, and an industry consultant says it shows how the bank is leading a `fundamental change’ in retail banking.

  • Goldman Sachs is in talks with Amazon about providing small-business loans to merchants who sell products on Amazon’s retail platform, according to a person with knowledge of them. The talks were first reported by the Financial Times on Monday. 
  • The partnership would be the second inked by Goldman with a large technology firm that can provide the scale and distribution for Goldman’s products that it can’t get itself. 
  • The partnership, and another one with Apple, is an example of banking-as-a-service, though some insiders have taken to calling it Goldman Sachs-as-a-service. 
  • “If Goldman can pull off an embedded banking deal somewhere else besides Apple Pay … that’s a leading indicator of a fundamental change in retail banking,” according to independent consultant Richard Crone.

Goldman Sachs is close to inking a second high-profile deal to offer banking services in partnership with a large tech company, and it’s a sign of what may be a fundamental change in retail banking. 

Goldman is in talks with Amazon to offer small business loans to merchants who sell products on Amazon, according to a person with knowledge of the discussion. The Financial Times first reported the talks on Monday. Goldman’s small business loans may feature the bank’s name and begin as soon as March, the newspaper said. 

A spokesman for the bank declined to comment. 

If the deal is signed, it would become the second Big Tech partnership for Goldman Sachs after it launched a credit card last year with Apple last year. Goldman CEO David Solomon has called the Apple Card the most successful credit card launch of all time, without providing details to back up the claim. 

But it would also be a sign of something much more ambitious: Goldman Sachs moving quickly and aggressively to leverage those characteristics that make it uniquely a bank, with a license that allows it to offer banking products and a balance sheet where it can fund loans cheaply being just two prominent examples. 

The company has been sinking hundreds of millions of dollars into building out its technology capabilities, including APIs (application programming interfaces), to make it as easy and seamless to plug such services into the technology platforms of others, whether that’s Apple’s mobile devices, as with the Apple Card, or Amazon’s retail platform. 

At an investor day last week, execs referred to it as banking-as-a-service, but some insiders have taken to calling it Goldman Sachs-as-a-service. 

Stephanie Cohen, Goldman’s chief strategy officer, appeared on stage last week at the bank’s investor day alongside Marco Argenti, the co-chief information officer who recently joined the bank after several years as a senior exec at Amazon Web Services.

Cohen said the bank is looking for ways to use technology to embed the types of things that Goldman can do well, such as risk management, or loan underwriting.

Cohen cited the Apple Card, which is a Goldman-designed product delivered on Apple’s devices, as one such example. 

“That last capability is the consumer version of our platform strategy,” Cohen said. “It allows us to take products and services that we build for our own clients and then give it to other clients so that they can embed financial products into their ecosystem. This strategy will drive top-line growth, and it will create scale efficiencies.”

Goldman isn’t the only large bank that’s working with Big Tech companies. In November, Google announced a partnership with Citigroup to provide checking accounts to the tech firm’s customers. 

And yet, Goldman is probably doing it better than anyone because it has developed a suite of APIs that it can take off the shelf and plug into other platforms, according to Richard Crone, an independent consultant. 

“Goldman Sachs, when they write the history books, will be noted as the one who invented or perfected embedded banking, where you embed your financial services through the user interface, or at the edge, of someone else’s network,” Crone said. “If Goldman can get this right with Amazon, I would expect them to go to Facebook next or any other online platform of substance that provides them a large distribution channel.”

Goldman is leaning on many of the lessons it learned in its partnership with Apple, known as an incredibly demanding partner, Crone said. Most notably, the ability to offer instant issuance to a set of customers that have already been pre-validated, multi-factor authenticated, Know-Your-Customer credentialed by the large tech firms. 

“They already know the customer, but they have met the regulatory requirement in advance before they hand it over,” he said. 

The product will likely look similar to what small merchants are getting from Square Cash or PayPal Working Capital. 

Goldman has bigger ambitions. At last week’s investor day, the bank presented a slide that showed a product called Marcus Pay, which talked about point-of-sale solutions for merchants based on its digital consumer bank. 

This is just another example of how embedded banking is here to stay, which can be hard for a lot of bankers to understand because they want to service customers through their own app, Crone said.

But “no financial institution can reach the scale that’s required to compete electronically” with the large platforms if they only do it through their own app, he said.  

“If Goldman can pull off an embedded banking deal somewhere else besides Apple Pay, or if Citigroup can pull off Google Cache, that’s a leading indicator of a fundamental change in retail banking.”

See also: Goldman Sachs just unveiled hundreds of slides laying out the future of the company. Here are the 10 crucial slides that show how it plans to transform into a bank for everyone.

See also: Inside Goldman Sachs’ first investor day, where avocado toast and crab apples were served with tech talk, 3-year plans, and a surprising trading mea culpa

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Colorado ‘Psychic Kay’ killer files murder case appeal

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‘Psychic Kay’ killer files appeal claiming attorneys failed to inform him of plea offer


Sady Swanson


Fort Collins Coloradoan
Published 11:25 PM EST Jan 31, 2020
John Marks Jr. (right) is serving 48 years to life in prison after a jury found him guilty of murdering his wife of 20 years, Kathy Adams, 57, in 2010.
Fort Collins Coloradoan archive

The man sentenced to prison for the murder of the 57-year-old Fort Collins woman known as “Psychic Kay” has filed an appeal claiming his attorneys failed to properly advise him of potential plea agreements.

John Marks Jr., now 57, was found guilty of second-degree murder and sexual assault in the 2010 death of his wife, Kathy Adams, known as “Psychic Kay.” He was sentenced to 48 years to life in 2012 and is currently serving his sentence at the Fremont Correctional Facility in Canon City. 

Adams’ body was recovered from a ravine off U.S. Highway 36 near the Boulder-Larimer County line in October 2010, according to Coloradoan archives. Marks was arrested on suspicion of second-degree murder about two weeks after her body was found. Initial arrest documents indicated that Marks was abusive and Adams had planned to escape to Atlanta and live with family before she was killed.

Marks pleaded not guilty in his initial case and has maintained his innocence, according to his previous defense attorney. 

Online court records indicate documents were filed to reopen the case in 2015, and the first petition was filed May 2017. The appeal was filed under Colorado criminal procedure that allows for a request for post-conviction relief if attorneys provided ineffective counsel during a criminal case. If approved, the judge could order a new trial or a modified sentence. 

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On Friday afternoon, Marks appeared in a Larimer County courtroom, where his attorney argued to 20th Judicial District Judge Nancy Salomone that Marks’ criminal defense attorneys failed to properly inform him of an offered plea agreement during his 2012 trial.

During Friday’s hearing, the defense attorneys and prosecutors from the 2012 trial denied the assertion that a midtrial plea offer — or that any formal plea offer — was made in the case. 

Defense attorney Derek Samuelson was appointed to be Marks’ attorney about a year into the case — in fall 2011 — after the public defender’s office removed themselves due to a conflict of interest, Samuelson testified Friday. 

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After his appointment, Samuelson said he reached out to now Second Assistant District Attorney Emily Humphrey, the lead prosecutor on Marks’ case, to suggest a potential plea offer of manslaughter instead of second-degree murder. Humphrey refused the suggestion, Samuelson said.

Shortly after that exchange, Samuelson said he met Humphrey and now Larimer County District Attorney Cliff Riedel, Humphrey’s supervisor at the time, at a coffee shop in September 2011 to discuss the potential for a plea offer.

An email sent after that meeting from Samuelson to another defense attorney assisting with the case — Lisabeth Castle — said the district attorney suggested they may be open to an offer involving Marks’ pleading guilty to second-degree murder in a heat of passion, which could have led to a lesser sentence.

The discussion was not an official offer, Samuelson said.

Per the district attorney’s office policy, according to testimony by Humphrey and Riedel on Friday, to minimize harm to the victims or the family in a sexual assault or murder case, prosecutors might tell a defense attorney what they might consider a fair plea offer first. Then, if the defendant comes back with interest in taking a plea offer similar to what they discussed, that’s when the prosecution would bring the idea of a plea agreement to the victim or the victim’s family, not before that point. 

“There was absolutely no formal offer made to (Samuelson),” Humphrey testified Friday.

After having the initial discussion with Humphrey and Riedel, Samuelson said he went to the Larimer County Jail to speak with Marks. Because pleading guilty to second-degree murder in a heat of passion would still likely mean decades in prison, Samuelson said Marks declined to move further with it.

“What he told me was motivating him was innocence,” Samuelson said.

Hey Google, what’s the news in Fort Collins? You asked Google. We answered. Find it all in the free NoCoAsks newsletter. Sign up today! 

Castle also testified that no midtrial offer was conveyed to her, and she was not aware of one being conveyed to Samuelson or directly to Marks. 

“And (if we did receive a midtrial offer) I think that’s something we would’ve encouraged him to take,” Castle testified.

The appeal hearing was initially scheduled to finish Friday afternoon, but attorneys and the judge agreed that a second day of testimony is necessary. Because of scheduling conflicts, a date for the second day of the hearing has not yet been scheduled. 

Samuelson, who was not able to finish testifying Friday afternoon, will resume his testimony at that hearing.

Sady Swanson covers crime, courts, public safety and more throughout Northern Colorado. You can send your story ideas to her at sswanson@coloradoan.com or on Twitter at @sadyswan. Support our work and local journalism with a digital subscription at Coloradoan.com/subscribe.

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Facebook group begins education advocacy project

By Kofoworola Belo-Osagie

With all it achieved last year, the Concerned Parents and Educators Initiative (CPE), a Facebook group of school owners, teachers, parents and other lovers of education plans to push its influence further by pursuing advocacy and reforms in the Nigerian education space this year.

Founder of the group, Mrs Yinka Ogunde said in an interview that last year the CPE raised millions of naira in cash and kind that was used to provide mobility equipment for some cerebral palsy children; support about 50 families, pay fees in low-cost schools; reward creativity in teachers through the short story challenge; connect people in need with those that had to give, among others.

She added that through CPE members’ generosity, children of widows got scholarship, examination fees got paid, teachers got trained, and affluent schools gave supplies to smaller schools.

“We never thought when we started we would make this kind of impact.  To us we just simply wanted to provide a platform for discussion between parents, school owners and stakeholders in the education sector.  But it has gone beyond our initial brief substantially to what it is today,” she said.

This year, Mrs. Ogunde said the group which has over 112,000 members – with more than 90,000 of them in Nigeria – would get more coordinated in its approach with the aim of deepening its impact on society. Tagged the Year 2020 Advocacy for Qualitative Education, members of the group would be expected to raise issues of education in their areas of influence, including places of worship, and advocate for a call to action.

Read Also: Education gap: Turning information to action

To this end, Mrs. Ogunde said CPE had identified volunteers in various states who would drive conversations towards critical areas of need in the education sector.  The CPE in various states are already planning meetings for this week in Ibadan, Kano and Kaduna- starting from today (Thursday) that would identify areas of needs to focus on ahead of its advocacy month – February.

Throughout February, Mrs Ogunde said CPE members would engage people in churches, mosques, clubs and other places highlighting the problems in the education sector and calling for action in such areas.

“February is our education transformation month – where everyone on CPE would be talking about education.  It is something that would require a seven minute pitch that all we will be saying is the same thing and asking what can be done  about the state of education.  We will also be writing to corporate organisations to ask them what they are doing,” she said.

Mrs. Ogunde said a key lesson she has learnt from running CPE with other administrators was that impact can be achieved regardless of government.

She said: “When we go out to all these schools, they don’t believe we are private individuals; they keep on thanking government for the support.  So, we say  we are not government; this is not your local government chairman; it is people just like you.

It shows that people can actually do what government is supposed to do and invariably make the government to do its work.  That is why we are just determined that we will not keep quiet about it but call their attention.”

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Christ Embassy Church probe in UK: The Full report | P.M. News

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Pastor Chris Oyakhilome: heads the Christ Embassy Church in UK

Christ Embassy Church, owned by Pastor Chris Oyakhilome and registered in the UK in 1996 as a charity came under probe of the Charity Commission in 2013, following complaints about the use of charitable funds on large connected party payments.

Truly, investigators discovered numerous failings in its management. They established that a number of informal grants and payments were made, including over £1.2 million* to a broadcasting company, Loveworld Television Ministry, which was wholly owned by a trustee of the charity.

Also, for six years the charity had allowed Loveworld free use of a £1.8 million property it had purchased, and was subsidising a proportion of the company’s utility bills. The inquiry found a lack of formal contracts or appropriate record keeping, and a lack of evidence of proper decision-making or of conflicts of interest being appropriately managed.

Financial management at the charity was also found to be poor. The trustees claimed 9 bank accounts held funds belonging to Christ Embassy Nigeria, and that 3 UK properties belonged to Christ Embassy Nigeria, however the inquiry concluded that all of these in fact belonged to the charity.

Oyakhilome’s ex-wife Anita Ebodaghe: was on the charity board at the time

The inquiry considered that there was serious misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity, and took action to remove two of the trustees of the charity, however the individuals resigned before the sanction was applied. The Commission has since been granted new powers to address this loophole, which it secured under the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016.

As a result of the inquiry, a new board of trustees was set up to strengthen the administration and management of the charity.

Amy Spiller head of the investigation team spoke on how the investigation was able to dissect the complex web of entities connected with the Christ Embassy Church:

“This was a complex inquiry that unveiled numerous failings by those running Christ Embassy over a number of years, which exposed the charity to undue risk. I am pleased that these issues have been resolved and that the new board of trustees has shown a clear commitment to move the charity forward responsibly.

“Those running a charity should always be guided by their charitable purpose. Trustees have an important responsibility to ensure that they act in the best interests of their charity at all times, and take care to safeguard their charity’s assets. Our guidance around governance arrangements is there to help trustees ensure they do just that.

“Charities are trusted in a way that is unique, and people often put a lot of faith in religious charities. It is therefore vital that trustees, particularly those with a large following, do all that they can to inspire public trust”.

Christ Embassy operates over 90 churches in the UK, providing religious services to over 5000 people, and has a substantial international following.

Here is the full report released 14 November, 2019 as culled from www.gov.uk

The Charity
Christ Embassy (the charity) was registered on 19 November 1996. It is governed by a Declaration of Trust dated 23 October 1996.

The charity’s entry can be found on the register of charities.

Charity Structure
The charity was established in South London in 1996. The charity’s Headquarters is located at the Loveworld Conference Centre (commonly referred to as the “Christ Embassy International Office”), in Folkestone, Kent and is supported by three sub offices situated in Bermondsey, Croydon and Hendon. The sub-offices operate in excess of ninety churches throughout the country, providing religious services to in excess of five thousand beneficiaries.

The charity has a trading subsidiary company called Christ Embassy Limited (Company Registration No. 05862298) which became a subsidiary in 2012. The trading subsidiary shares the charity’s UK headquarter premises. The trading business involves the production, sale and distribution of religious books and media products.

The charity’s reported income in the year ending 31 December 2013 was £14,055,229 and its expenditure was £15,923,977.

Trustees
During the Commission’s engagement with the charity (since 2012) there have been numerous trustees in office. The table below only lists the trustees who were in office for a part of the inquiry.

Trustee From To
A (Reverend Christian Oyakhilome) 23 October 1996 17 May 2014
B (Reverend Anita Oyakhilome) 6 April 1999 2 June 2015
C (Pastor Obioma Chiemeka) 6 October 2009 13 October 2015
D (Pastor Nkemakonam Odiakah) 6 October 2009 15 February 2016
E (Pastor Ifeoma Onubogu) 6 October 2009 12 February 2016
F (Pastor Uche Onubogu) 17 May 2014 26 January 2015
G (Pastor Tony Obi) 17 May 2014 16 October 2015
H (Reverend Raymond Okocha) 17 May 2014 8 August 2017

Trustee A resided in Nigeria and was the founder and international leader of the charity. His wife, trustee B, resided in the UK and was leader of the UK based charity.

Trustees B, D and F were also paid employees of the charity during periods of their trusteeships, which was permitted by their governing document in particular circumstances.

Following the appointment of an Interim Manager and full governance review, a new board of trustees (the new board of trustees) was appointed on 12 April 2016 who are now responsible for the administration and management of the charity going forward. Significant progress has been made to address the governance and improve oversight and control by the new board of trustees.

Issues under Investigation

On 29 July 2013, the Commission opened a statutory inquiry (the Inquiry) into the charity under section 46 of the Charities Act 2011 (the Act).

The Inquiry closed with the publication of this report.

The scope of the Inquiry was to examine a number of issues including:

*the transactions between the charity and “partner organisations” that include grants made to a number of unidentified entities and Loveworld Television Ministry, Healing School, International School of Ministry, Christ Embassy France, Christ Embassy Canada, IPCC Conference and Rhapsody of Realities

*the administration, governance and management of the charity by the trustees with specific regard to connected party transactions in respect of payments to Loveworld Limited and the management of conflicts of interest

*the financial controls and management of the charity

*whether or not the trustees had complied with and fulfilled their duties and responsibilities as trustees under charity law

Findings
Transactions between the Charity & “partner organisations”
The Inquiry team examined the accounts of the charity, for the period 2009-2011 which showed that the charity had paid substantial grants to organisations classified as “partner organisations”.

During 2009-2011, the charity’s accounts show grants amounting to £1,281,666 were paid to Loveworld Television Ministry; £118,995 to Healing School, £186,616 to International School of Ministry, £10,000 to Christ Embassy Canada, £10,566 to Christ Embassy France, £37,216 to IPPC Conference and £77,266 to Rhapsody of Realities.

The trustees provided the Commission with a copy of their grant making policy, and admitted to the Inquiry that “Prior to the involvement of the Charity Commission the grant making practice consisted of a discussion by the Trustees at a Trustee meeting regarding who should receive grant”.

Following his appointment on 6 August 2014, the Interim Manager (the IM) examined the charity’s records and found no evidence of compliance with the Grant Making Policy. Documents examined, by the IM, demonstrated a lack of records and receipts to account for grants made and there appeared to be little consideration given to whether the receiving parties had expended grants appropriately and for intended purposes, as was required by the policy.

This demonstrates failure to comply with its grant making policy and inadequate recording of decision making by the trustees which is misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity.

Administration, governance and management of Charity by trustees-specific regard to connected party transactions in respect of payment to Loveworld Limited (also known as Loveworld Television Ministry – registered number 4691981) and management of conflict of interest
The inquiry had serious concerns regarding the trustees’ decision making relating to the charity’s relationship with Loveworld Limited.

It was established that Trustee C, was the sole shareholder of Loveworld Limited since its incorporation in March 2003. Trustee C had also been trustee of the charity between October 2009 and October 2015. The primary objective of the Loveworld Limited was to advance Christian programming in the UK and to provide entertaining and educational programmes for the diverse demographics of the UK, which it did by carrying out both radio and television broadcasting services.

The trustees informed the Inquiry, payments made by the charity to Loveworld Limited were not grants/donations as indicated in their accounts but represented payments for broadcasting services provided by the company to the charity. On 28 March 2013, the trustees were asked to provide all documentation held by the charity or its trustees that recorded the decisions made in respect of the payments by the charity to Loveworld Limited. On 19 September 2013, the trustees provided only two sets of minutes of trustee meetings (minutes of trustees meeting dated 6 January and 6 April 2012) that appeared relevant to the issue. However, neither set of minutes included any decision or resolution to make payments to a company of which one trustee was sole shareholder.

The trustees did not have any formal contracts in place, or indeed rationale for using Loveworld Limited as opposed to any other broadcaster. Additionally the IM, during his inspection of books and records found no evidence to suggest that any of the trustees considered whether the costs charged by Loveworld Limited were better value than the costs charged by any other service provider. The trustees have failed to take, or have failed to record, any proper decisions as to why such payments are in the best interests of the Charity.

The IM confirmed that as early as 2009, the Audit Report highlighted to trustees that transactions with organisations and companies controlled by trustees were required to be disclosed in the financial statements as related party transactions. Auditors also recommended that trustees seek professional advice on whether these payments were permitted under their governing document, discuss and decide whether the payments were in the best interests of the charity and minute those discussions, ensuring that any conflicted parties withdraw from the meeting during discussions. The IM’s investigation into these matters found that this advice had not been followed and in particular there was no evidence that the trustees had sought legal advice.

The IM’s scrutiny of charity records and documents demonstrated that the trustees had failed to comply with the terms of the charity’s governing document and that they failed to comply with the requirements of section 185 of the Act in paying for services by a company owned by a trustee.

Additionally, the Inquiry identified that the charity had purchased a property in March 2006, costing £1.8 million and allowed Loveworld Limited free use of the property from 2006 until September 2012. The trustees informed the Inquiry that Loveworld Limited had only occupied a “small part of the premises”, on an informal basis, with the charity using the premises themselves until February 2014. They informed the Inquiry that the arrangement had been formalised since 2012 and the company was charged £75,000 per year for use of the property. The Inquiry considers that this level of rent indicates that Loveworld Limited occupied a substantial proportion of the building.

The trustees failed to demonstrate that rent for occupation of the premises was a properly assessed market rent which would cover the charity’s overheads. The trustees stated, that the yearly rental income covered all mortgage costs incurred by the charity, however later stated that the charity’s annual mortgage payment was higher than this.

It was unclear to the Inquiry how the permitted, free use of the premises to Loveworld Limited between 2006 -2012 was in the best interests of the charity and was properly authorised.

This indicates that the trustees failed to act in the charity’s best interests or with reasonable care and skill in terms of their decision-making and in the negotiation of the arrangements with Loveworld Limited and in not seeking appropriate advice regarding formalising occupation of premises by the company. In addition, the fact that the charity was also subsidising a proportion of the company’s utility bills indicates a lack of reasonable care and skill and a failure to use the charity’s resources responsibly. These actions were not in the charity’s best interest or in furtherance of its objects and were misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity.

Ventaja Limited
An audit conducted by the IM on appointment also identified purchases in excess of £30,000 by the charity from Ventaja Limited – trustees’ reports and financial statements for year ending 31 December 2013: the charity declared £44,925 of purchases made from Ventaja Limited for decorating and the construction of a stage. The company was wholly owned by Trustee G. The payments were made while, Trustee G was church pastor and zonal pastor (prior to being appointed trustee in May 2014). His wife was also director of the company, church pastor and a salaried employee of the charity. The IM found evidence indicating that Trustee G had employed the services of Ventaja Limited to provide services to the charity but it was unclear from the charity’s records what considerations were made regarding potential conflicts of interest. It is unclear to the Commission that the decision making trustees, in position at the time payments were made, were acting only in the interests of the charity.

The trustees failed to provide any records to evidence that conflicts of interest had been identified or correctly managed prior to the opening of the Inquiry. Although the trustees provided the inquiry with a copy of their new “Conflicts of Interest Policy” in their 2013 response, they did not have any policy which covered the conflict which arose as a result of Trustee G, being a church pastor and trustee, authorising payments from his church to his company and therefore effectively paying his own company. The trustees failed to demonstrate that they had recognised or properly managed conflicts of interest. Consequently the Inquiry found this was misconduct and mismanagement in the administration of the charity.

Financial control & management of the Charity
When interviewed by the Inquiry in October 2013, the trustees explained the structure and administration of the charity to the Commission. The structure involved Chapters (also known as churches) within the charity which were spread across the UK with the use of over 100 premises. The IM found that cash collection and payment recording processes were not uniform across the charity, with a number of basic key controls (for example timely bank reconciliations or maintenance of the SAGE records ) found to be lacking.

Bank Accounts/Assets
The inquiry identified nine active bank accounts that the trustees identified as holding funds belonging to Christ Embassy Nigeria (Christ Embassy Nigeria is a separate company to the charity). The inquiry found no evidence to suggest that any of the banking institutions were aware that they were holding funds controlled by Christ Embassy Nigeria. In addition, the accounts were not named in such a way as would indicate the funds are controlled from Nigeria: for example, two of the active accounts are named Christ Embassy East London.

The inquiry, not being satisfied that the funds held in these accounts were owned by Christ Embassy Nigeria, exercised legal powers and issued orders dated 8 august 2014, under section 76(3)(d) of the Act, freezing six of these nine bank accounts, protecting funds to a value of £615,420.

In the absence of clear evidence to support the trustees’ position, the Inquiry concluded that funds held in the accounts belonged to the charity and these accounts remained frozen until the order was revoked on 24 August 2016. The Inquiry being satisfied that the new board of trustees had assumed control of the charity’s property discharged the freezing order on 24 August 2016.

This demonstrates the trustees’ failure to deal with the bank accounts appropriately and their lack of understanding of financial management and the importance of clearly identifying the charity’s property and/or assets held on behalf of another entity and is mismanagement and/or misconduct in the administration and governance of the charity by the trustees.

Tax related issues
The IM informed the Inquiry that the trustees’ failed to submit the charity’s 2010-11 and 2012-13 Self-Assessment Tax returns on time to HMRC thereby incurring penalties for late submissions. In addition, the IM found that the trustees had failed to comply with information Notices issued by HMRC thus incurring further penalties.

The trustees’ non-compliance and failure to submit the charity’s Self-Assessment forms within statutory deadlines resulted in scrutiny by HMRC creating a risk to the charity’s assets in regard to financial penalties incurred and is further evidence of trustees failing in their duty to protect and manage resources responsibly.

Gift Aid is available on donations made by UK tax payers such that the charity can reclaim the tax already paid on the donation by the donor. This means the charity can receive an extra 25p for every £1 donated. It is the trustees’ responsibility to ensure that the charity has effective systems and internal controls in place to ensure complete and accurate returns are made, reducing the risk of amounts being reclaimed by HMRC and ensuring that the charity receives the Gift Aid promptly and with confidence.

The IM established that the charity had failed to maintain:

*sufficient records or processes to show that expenditure by employees had not been an employee benefit and therefore subject to tax
*sufficient records to show that charity vehicles were being used solely for charitable purposes and not used by trustees/employees for private use
*sufficient records to support the charity’s claim to Gift Aid and to demonstrate the expenditure was in fact charitable

The IM dealt with these inquiries and agreed a settlement with HMRC. During discussions with HMRC, the IM made payments on account of £250,000 in order to minimise interest/penalty charges.

The IM informed the Inquiry, in excess of £1.4m of expenditure was disallowed by HMRC and became subject to tax.

The IM reached final settlement over these matters prior to his discharge.

The trustees’ failure to maintain sufficient records and processes to account for expenditure resulted in scrutiny by HMRC creating a risk of criminal proceedings and loss to the charity’s assets in regard to tax liabilities and is further evidence of trustees failing in their duty to protect and manage resources responsibly.


Whether complied and fulfilled duties and responsibilities as trustees under charity law

The Inquiry found a number of breaches of their legal duties by the trustees as evidenced in the previous sections of this report. Additionally the Inquiry found evidence that the trustees exposed the charity, its assets and/or its beneficiaries to harm or undue risk for example:

Property Related matters
The charity is unincorporated, and as such does not have legal personality and cannot hold property in its own name. Instead property must be held on behalf of the charity by nominated individuals (known as holding trustees, and often in practice one or more of the charity’s trustees). From time to time these individuals will change for example due to retirement or death, and the legal ownership of the property will need to be transferred to the new trustees to ensure that the Land Registry records are accurate.

The charity’s main asset other than cash was its ownership of a number of properties. The Inquiry identified 3 UK properties that were not disclosed to the Commission in the trustees’ first responses or during the October 2013 meeting. The trustees asserted that despite the legal title of the properties being vested in the name of two of the charity’s trustees, the properties “were acquired on behalf of, and held in trust for, Christ Embassy Nigeria”.

The Inquiry noted that the Land Registry entries in respect of the 3 properties made no reference to the beneficial owner being Christ Embassy Nigeria and documentation supplied by the trustees provided no evidence to support their assertions. None of the Land Registry proprietorship registers differed in any material way from those of the properties originally disclosed to the Commission as belonging to the charity. These matters were explored further by the IM. His investigations confirmed that the properties were held legally and beneficially by the charity and that there was no trust in place suggesting they were held on behalf Christ Embassy Nigeria.

The Inquiry obtained evidence that the trustees’ failed to ensure land registry details for charity properties were amended once trustees resigned. This was raised a number of times by Auditors in their reports from 2009 onwards and as a result the trustees failed in their duties and responsibilities as trustees to act in the charity’s best interests.

Insurance
The Inquiry found that the trustees failed to secure adequate insurance to protect charity assets and protect against claims for accidental damage to property/or compensation for accidental injury to third parties. The IM was made aware of an outstanding claim in February 2015, brought by a member of the congregation who was injured at a charity premises in 2012. The IM sought to identify whether any relevant insurant was in place. The trustees confirmed that there was no relevant insurance cover and following legal advice obtained by the IM, he settled the claim, in order to avoid lengthy and costly litigation.

The failings of trustees to act appropriately left the charity open to financial and reputational risk and losses, as well as to risk of litigation.

Planning & Building
The trustees failed to ensure that a property purchased by the charity had the necessary planning permission for use as a place of worship – D1 use as Non-Residential institutions, which include a place of worship and church hall. The previous owner had applied for permission to use the property as a place of worship, in 2003 but the planning application had been refused by the local authority. The charity appealed the decision unsuccessfully. Enforcement action was commenced by Southwark Council (18 April 2011). This was also unsuccessfully appealed by the charity. The continued unauthorised use of the premises as a place of worship by the charity, exposed it to enforcement action by the Council. The IM team liaised with the Council to permit a planned exit from the premised which was vacated in January 2015.

The existence of the enforcement notice is a criminal matter. Any breach of the enforcement notice and continued unauthorised use of the premises as a place of worship exposed the charity to prosecution by Southwark Council. Legal advice obtained by the IM confirmed that the breach could have led to criminal sanctions being imposed against the charity and potentially exposed the charity to confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

This demonstrates the trustees’ lack of understanding regarding planning law and regulations which exposed the charity to substantial financial risk as well as legal costs.

Conclusions
The Inquiry concluded that there was serious misconduct and/or mismanagement in the charity’s administration. The former trustees, at the relevant times had not complied with or fulfilled their duties as trustees under charity law. They failed to:

*exercise reasonable care and skill in the execution of their roles and as a result exposed the charity to risk and financial loss
*ensure sufficient financial controls and procedures to protect the charity’s property file their annual accounting information, in accordance with their statutory obligations, on time
*ensure that conflicts of interest were effectively managed comply with the terms of the charity’s governing document in relation to remuneration of trustees
*obtain professional advice during their decision making process and to properly record their decision-making
*comply with planning law and regulations and adhere to enforcement notices, causing the charity substantial financial loss
*address the need for Health & Safety compliance and the lack of adequate property insurance exposed the charity to considerable losses which could have been avoided or minimized with proper management and prompt action

In light of the findings and evidence of misconduct and/or mismanagement, the Inquiry exercised its legal powers under section 79(2)(a) of the Act to remove two of the trustees of the charity.

However the trustees subject to regulatory action resigned prior to the Commission being able to complete the process. Section 79(5) and 82 of The Charities (Protection and Social Investment ) Act 2016 has closed this loophole, thereby allowing the Commission to proceed to remove a charity trustee who has resigned following the Commission having given notice to the charity trustees of its intention to make a removal order. The law has since been amended so that resignations following the Commission issuing a notice of intention to remove a trustee would not prohibit the trustee’s removal and consequent disqualification from action as a trustee in the future.

Regulatory Action Taken
During the course of the Inquiry the Commission exercised its legal powers (Sections 47, 52 and 54 Charities Act 2011), provided by the Act, to issue various orders and directions for the purposes of information gathering from local authorities, private individuals and companies, including financial institutions.

The Inquiry directed trustees to a meeting on 18 October 2013 to discuss regulatory concerns and seek further explanation from the trustees. The charity’s books and records were also inspected on 13/14 November 2013.

The Inquiry, being satisfied in accordance with section 76(1) of the Act, that there had been misconduct and / or mismanagement in the administration of the charity and that it was necessary or desirable to act for the protection of the property of the charity, used a number of regulatory powers, under the following sections of the Act:

*section 76(3)(d) orders (8 August 2014), directing the banks not to part with the charity’s property without the Commission’s prior written consent, protecting £615,420 of the charity’s funds

*section 76(3)(g) appointing an Interim Manager on 6 August 2014 (appointment to take effect from 11 August 2014) and then under 337(6) varying the order (25 January 2016) to authorise the
*Interim Manager to appoint a new board of trustees
section 337(6) discharging (18 November 2014) the order not to part by further order, once the

*Interim Manager assumed control of the charity’s property

The former trustees exercised their right to appeal (8 August 2014) to the First-tier Tribunal, General Regulatory Chamber (Charity) against the order appointing the Interim Manager. The appeal was withdrawn on 20 January 2015 with the charity’s legal representatives, notifying the Commission that the trustees were “now willing to accept that the statutory threshold under section 76 of the Act was met in the present case”.

Appointment of an interim manager
The Inquiry appointed an interim manager, Rod Weston of Mazars LLP, (the IM) on 6 August 2014 under section 76(3)(g) of the Act to take over the management and administration of the charity to the exclusion of trustees. The trustees were not excluded from performing the religious and/or spiritual functions connected with their roles as Pastors within the charity.

The scope of the IM’s appointment included:

*taking control of the management and administration of the charity to the exclusion of trustees and taking steps to secure and protect charity property

*reviewing the governance and administration of the charity and taking remedial action in the best interests of the charity

*reviewing the charity’s financial controls, systems and reporting procedures, safeguarding funds and ensuring proper expenditure controls and governance
consider whether any of the decision making trustees were personally liable for any breach of duty/loss of the charity, taking remedial action to regularise any breaches of duty in the best interest of the charity

The costs of the IM’s appointment, including legal advice and fees that would have been necessary and incurred by any trustee, amounted to £1,244,983.50 excluding VAT. The costs of the IM’s appointment were met out of the charity’s funds and are itemised as follows:

*fees directly related to work as IM – £390,358.40
*professional fees – £854,625.10 (relating to work conducted by 3rd parties on behalf of the IM)
*In addition £208,000 of work was undertaken by the IM on a pro bono basis.

As part of his appointment, the IM completed a full governance and infrastructure review of the charity and its activities. His initial findings, on 9 October 2014, corroborated the Commission’s regulatory concerns relating to the charity, reporting that “the board of trustees appears to be fragmented” and “appear to have little appreciation of their roles, duties and obligations as Trustees”. He identified a number of Health and Safety risks and concerns as well as legal issues relating to property matters which had failed to be dealt with by the trustees and which posed financial risks to the charity. The IM’s investigations found failings in the charity’s governance, leadership and management structures and personnel, including identifying that the charity had insufficient financial controls and procedures.

Remedial actions were taken to regularise the charity’s governance to ensure it was fit for purpose. This encompassed the following:

*establishing a central record of all properties leased and/or rented by the charity to ensure that the terms of leases were being met appropriately and suitable exit plans were in place where leases were due to expire
*establishing an accurate record of assets (ownership of a number of properties, motor vehicles and a range of fixed assets ) owned by the charity, gaining control of the charity’s property portfolio and cash reserves – the IM reduced the number of bank accounts in operation from approximately 40 to 8 and in September 2015 took control of just under £12,000,000

*introduction and implementation of financial controls, systems and reporting procedures, regularising the management of income and expenditure

*Health and Safety audits and fire risk assessments were carried out; training provided to staff and implementation of suitable Health & Safety policies and procedures
extensive liaison with HMRC resulting in settlement of the charity’s tax liabilities
recruitment of new board of trustees

*induction and training of new trustees

Restitution
On 18 November 2015, the IM considered professional advice and the particular circumstances of this case and decided that restitution (by way of civil claims against former trustees for breaches of duties and losses to the charity was not in the best interests of the charity.

Following the appointment of a new Board of Trustees on 12 April 2016, significant progress has been made to address the governance and improve oversight and control by the new trustees, as a result of which the IM was discharged on 12 April 2016.

Issues for the wider sector
Financial Controls & Accounting Records
Proper financial controls are a necessary feature of any well-run organisation. Because of the special characteristics of the charitable sector, they play an essential part in helping to show potential donors and beneficiaries that a charity’s property is safeguarded, and that its management is efficient.

Trustees are equally responsible for the overall management and administration of the charity. Every charity’s accounting records must be sufficient to show and explain its transactions and disclose with reasonable accuracy its financial position. Trustees should ensure that financial controls are not only adequate but provide sufficient information to satisfy the trustees that the controls are being observed. If, due to the nature of the charity, its work, location and /or set up the trustees delegate supervision of financial arrangements to one or a small number of trustees or employees, they need to ensure that there are arrangements in place for proper reporting back to the whole trustee body. In this way, system failures or issues can be identified at an early stage.

Therefore, in order to show that they are complying with their legal duties, trustees must keep records and an adequate audit trail to show that the Charity’s money has been properly spent on furthering the Charity’s purposes for the benefit of the public.

Conflicts of Interest Policy
Charity trustees should ensure that they have a conflicts of interest policy in place to ensure that they are fully aware of their responsibilities and that any conflicts that do arise are appropriately managed.

Where a charity trustee has a conflict of interest they should follow the basic checklist set out in the Commission publication Conflicts of interest: a guide for charity trustees (CC29) and where necessary or appropriate take professional advice.

The law states that trustees cannot receive any benefit from their charity in return for any service they provide to it or enter into any self-dealing transactions unless they have the legal authority to do so. This may come from the charity’s governing document or, if there is no such provision in the governing document, the Commission or the Courts. Further information is available from Trustee expenses and payments (CC11).

Charity Property
Charity trustees have a general duty to manage their charity’s resources responsibly, reasonably and honestly. This means not exposing their charity’s assets, beneficiaries or reputation to undue risk. It is about exercising sound judgement and then taking decisions that a reasonable body of trustees would do.

Trustees must put appropriate policies, procedures and safeguards in place and take all reasonable steps to ensure that these are followed.

If a charity owns land or buildings, trustees need to know on a continuing basis what condition it is in, that it is being properly used, and that adequate insurance is in place. The essential trustee: what you need to know, what you need to do (CC3) makes clear that decisions about charity land and property are important. If the charity owns or rents land or buildings, the trustees need to:

*make sure the property is recorded as belonging to the charity
know on what terms it is held
*ensure it is properly maintained and being correctly used
*make sure the charity has sufficient insurance

A charity’s governing document or the general law can provide a ‘power to insure’. If the governing document imposes a positive duty to insure, if trustees then fail to insure property, this will be a breach of trust. More details are available in the Commission’s guidance Charities and insurance (CC49).

Trustee Decision Making
Charity trustees are responsible for governing their charity and making decisions about how it should be run. Making decisions is one of the most important parts of the trustees’ role. Trustees can be confident about decision making if they understand their role and responsibilities, know how to make decisions effectively, are ready to be accountable to people with an interest in their charity, and follow the 7 principles that the courts have developed for reviewing decisions made by trustees. Trustees must:

*act within their powers
*act in good faith and only in the interests of the charity
*make sure they are sufficiently informed
*take account of all relevant factors
*ignore any irrelevant factors
*manage conflicts of interest
*make decisions that are within the range of decisions that a reasonable trustee body could make

It is important that charity trustees apply these 7 principles when making significant or strategic decisions, such as those affecting the charity’s beneficiaries, assets or future direction.

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Scientologist says the church is telling Clearwater members not to vote for Mark Bunker

person
[Mark Bunker and Pat Harney]

One of our readers in Clearwater, Florida describes themselves as someone who recently began having doubts about the organization and for a few weeks has been looking around the Internet about Scientology, including this website.

They reached out to us to tell us about something remarkable that happened to them this weekend. On Saturday evening they received a blind copy of a mass email from Scientology spokeswoman Pat Harney that apparently went out to all local members of the church…

From: pat.harney@cos.flag.org
Date: November 30, 2019 at 6:47 PM EST
To: Pat Harney Subject: Please call Pat Harney at the OSA Office


Hello,

Do you live in Clearwater?

This is very important.

Please call me at the OSA office number at 727-467-6860 for a short survey.

Best,
Pat Harney
Director of Public Relations
Office of Special Affairs

When our reader called, they were asked to wait to get Harney herself on the phone. When she did, she asked our reader if they lived in Clearwater. When they said they did, Harney then said that she was reaching out to all local Scientologists to make them aware of an important election coming in March 2020, the election for Clearwater’s mayor and city council.

Three seats are up for election on the council, Harney explained, but they were especially interested in seat two, and that Scientologists should avoid voting for an “SP” — a “suppressive person,” which is Scientology jargon for an enemy of the church.

The reader astutely asked Harney to name the SP so they would know not to vote for them, and Harney then said it was Mark Bunker.

As for who to vote for, our reader tells us that Harney then said that the church couldn’t tell its members who to vote for.

Well, that’s cute. Pat Harney would know quite well that as a tax exempt religious organization, the Church of Scientology cannot get involved with politics or endorse candidates without risking its tax exempt status. But she apparently thinks the church can stay within the lines if it tells its members who not to vote for.

Mark Bunker, of course, has been very open about his opposition to Scientology and his desire to get elected so he can help Clearwater stop being such a doormat to the aggressive, bullying organization. So it’s really not all that surprising that Scientology wouldn’t want its members to vote for him. But we find it entertaining that the church feels compelled to fire up an OSA operation to get the word out.

“I’m not at all surprised that Scientology is getting out the word that I must be stopped. It’s an unlikely job for a PR person, but Pat Harney and her associates have long been used by Scientology as attack dogs,” Bunker told us when we informed him about the Harney email. “The day after I released a video saying I planned to run, Pat Harney was on the phone to downtown business owners asking, ‘What do you think of Mr. Bunker running for city council?’ and adding, ‘We can’t let him do that.’ I’m sure Scientology will do everything in its power to keep me from winning. It’s what they do but I don’t believe they can succeed. Scientology has spent decades cultivating an oppressive, intimidating facade, gleefully letting people know they are not a ‘turn-the-other-cheek religion.’ Well, people are sick of being intimidated. Everyone I speak with on the campaign trail is excited that someone is willing to take on Scientology.”

We called the number on Harney’s email and we were greeted by a sunny “Public Affairs!” from a young woman. We said that we wanted to speak with Pat Harney and we were put on hold. We were then told she was in a meeting, so we left a message for her and asked her to call us back. We also followed up with a detailed email message to her.

We’ll let you know if she gets back to us.

 
——————–

Leaked document of the day

From the Valley Org documents release comes this item.

This is a fun find in the Valley Org documents. It was attached to more recent items, but it’s a great snapshot of 2004, when Scientology’s Criminon front group was more visible than it is today, and was supported by militant Scientologist celebrity Jenna Elfman, as well as actress Catherine Bell.

And the “Greg” who signs this commendation is Greg Capazorio, who happens to be brother-in-law to Top Gun himself, actor Tom Cruise.

 
——————–

“In the final run of it, he gets up to a fairly comprehensive idea of what he’s been and done….He gets himself one Godawful amount of time blocked out. Oh, some terrific amount of time blocked out. He gets up to trillions to the eighth power. Time, you know. Oh man, time, you see. First he gets horrified, you see, at the idea of twelve trillion years ago or something like that. He gets finally, up to a point where trillions to the eighth power take him back to some of the earliest implants. And he’s perfectly happy at this level that there’s an awful lot of track….Now, his track goes sizzling back to trillions to the 200th power. Well that’s, of course, one of these ridiculous figures. That’s trillion written two hundred times. Or one with two hundred times you write all the ciphers of a trillion. That gets to be quite a few ciphers and every one of those things is a year. You’re getting into the sweep of time by this time. Well, I myself have had, I just thought I was doing fine when I was doing some research this last summer. I said, ‘Gee, you know we’re getting clear back here.’ Trillions four, you know. Whew, you know? Dizzying. Concepts of time. Trying to date one of these confounded things, you know. Trying to handle these fantastic periods of time with arithmetic, and trying to dream up other methods of going into all this. Rough! Because it just took the auditor too tall, too long to say anything so you got crude rough approximations like, trillions 4.5, see?” — L. Ron Hubbard, December 3, 1963

 
——————–

“For some weeks late in 1982 I remained conscious, even when my body slept. I found that four hours of that kind of sleep was equal to eight of the usual, unconscious sleep, in terms of resting the body. Anyway, one night I was up late, standing nightwatch at Van Org, working on the word ‘postulate.’ When I figured I had it cleared I thought, ‘I want twenty bucks.’ I walked outside onto the street, walked about half a block, and there on the sidewalk were two ten-dollar bills, neatly folded. I picked up the twenty bucks, went back inside and signed off on the word ‘postulate.’ I’m past-life Clear and don’t know what-all I might have had run on me after going Clear way back then, but it was the early ’50s and research was raging ahead. I’m finally getting my Grades now and intend to complete the Bridge, eventually to regain that mastery over unconsciousness that I attained for a short while in the early ’80s. It’ll come in handy next time I want to leave a body for a new one.”

 
——————–

“The really scary thing to me about Carla Moxon is that there are literally millions of others like her in this world that are seriously mentally deluded due to magical thinking and they are among us doing jobs that could cause the rest of us harm if they just go off a tad too much at the wrong time. Anybody keeping track of all the problems going on with members of the ICBM defense system? And that’s not even due to magical thinking.”

 
——————–

Scientology’s celebrities, ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and more!

[The Big Three: Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kirstie Alley]

We’ve been building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and we’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them. Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society!

Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in our weekly series. How many have you read?

 
——————–

THE WHOLE TRACK

[ONE year ago] Thar she blows: The ‘whales’ who are keeping Scientology afloat in 2018
[TWO years ago] Scientology loses another outlet for attracting young acting talent in Hollywood
[THREE years ago] In Scientology, dancing in a conga line might end up costing you thousands
[FOUR years ago] Augustine: How Scientology changes its story to fit what it’s trying to get away with
[FIVE years ago] About that Tom Cruise Scientology ‘co-leader’ nonsense spreading in the media
[SIX years ago] Our Experts Prepare Us for the Wall of Fire — Scientology’s Operating Thetan Level Three!
[EIGHT years ago] Scientology Capsize: Commenters of the Week!
[TEN years ago] David Cross Endorses Scientology In a Way Only He Can

 
——————–

Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,647 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,776 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,280 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,800 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 820 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 711 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,018 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,886 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,660 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,434 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,780 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,346 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,265 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,433 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,014 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,275 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,313 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,026 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,552 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,078 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,641 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,781 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,101 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,957 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,076 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,431 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,734 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,840 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,242 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,114 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,697 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,192 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,446 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,555 days.

——————–

Posted by Tony Ortega on December 3, 2019 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our new book with Paulette Cooper, is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2018 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2018), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists | GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice | SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts | Shelly Miscavige, 14 years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele

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Twitter wants to give you more control over your conversations with its new “hide reply” feature

cell phone person tv remote

Last Thursday, Twitter announced that its new options for users to “hide reply” under their tweets has been rolled out globally.

Starting today, you can now hide replies to your Tweets. Out of sight, out of mind. pic.twitter.com/0Cfe4NMVPj

The announcement, which was first made in February and started testing in early July in Canada, Japan, and the US, was discovered by Jane Manchun Wong, a reverse-engineering expert.

Twitter is testing replies moderation. It lets you to hide replies under your tweets, while providing an option to show the hidden replies pic.twitter.com/dE19w4TLtp

— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) February 28, 2019

This move is coming after Twitter reportedly tested the hiding of likes and the retweet button in its soon-to-be-released new mobile app, twttr — to help read long conversations and threads easier — in March.

This “hide reply” feature will enable users to hide any reply of their choice from the conversations they start. It can also be used to hide replies that are unrelated to the content of the tweet.

“Currently, repliers can shift the topic or tone of a discussion and derail what you and your audience want to talk about. To give you more control over the conversations you start, we tested the option for you to hide replies to your Tweets. We learned that the feature is a useful new way to manage your conversations,” Twitter said in a blog post.

Prior to this new feature being rolled out, users could only control their conversations by muting certain keywords so they didn’t show up in their notifications, or by blocking certain users.

However, with this new feature, the author of the tweets decides which replies stay and which are hidden from other users.

Aside from adding this feature, Twitter Product Lead, Kayvon Beykpour, also says that they are looking at “exploring providing even more control, such as letting you choose only specific people who can reply to your tweet.”

How to hide replies

Once a reply has been hidden, it will be replaced by a notice that says, “This reply has been hidden by the Tweet author” when viewed on the author’s timeline.

Though the hidden replies will be moved to a different page, where other users can view it. Other users can click on the ‘hidden replies’ icon on the tweet and get a list of replies that have been hidden.

Additionally, before a reply is totally hidden, Twitter will ask if you would like to block the owner of the account whose reply you hid. The person whose comment was hidden will also be able to see that the comment is no longer available.

How to unhide a reply

This feature is available on Twitter for iOS, Android, and twitter.com, but not on Tweetdeck.

Considering that Facebook and Instagram are testing the hiding of likes, it appears that social media platforms are looking to make their apps less toxic for users.

Want more stories like this? Subscribe to the Techpoint Africa Newsletter.

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Akeredolu kicks against death penalty for hate-speech offenders

 Adekunle Jimoh, Ilorin

Ondo state Governor Rotimi Akeredolu on Monday opposed proposed death penalty for hate-speech offenders in the country.

He likened the penalty to sentencing someone who steals N10,000 to death and freeing another that steals one million Naira.

Governor Akeredolu said this in Ilorin, the Kwara state capital at the opening ceremony of the sixth biennial international conference of the University of Ilorin Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies department.

The theme of the conference is: “Domesticating sustainable development goal 16 in Nigeria: Peace, justice and strong institutions.”

The governor added that “when I was the president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) I vehemently opposed capital punishment for condemned criminals. I will be a turncoat as governor to now support death penalty for hate-speech offenders.

“As the governor of Ondo state I will not commit to death those condemned criminals, instead I will look into how to commute their sentences to life imprisonment. Or I will transfer them to other administrations.”

He regretted that there is no virile opposition in the country, adding that “every other person who was in opposition in 2015 has now crossed over to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). I am amused if I
see them decamping in droves to the APC.”

Ex-ABA president added that injustice real or imagined has been responsible for the absence of peace in Nigeria.

Said he: “Any discussion on justice which leaves out the deplorable conditions of the people is self-serving; it is patently unjust to have the mass of the people depend on handouts from the political class having lost the capacity to contribute to the development of the polity.

Read Also; Akeredolu warns against ‘unwarranted’ agitations on bitumen

“Until and unless the identifiable geo-political zones are encouraged to realize their potentials with a view to participating actively in the economic activities for growth and prosperity, there will be no end to crises.

“Current measures put in place seem insufficient to rescues the country from socio-economic doldrums.

Therefore, the preponderance of conflicts in virtually all parts of the country seems to suggest failure of the system. Working at these manifest lapses will assist greatly.

“Institutions of state must be self-regulating. The basic law of the land, the Constitution, and relevant subsidiary legislations must be the instruments which determine the life and functions of any institution created to take care of the welfare of the people.”

Earlier, Vice Chancellor of the university Prof Sulyman Abdulkareem lamented that the world, particularly developing countries are caught up in the ensnaring web of ceaseless and needless conflicts as well as entwining miseries of ineffective governance that sustain structural tensions and retard sustainable development.

Prod Abdulkareem added that “by 2017, 68.5 million people mostly from developing nations of the world, were estimated to have been forcibly displaced as a result of conflicts, violence or human right violations.

“Corruption, bribery and theft are said to have caused developing countries $1.26 trillion per year, thereby retarding their sustainable growth. It is saddening that our continent of Africa is suffering more than any other parts of the world from these centrifugal forces against sustainable development.

“Sadly, too, Africa has become the centre of conflicts. Various intra and inter conflicts, uprising and violence spread across the continent. Boko Haram in the north eastern part of Nigeria has become seemingly insurmountable. Kidnapping has become a common menace that threatens the security and guarantee of human rights of citizens in most parts of developing nations of the world.”

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Facebook, free speech, and political ads – Columbia Journalism Review

A number of Facebook’s recent decisions have fueled a criticism that continues to follow the company, including the decision not to fact-check political advertising and the inclusion of Breitbart News in the company’s new “trusted sources” News tab. These controversies were stoked even further by Mark Zuckerberg’s speech at Georgetown University last week, where he tried—mostly unsuccessfully—to portray Facebook as a defender of free speech. CJR thought all of these topics were worth discussing with free-speech experts and researchers who focus on the power of platforms like Facebook, so we convened an interview series this week on our Galley discussion platform, featuring guests like Alex Stamos, former chief technology officer of Facebook, veteran tech journalist Kara Swisher, Jillian York of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain, and Stanford researcher Kate Klonick.

Stamos, one of the first to raise the issue of potential Russian government involvement on Facebook’s platform while he was the head of security there, said he had a number of issues with Zuckerberg’s speech, including the fact that he “compressed all of the different products into this one blob he called Facebook. That’s not a useful frame for pretty much any discussion of how to handle speech issues.” Stamos said the News tab is arguably a completely new category of product, a curated and in some cases paid-for selection of media, and that this means the company has much more responsibility for what appears there. Stamos also said that there are “dozens of Cambridge Analyticas operating today collecting sensitive data on individuals and using it to target ads for political campaigns. They just aren’t dumb enough to get their data through breaking an API agreement with Facebook.”

Ellen Goodman, co-founder of the Rutgers Institute for Information Policy & Law, said that Mark Zuckerberg isn’t the first to have to struggle with tensions between free speech and democratic discourse, “it’s just that he’s confronting these questions without any connection to press traditions, with only recent acknowledgment that he runs a media company, in the absence of any regulation, and with his hands on personal data and technical affordances that enable microtargeting.” Kate Klonick of Stanford said Zuckerberg spoke glowingly about early First Amendment cases, but got one of the most famous—NYT v Sullivan—wrong. “The case really stands for the idea of tolerating even untrue speech in order to empower citizens to criticize political figures,” Klonick said. “It is not about privileging political figures’ speech, which of course is exactly what the new Facebook policies do.”

Evelyn Douek, a doctoral student at Harvard Law and an affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center For Internet & Society, said most of Zuckerberg’s statements about his commitment to free speech were based on the old idea of a marketplace of ideas being the best path to truth. This metaphor has always been questionable, Douek says, “but it makes no sense at all in a world where Facebook constructs, tilts, distorts the marketplace with its algorithms that favor a certain kind of content.” She said Facebook’s amplification of certain kinds of information via the News Feed algorithm “is a cause of a lot of the unease with our current situation, especially because of the lack of transparency.” EFF director Jillian York said the political ad issue is a tricky one. “I do think that fact-checking political ads is important, but is this company capable of that? These days, I lean toward thinking that maybe Facebook just isn’t the right place for political advertising at all.”

Swisher said: “The problem is that this is both a media company, a telephone company and a tech company. As it is architected, it is impossible to govern. Out of convenience we have handed over the keys to them and we are cheap dates for doing so. You get a free map and quick delivery? They get billions and control the world.” Zittrain said the political ad fact-checking controversy is about more than just a difficult product feature. “Evaluating ads for truth is not a mere customer service issue that’s solvable by hiring more generic content staffers,” he said. “The real issue is that a single company controls far too much speech of a particular kind, and thus has too much power.” Dipayan Ghosh, who runs the Platform Accountability Project at Harvard, warned that Facebook’s policy to allow misinformation in political ads means a politician “will have the opportunity to engage in coordinated disinformation operations in precisely the same manner that the Russian disinformation agents did in 2016.”

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Russians Praise Trump, Taunt Zelensky, as Ukraine Signs On to Peace-Plan Proposal

Existential dread washed over the face of the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, as he sat next to the American president during their joint press conference on the sidelines of the UN. Donald Trump, as the face of Ukraines most powerful ally in its struggle against Russian aggression, was telling him: I really hope you and President Putin get together and can solve your problem.

Having lost more than 13,000 people in an ongoing conflict with its belligerent neighbor, Ukraine was now being told to make a deal with the aggressor, becauseaccording to President TrumpPresident Putin would like to do something.

During the same conference, Zelensky pleaded with Trump for help with returning the territories occupied and annexed by Russia, and, egged on by Trumpand contrary to the factscomplained that Europe wasnt doing as much as the United States to help Ukraine. In reality, European institutions spent nearly double the amount supplied by the United States: $425.2 million in 2016-2017, as compared to $204.4 million spent by the U.S.

While that disclosure infuriated Ukraines European allies, Trump in the now infamous July 25 phone call with Zelensky blamed Ukraines troubles on the Obama administration, dismissively concluding its just one of those things and directing Zelensky to ask for more help from Europe. Since the calls release, Ukrainians have nicknamed their president Monica Zelensky, as a jab referring to his part in the ongoing impeachment proceedings against Trump.

Backed into the corner and seeming to stand alone there, Zelensky made a step toward a deal with Putin by officially signing up Ukraine to the Steinmeier Formula. The agreement provides the pathway to a summit that would bring Zelensky face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Russia demanded written codification of the Steinmeier Formula by Ukraine as a key precondition to the next Normandy summit. It interprets the clauses of the Minsk accords (agreements between the Ukrainian authorities and Russia-backed separatists) in line with Russias preferences andtherefore enjoys the Kremlins seal of approval.

We know what happened in the United States. You have nowhere left to go.
Russian TV Host Olga Skabeeva addressing Ukraine

The formula further calls for elections to be conducted under the supervision of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in the territories held by Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. It was signed on Oct. 1 by representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the separatist pseudo-republics of Luhansk and Donetsk (LPR and DPR), and the OSCE in Minsk.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the signing of the Steinmeier Formula agreement as a positive development. Senator Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Federation Councils foreign affairs committee, who is under U.S. sanctions for worldwide malign activity, said the signing represents without a doubt, a victory for common sense and an overall success. In stark contrast to Russias jubilation, hundreds of Ukrainians in Kyiv have protested, demanding no capitulation to the Kremlin and its proxies.

The most controversial aspect of the Steinmeier Formula is that it provides for local elections to take place in the occupied parts of Ukraine before Kyiv has control of the border and prior to the withdrawal of the Russian-backed forces.

This condition doesnt seem to match up with Zelenskys understanding of the agreement. After signing on to the Steinmeier Formula, the Ukrainian president declared during a news conference that the elections would not be held under the barrel of a gun and would take place only when no troops remain in the separatist-held areas.

What Ukraine was so afraid of has happened Zelensky doesnt understand what he signed, concluded Vladimir Soloviev, the host of the nightly The Evening With Vladimir Soloviev on Russian state television.

The heads of Russia-backed separatist pseudo-republics in eastern Ukraine openly proclaimed in a public statement that the Kyiv authorities wont get any control over the border and vowed that LPR and DPR will make decisions about integration with Russia of their own accord. Forget about controlling the border, once and for all, exclaimed political scientist Sergey Kurginyan, appearing on The Evening.

During a panel discussion at the Russian Energy Week forum, Putin said that Zelensky will have to decide how the relations between Ukraine and Donbas will develop, pointedly referring to Ukraines own region as a separate geopolitical entity. Putin opined that Ukraine did much better when it was a part of the Soviet Union, along with Russia.

Appearing on Russias state television program 60 Minutes, Oleg Nilov, member of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, asserted that Ukraine was forced to sign the Steinmeier Formulaand proceeded to threaten the country with the Israeli formula of taking all the land Russia wants, if Kyiv reneges on the deal.

Come back to the Soviet Union, urged Karen Shakhnazarov, CEO of Mosfilm Studio, appearing on The Evening. The talk-show host Soloviev concurred and reminded the guests that the USSR was originally formed by a treaty that united the Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian and Transcaucasian republics.

Trump let Zelensky down. Three times he told him: Go meet with Putin, said Olga Skabeeva, the host of 60 Minutes. During the same program, Nikolai Platoshkin, head of the International Relations Department at Moscow University for the Humanities, predicted that once all the formulas have been exhausted, LPR and DPR will ultimately become a part of the Russian Federation. Skabeeva concurred: The sooner the better.

She surmised: After his triumphant meeting with the American president, Zelensky had no choice but to lie back and enjoy it We know what happened in the United States. You have nowhere left to go.

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