Twitter Flooded With Hilarious Memes After Nirmala Sitharaman Presented Union Budget 2020

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Today was an important day of the year as the Union Budget 2020 was presented by the Finance Minister of India, Nirmala Sitharaman. The major highlight of the budget is the new income tax slabs but the government has given an option to the citizens, they can either choose to continue with the old tax rates with exemption or can opt for the new tax rates in which the exemptions are not provided.

As per the Finance Minister, Union Budget 2020 is focused on three points – improving the standards of living, economic development for each section and a caring society. The Finance Minister has also called the Goods and Service Tax (GST) as a historic reform in the Indian tax regime. Nirmala Sitharaman emphasized on the need of making compliances easy to fulfill for the startups too.

Every person tries to find out what this budget has for him and after the 2.5 hours long speech of the Finance Minister, the micro-blogging site Twitter is flooded with reactions. While some expressed their happiness or annoyance, there were some who felt that the speech was unnecessarily long and compared it with Sajid Khan’s movie. Here are some of the selected reactions:

#1

Middle class people trying to understand #Budget2020 . pic.twitter.com/LVp4vOrfVf

— Hunटरर ♂ 🥳 (@nickhunterr) February 1, 2020

#2

Nirmala Sitharaman talking about government’s achievements #BudgetSession2020 pic.twitter.com/wOsKn4GPR6

— Sir Yuzvendra (parody) (@SirYuzvendra) February 1, 2020

#3

#BudgetSession2020 #Budget2020
*Rahul Gandhi trying to understand the Budget* pic.twitter.com/uIrkC4294Z

— Ashutosh Singh (@ashusarcastic) February 1, 2020

#4

1. Indians before budget speech.
2. Indians after budget speech.#Budget2020 pic.twitter.com/4G9WD2BIaQ

— Nirmala Tai Halwe wali (@Vishj05) February 1, 2020

#5

Income Tax slabs over the years#Budget2020 #BudgetSession2020 #NirmalaSitaraman pic.twitter.com/RIDt3ykkVQ

— Siddharth Patni (@aageSeLeftLelo) February 1, 2020

#6

Salaried taxpayers waiting for tax cuts be like:#BUDGET2020 pic.twitter.com/0vbG4XGMuC

— VJ (@CA_Hemwani) February 1, 2020

#7

A friend just said “budget chaahe jaisa marzi aa jaye, hum month end tak gareeb ho hi jaayenge”, and it hit me hard. #BudgetSession2020

— Pakchikpak Raja Babu (@HaramiParindey) February 1, 2020

#8

People : Is bar ka #Budget2020 Middle class wala hoga !!

Nirmala : pic.twitter.com/IUiK97hcTg

— Sourabh 🇮🇳 (@SourabhJainIET) February 1, 2020

#9

The #Budget2020 was a Sajid Khan movie 😁#BudgetSession2020

— HOLLA! (@AshokaHolla) February 1, 2020

#10

#BudgetOnZee #Budget2020 #BudgetSession2020

When tax Rates and you realise
Gets Reduced no deduction will
Be allowed as well pic.twitter.com/4XjvY05Au6

— CUagain (@RECinaction) February 1, 2020

#11

Everybody right now. #Budget2020 pic.twitter.com/U0GVYbe24Z

— अंकित जैन (@indiantweeter) February 1, 2020

#12

Common Man trying to understand #Budget2020 listening to #NirmalaSitharaman’s speech. pic.twitter.com/oXLCjKHp1c

— Godman Chikna (@Madan_Chikna) February 1, 2020

#13

Middle class people checking the budget benefits #Budget2020 pic.twitter.com/oJVhN90lIF

— Aishthetic ?? (@Badassgirlll) February 1, 2020

#14

New income tax regime #Budget2020 pic.twitter.com/l2QmPyfjWH

— Megha Mandavia (@MeghaMandaviaET) February 1, 2020

#15

New Tax slab … #Budget2020 https://t.co/CGwLmE0coJ pic.twitter.com/uUJE77gbeS

— Mr. Dua (@koolmunddaa) February 1, 2020

The share market doesn’t seem to be happy with the budget as it closed almost 900 points down today. The experts feel that the government has not talked clearly on the matter of dealing with economic slowdown.

What is your opinion on the Union Budget 2020? Let us know your views.

The post Twitter Flooded With Hilarious Memes After Nirmala Sitharaman Presented Union Budget 2020 appeared first on RVCJ Media.

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Death Threats On Our Director Satanic, Can Plunge Nigeria Into Religious War, MURIC Warns

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*insists Muslims in South West sidelined on Amotekun

By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja

South West States Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) chairmen have called for the immediate arrest of some persons for allegedly issuing out death threats to it’s Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, saying it Satanic and could engulf Nigeria in a religious crisis.

They expressed this in a statement jointly signed by the six chairmen Ekiti (Murician Qasim Salahudeen), Ogun (Murician Tajudeen Jimoh), Oyo (Murician Salahudeen Abdul Wasiu), Osun (Murician Marufdeen Odedeji), Ondo (Murician Abdul Ganiyu Maroof) and Lagos (Murician Shefiu Ayorinde) and made available to AUTHENTIC News Daily on Tuesday January 28, 2020.

“A twitter handler directed a death threat to the director and founder of our Islamic human rights organization, Professor Ishaq Akintola, about a week ago. 

“He wrote a chilling comment on Professor Akintola’s picture and posted it. 

“The post was, in turn, screenshot from the Whatshap status of a contact who identified herself as Tosin Elizabeth a.k.a ‘Hidee’ with telephone number 08163964812.

“The death threat was issued under the caption, ‘THIS COBRA NEEDS TO BE KILLED’ and the exact words used were:

“There is one big COBRA we must kill, before it kills all of us with its venom. This MURIC man, Professor Ishaq Akintola, must be tamed, else he will succeed in destroying Yorubaland with venom from his religious stupidity. He sees, he talks and behaves like a big radical Taliban. He’s an agent of disunity, and must be called to order before it is too late.”

“We, the chairmen of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) branches from the South West, specifically from Ekiti (Murician Qasim Salahudeen), Ogun (Murician Tajudeen Jimoh), Oyo (Murician Salahudeen Abdul Wasiu), Osun (Murician Marufdeen Odedeji), Ondo (Murician Abdul Ganiyu Maroof) and Lagos (Murician Shefiu Ayorinde) hereby totally and categorically condemn the death threat issued against Professor Ishaq Akintola, the director of our organization,” it said.

They said that the death threat is Satanic and provocative. 

“It is capable of causing religious crisis not only in the South West but in Nigeria as a whole. Apart from revealing a desire to assassinate our director, it is also an incitement of the Yoruba people against the founder and director of our organisation. We insist that no harm must come to Professor Ishaq Lakin Akintola.

“It is clear from the words used in the death threat that the brain behind the satanic message is a Yoruba person who feels aggrieved by MURIC’s stand on the Amotekun security outfit which the governors of the South West have proposed. 

“For the avoidance of doubt, MURIC did not oppose the establishment of a security unit in Yorubaland so long as it is for better security. MURIC only opposed the way Muslims in the region have been sidelined in the arrangement. We reject the idea of collecting birth certificate from churches or letters of recommendation from pastors.

“Is that why our leader must be killed? Is that why Akintola became your first target? Is there no freedom of speech in this country? Are we not in a democracy? Is this how you want to treat Muslims after establishing Amotekun? We are certain that your intention is to turn Amotekun to a terror machine. You want to train assassins for eliminating Muslim leaders one by one.

“Yoruba Muslims have the right to speak freely. We are in the land of our ancestors. We are not foreigners. Nobody can expel us from the land of Oduduwa. We will continue to exercise our fundamental human rights without fear while we remain peaceful and law abiding. We are willing to live peacefully with our neighbours whether they are Christians, traditionalists or atheists. 

“The Nigerian Constitution accommodates all faiths. We are even ready to join the new security outfits in our different states once the religious bias is removed and the legal technicalities are resolved. But no true Muslim will give his or her blessing to a security organization which begins by showing anti-Muslim bias and targeting our Muslim brothers in the North.

“For the sake of clarity, we affirm that MURIC is a peace-loving organization and our motto is ‘Dialogue, Not Violence’. Incidentally, our leader, Professor Akintola, is also a peace-loving man.

“He has never engaged in violence or supported any violent group. He has always condemned Boko Haram and promoted peaceful coexistence among the adherents of different faiths. Akintola is also an anti-corruption jihadist.

“The implications of attacking the director of MURIC will have far-reaching effect because MURIC is not about one man. Its membership spreads beyond the South West to the North. Those who have been used to persecuting the Muslims while the same oppressors shout to high heaven without anybody challenging them now see him as a threat because he has challenged the status quo and changed the narrative.

“Already, there is tension among the Muslims over the threat to Akintola and the Nigerian Council for Shariah (South West zone) issued a statement on the threat on Sunday, 27th January, 2020. Therefore, anybody planning to attack such a man is planning to plunge Nigeria into another crisis.

“We wish to warn those behind the death threat against Akintola to know what they are up against. Think well before you act. Akintola is the voice of the voiceless Muslims in Nigeria and he is recognized as such throughout the length and breadth of the country. You cannot attack such a person and get away with it so easily. Don’t cause trouble in Nigeria.

“This January 2020 alone, Akintola emerged as Number 4 Most Important Muslim in Nigeria for year 2019. This was the outcome of a public ranking conducted by a Nigerian newspaper. Also in 2019, our director and founder was turbaned the ‘Lion of Islam’ (Kinniun Adinni) by the League of Imams, Ikotun, Lagos State. We all know what it means for hundreds of Imams to unanimously agree to give such a title to an Islamic scholar. We do not need to remind those threatening to kill our director that the lion is the king of all animals, including the leopard (amotekun). What do you think will happen if the leopard attempts to launch an attack on the lion?

“In conclusion, we hereby call upon the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the Department of State Security (DSS) to unmask, apprehend and prosecute those who threatened Professor Ishaq Akintola and to provide adequate protection for him. Professor Akintola is a tax payer and deserves to be well protected. 

“We believe that the security agencies will understand the enormity of the issue and realise that it is a matter of national interest. We affirm that Allah is the best protector and the Most Merciful (Glorious Qur’an 12:64). We also restate our full confidence in the ability of the Nigerian security agencies to get to the bottom of the matter, particularly with the lead provided above as the person on whose status the threat was screenshot (Tosin Elizabeth a.k.a ‘Hidee’, telephone number 08163964812).”

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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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Democrats hold on to Louisiana governor’s seat despite Trump | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

laptop person bottle tie

BATON ROUGE, La. >> Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has stunned Republicans again, narrowly winning a second term today as the Deep South’s only Democratic governor and handing Donald Trump another gubernatorial loss this year.

In the heart of Trump country, the moderate Edwards cobbled together enough cross-party support with his focus on bipartisan, state-specific issues to defeat Republican businessman Eddie Rispone.

Coming after a defeat in the Kentucky governor’s race and sizable losses in Virginia’s legislative races, the Louisiana result seems certain to rattle Republicans as they head into the 2020 presidential election. Trump fought to return the seat to the GOP, making three trips to Louisiana to rally against Edwards.

In a victory rally of his own late today, Edwards thanked supporters who chanted the familiar Louisiana refrain, “Who dat!” and he declared, “How sweet it is!”

He added, “And as for the president, God bless his heart” — a phrase often used by genteel Southerners to politely deprecate someone.

Trump had made the runoff election between Edwards and Rispone a test of his own popularity and political prowess heading into the 2020 presidential race. Today Trump went on Twitter in a vigorous plug for Rispone.

The president’s intense attention motivated not only conservative Republicans, but also powered a surge in anti-Trump and black voter turnout that helped Edwards.

Democrats who argue that nominating a moderate presidential candidate is the best approach to beat Trump are certain to point to Louisiana’s race as bolstering their case. Edwards, a West Point graduate, opposes gun restrictions, signed one of the nation’s strictest abortion bans and dismissed the impeachment effort as a distraction.

Still, while Rispone’s loss raises questions about the strength of Trump’s coattails, its relevance to his reelection chances are less clear. Louisiana is expected to easily back Trump next year, and Edwards’ views in many ways are out of step with his own party.

In the final days as polls showed Edwards with momentum, national Republicans beefed up assistance for Rispone. That wasn’t enough to boost the GOP contender, who wasn’t among the top-tier candidates Republican leaders hoped would challenge Edwards as they sought to prove that the Democrat’s longshot victory in 2015 was a fluke.

He had ties to unpopular former Gov. Bobby Jindal and offered few details about his agenda. Edwards also proved to be a formidable candidate, with a record of achievements.

Working with the majority-Republican Legislature, Edwards stabilized state finances with a package of tax increases, ending the deficit-riddled years of Jindal. New money paid for investments in public colleges and the first statewide teacher raise in a decade.

Edwards expanded Louisiana’s Medicaid program, lowering the state’s uninsured rate below the national average. A bipartisan criminal sentencing law rewrite he championed ended Louisiana’s tenure as the nation’s top jailer.

Rispone, the 70-year-old owner of a Baton Rouge industrial contracting company, hitched his entire candidacy to Trump, introducing himself to voters in ads that focused on support for the president in a state Trump won by 20 percentage points.

But the 53-year-old Edwards, a former state lawmaker and former Army Ranger from rural Tangipahoa Parish, reminded voters that he’s a Louisiana Democrat, with political views that sometimes don’t match his party’s leaders.

“They talk about I’m some sort of a radical liberal. The people of Louisiana know better than that. I am squarely in the middle of the political spectrum,” Edwards said. “That hasn’t changed, and that’s the way we’ve been governing.”

Rispone framed himself in the mold of Trump, describing himself as a “conservative outsider” whose business acumen would help solve the state’s problems.

“We want Louisiana to be No. 1 in the South when it comes to jobs and opportunity. We have to do something different,” Rispone said. “We can do for Louisiana what President Trump has done for the nation.”

Rispone poured more than $12 million of his own money into the race. But he had trouble drawing some of the primary vote that went to Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, after harshly attacking Abraham in ads as he sought to reach the runoff.

Rispone also avoided many traditional public events attended by Louisiana gubernatorial candidates and sidestepped questions about his plans when taking office. He promised tax cuts, without saying where he’d shrink spending, and he pledged a constitutional convention, without detailing what he wanted to rewrite.

Both parties spent millions on attack ads and get-out-the-vote work, on top of at least $36 million spent by candidates.

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Interest rates: Powell tells Congress federal debt is ‘unsustainable’

Powell: U.S. debt is ‘on unsustainable path,’ crimping ability to respond to recession

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned lawmakers Wednesday that the ballooning federal debt could hamper Congress’ ability to support the economy in a downturn, urging them to put the budget “on a sustainable path.”

Powell suggested such fiscal aid could be vital after the Fed has cut its benchmark interest rate three times this year, leaving the central bank less room to lower rates further in case of a recession.

“The federal budget is on an unsustainable path, with high and rising debt,” Powell told the Joint Economic Committee. “Over time, this outlook could restrain fiscal policymakers’ willingness or ability to support economic activity during a downturn.”

Powell also reiterated that the Fed is likely done cutting rates unless the economy heads south.

“The outlook is still a positive one,” he said. “There’s no reason this expansion can’t continue.”

The testimony marks a more aggressive tone for Powell, who generally has steered clear of lecturing lawmakers on the hazards of the federal deficit. But after raising its key rate nine times since late 2015, the Fed has lowered it three times this year to head off the risk of recession posed by President Donald Trump’s trade war with China and a sluggish global economy.

Those developments have hurt manufacturing and business investment while consumer spending remains on solid footing.

The Fed’s benchmark rate is now at a range of 1.5% to 1.75%, above the near-zero level that persisted for years after the Great Recession of 2007-09 but below the 2.25% to 2.5% range early this year.

“Nonetheless, the current low-interest-rate environment may limit the ability of monetary policy to support the economy,” Powell said.

Noting the Fed has lowered its federal funds rate an average 5 percentage points in prior downturns, Powell said, “We don’t have that kind of room.” He added, “Fed policy will also be important, though,” if the nation enters a recession. Fed officials have said they still have ammunition to fight a slump, including lowering rates and resuming bond purchases.

Meanwhile, the federal budget deficit hit $984 billion in fiscal 2019, the highest in seven years, and it’s expected to top $1 trillion in fiscal 2020. The federal tax cuts and spending increases spearheaded by Trump have added to the red ink and are set to add at least $2 trillion to the federal debt over a decade. The national debt recently surpassed $23 trillion.

“The debt is growing faster than the economy and that is unsustainable,” Powell said.

He added that a high and rising federal debt also can “restrain private investment and, thereby, reduce productivity and overall economic growth.” That’s because swollen debt can push interest rates higher.

“Putting the federal budget on a sustainable path would aid in the long-term vigor of the U.S. economy and help ensure that policymakers have the space to use fiscal policy to assist in stabilizing the economy if it weakens,” Powell said.

He added, “How you do that and when you do that is up to you.”

Many economists are forecasting a recession next year, though the risks have eased now that the U.S. and China appear close to a partial settlement of their trade fight and the odds of a Brexit that doesn’t include a trade agreement between Britain and Europe have fallen.

Powell also said the Fed is unlikely to reduce interest rates further unless the economy weakens significantly – a message he delivered after the central bank trimmed its key rate for a third time late last month.

“We see the current stance of monetary policy as likely to remain appropriate” as long as the economy, labor market and inflation remain consistent with the Fed’s outlook, Powell said.

Since last month’s Fed meeting, the government has reported that employers added 128,000 jobs in October – a surprisingly strong showing in light of a General Motors strike and the layoffs of temporary 2020 census workers.

“There’s a lot to like about today’s labor market,” Powell said. He noted the 3.6% unemployment rate, near a 50-year low, is drawing Americans on the sidelines back into the workforce. And while average yearly wage growth has picked up to 3%, it’s lower than anticipated in light of the low jobless rate. Inflation, he said, remains below the Fed’s 2% target.

“Of course, if developments emerge that cause a material reassessment of our outlook, we would respond accordingly,” Powell said.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, tried to coax the Fed chief into weighing in on the potential economic impact of “a massive tax increase,” which some analysts say could be required by several Democratic presidential candidates’ proposals for universal health care or free college tuition.

“I’m particularly reluctant to be pulled into the 2020 election,” said Powell, a Republican and Trump appointee who has been repeatedly attacked by the president for not cutting interest rates more sharply.

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Apple Card faces probe over discrimination complaint | ABS-CBN News

cell phone person

Something curious happened when a husband and wife recently compared their Apple Card spending limits.

David Heinemeier Hansson vented on Twitter that even though his spouse, Jamie Hansson, had a better credit score and other factors in her favor, her application for a credit line increase had been denied.

The prominent software developer wondered how his credit line could be 20 times higher, referring to Apple Card as a “sexist program” (with an expletive added for emphasis).

The card, a partnership between Apple and Goldman Sachs, made its debut in the United States in August.

“My wife and I filed joint tax returns, live in a community-property state, and have been married for a long time,” he wrote Thursday on Twitter. “Yet Apple’s black box algorithm thinks I deserve 20x the credit limit she does.”

Hansson’s tweets caught the attention of more than just his 350,000 followers.

They struck a nerve with New York state regulators, who announced Saturday that they would investigate the algorithm used by Apple Card to determine the creditworthiness of applicants.

Algorithms are codes or a set of instructions used by computers, search engines and smartphone applications to perform tasks, from ordering food delivery to hailing a ride — and yes, applying for credit.

The criteria used by the Apple Card are now being scrutinized by the New York State Department of Financial Services.

“Any algorithm that intentionally or not results in discriminatory treatment of women or any other protected class violates New York law,” an agency spokeswoman said in a statement Saturday night.

“DFS is troubled to learn of potential discriminatory treatment in regards to credit limit decisions reportedly made by an algorithm of Apple Card, issued by Goldman Sachs, and the Department will be conducting an investigation to determine whether New York law was violated and ensure all consumers are treated equally regardless of sex,” the statement said.

An Apple spokeswoman directed questions to a Goldman Sachs spokesman, Andrew Williams, who said that the company could not comment publicly on individual customers.

“Our credit decisions are based on a customer’s creditworthiness and not on factors like gender, race, age, sexual orientation or any other basis prohibited by law,” Williams said.

David Hansson did not respond to an interview request Saturday night.

His wife’s experience with the Apple Card, the first credit card offering by Goldman Sachs, does not appear to be an isolated case, however.

Steve Wozniak, who invented the Apple-1 computer with Steve Jobs and was a founder of the tech giant, responded to Hansson’s tweet with a similar account.

“The same thing happened to us,” Wozniak wrote. “I got 10x the credit limit. We have no separate bank or credit card accounts or any separate assets. Hard to get to a human for a correction though. It’s big tech in 2019.”

In addition to Goldman Sachs, Apple partnered with Mastercard on the Apple Card, which the companies hailed as a revolutionary “digital first” credit card that had no numbers and could be added to the Wallet app on the iPhone and used with Apple Pay.

A spokesman for Mastercard, which provides support for Apple Card’s global payments network, did not respond to a request for comment Saturday.

David Hansson, a Danish entrepreneur and California resident, is known for creating Ruby on Rails, a popular computer coding language used to create database-backed web applications. He is an author and decorated race car driver on the Le Mans circuit, according to a biography on his website.

In a subsequent tweet, he said that the Apple Card’s customer service representatives told his wife that they were not authorized to discuss the credit assessment process.

He said that customer service employees were unable to explain why the algorithm had designated her to be less creditworthy but had assured his wife that the bank was not discriminating against women.

An applicant’s credit score and income level are used by Goldman Sachs to determine creditworthiness, according to a support page for the Apple Card. Past due accounts, a checking account closed by a bank for overdrafts, liens and medical debts can negatively affect applications, the page stated.

On Friday, a day after David Hansson started railing on the Apple Card’s treatment of female credit applicants, he said his wife got a “VIP bump” to match his credit limit. He said that didn’t make up for the flawed algorithm used by Apple Card.

He said many women had shared similar experiences with him on Twitter and urged regulators to contact them.

“My thread is full of accounts from women who’ve been declared to be worse credit risks than their husbands, despite higher credit scores or incomes,” he said.

2019 The New York Times Company

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It’s a Buyers’ Market for Two-Bedrooms – The New York Times

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By most measures, it would be absurd to call $1,515,000 for four walls of Sheetrock a bargain.

And yet.

In Manhattan’s flagging real estate market, that was the median sale price of a two-bedroom apartment last quarter — an 8 percent drop from the same period last year, and the largest discount among studio to three-bedroom co-ops and condos, according to the brokerage Douglas Elliman. Only the four-bedroom-and-up market fell further, with a 17 percent drop.

After years of softness at the top, it is finally becoming a buyers’ market for people who intend to actually live and work in New York. Case in point: deep bargains across the wide spectrum of two-bedrooms, the most common apartment for sale in the city.

Median Sales Price by Size

Manhattan’s two-bedroom market had the largest discount among studio to three-bedroom co-ops and condos last quarter.

Q3 2018

Source: Douglas Elliman

By The New York Times

Yes, prices are still out of reach for many New Yorkers, but there are increasing options for first-time and move-up buyers at far lower prices than the median sales price suggests. Coupled with historically low interest rates, two-bedroom buyers are stretching their dollars further with everything from income-restricted co-ops to shiny new condos.

Since the city’s real estate sales market peaked around 2016, observers have focused on the shrinking price tags of ultraluxury three- and four-bedroom apartments, thousands of which remain vacant and unsold. The causes are many: investor speculation, oversupply, shrinking tax breaks, rising transfer taxes, economic uncertainty and downright hubris.

The current declining prices in smaller apartments, though, represents a significant shift and the return of more reasonable pricing. Two-bedrooms made up 31.5 percent of Manhattan’s for-sale inventory last quarter, the most of any category, according to the Elliman report, and has long been the bread-and-butter of both developers and agents. The two-bedroom market accounted for half of all sales at one point in the 1990s, but in more recent years, the ultraluxury condo boom in Manhattan has prompted a move to bigger and more lavish apartments — many of which were targeted to investors and second-home buyers, said Jonathan Miller, the president of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants and author of the report.

Still, upgrading from a smaller apartment to a two-bedroom remains cost prohibitive for many New Yorkers, Mr. Miller said. Last quarter, it cost a median $685,000 more to move up from a one-bedroom to a two-bedroom in Manhattan.

Those forces — too expensive for many move-up buyers, too small for the affluent jet set — have squeezed the two-bedroom market into an awkward position for many sellers, said Tyler Whitman, an agent with Triplemint and cast member on the reality series “Million Dollar Listing.”

“Twenty-five hundred options in the city is a lot of options,” he said, referring to an estimate of how many two-bedrooms are listed in Manhattan. Owners of standard cookie-cutter two-bedrooms would face the toughest challenge, he said.

Of course, the lower prices may be discounts without distinction for many New Yorkers. The median household income in Manhattan was $79,781 in 2017. Assuming a 20 percent down payment and spending 35 percent of their monthly income on a mortgage and additional housing costs, such a buyer could comfortably afford a $358,896 apartment, according to StreetEasy. Citywide, the household income was $57,782, enough for a $259,933 home.

To highlight potential bargains across the extensive two-bedroom market, we looked at income-restricted units for first-time buyers, prewar co-ops with deep discounts, new condos with back-end sweeteners, and options beyond Manhattan.

Prewar Bargains

Many look to the glut of new high-rise, luxury condos for what ails the city’s real estate market, but ambitious pricing at the top also set unrealistic expectations in the comparatively modest co-op market.

“Sooner or later what was happening in the luxury market was likely to catch up with the two-bed market,” said Frederick Warburg Peters, the chief executive of Warburg Realty, who added that one-beds and small two-bedrooms have “sunk into the doldrums” since about four months ago.

Compared to the same period in the previous year, the median price of co-ops declined for the first time in 13 straight quarters, according to the Elliman report.

Frances Katzen, an agent with Douglas Elliman, recently listed in Sutton Place, on the east side of Manhattan, a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with plenty of natural light and prewar bona fides for $599,000 — a 20 percent markdown from its previous price of $750,000. Two years ago, it listed and languished on the market with another brokerage for $995,000.

“People are cannibalizing each other, to usurp a buyer from one another,” said Ms. Katzen, who believes the true value of the apartment is around $625,000 — but she listed lower in the hopes of standing out from a growing number of co-ops for sale.

The biggest discounts for two-bedroom resale apartments were downtown, south of 14th Street, where the median sales price fell 15 percent to $1,568,750 compared to the same quarter last year, according to the brokerage Halstead. Midtown had the second deepest discount for resales in that period, a 10 percent drop to $1,217,500.

Income-Restricted

Even among apartments specifically reserved for middle-income buyers in Housing Development Fund Corporation co-ops, prices have softened.

In Upper Manhattan’s Hamilton Heights, Allison Jaffe and Linda Mancini listed in October a $325,000 two-bedroom, one-bath apartment, 24 percent less than when it was listed earlier this year for $430,000 with another brokerage.

Because the apartment is in an H.F.D.C. co-op, there are income limits for buyers (up to $57,600 for a family of two, $67,200 for three or more), as well as restrictions at resale designed to keep the unit affordable.

“The phone’s been ringing every day,” said Ms. Mancini, who is an agent with Key Real Estate Services. So far they have had about 18 showings and six offers, she said.

The lower price was well advised. Upper Manhattan just had the fewest third-quarter sales of co-ops and condos in a decade, said Mr. Miller, the appraiser, in part because of a surge of new expensive inventory and ambitious resale pricing that followed.

One of the difficulties with H.D.F.C co-ops is that the income caps can leave buyers little room to save for a down payment. But with the price cut, they hope to have expanded the buyer pool for their listing, Ms. Jaffe said.

The city has about 28,500 H.D.F.C. units across 1,333 buildings, according to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. But there were only 230 income-restricted apartments listed for sale in the five boroughs as of late October, according to StreetEasy.

Beyond Manhattan

Two-bedrooms need not be million-dollar investments in New York, especially outside of Manhattan. In the Kingsbridge Heights section of the Bronx, Daniel D’Amico of Damico Group Real Estate, is listing an 878-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment in a 2006 condo for $349,000.

“What we’re seeing right now, in the Bronx at least, is the market is super hot,” Mr. D’Amico said. “If it’s priced right, it’s going to sell in the first week or so.” The apartment was listed in late September and already has an accepted offer, he said.

While sales volume is down across the city and prices are down in Manhattan, prices have been steadily rising in the other boroughs. In Queens, the number of sales dropped 7 percent compared to the same period last year, but the median sales price rose to $600,000, a record since at least 2003, according to a Douglas Elliman report. In Brooklyn, despite rising inventory and falling prices in the luxury segment, co-ops sold for a median $485,000, a new third-quarter record.

None of the major brokerages release boroughwide sales reports for the Bronx, the most affordable borough in the city, but its perception is changing, with a major development boom underway and a growing share of market-rate housing for sale.

New Development

Some of the most attractive deals for two-bedrooms can be found in new buildings, and for good reason: a glut of empty luxury condos. About 4,100 of 16,200 condo units completed since 2013, roughly one in four, remained unsold in September, according to an analysis of StreetEasy data.

Developers are loathe to lower their prices directly, in part because of obligations to lenders and for fear of devaluing the rest of their stock. Instead, buyers are getting discounts on the back end.

In East Harlem, Patricia Weber, a bio-tech start-up consultant, recently closed on a two-bedroom apartment at 1399 Park, a new 23-story condo tower, for $995,000. That was, ostensibly, the full asking price, but Ms. Weber’s agent, Rob Taub with CORE, also negotiated that the developer pay for her transfer taxes, a discount of about $25,000.

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Ms. Weber, who is moving from Bucks County, Pa., had been considering a New York purchase for a decade, but only started looking in earnest six months ago. There was no shortage of choices, she said, but she and her husband liked the East Harlem building because of its attended lobby, its proximity to transit, and the neighborhood’s culture and restaurants. She will use the second bedroom as an office, because she works remotely.

The price is also notable, because it falls just short of triggering the so-called “mansion tax” on the purchase price of homes over $1 million. In July, the flat 1 percent tax was changed to a staggered rate of 1.25 percent for $2 million sales, and up to 3.9 percent above $25 million.

The changes spurred many buyers to close their purchases before the summer deadline, and as a result the pace of sales in the latest quarter plummeted, especially for larger, more expensive apartments. But the two-bedroom market was also affected, in part because they can cost well above $2 million, and even those below the new tax threshold suffered from negative market sentiment, agents said.

“I think, potentially, we’re near the bottom of the market for everything,” said Shaun Osher, the chief executive of CORE.

Stefano Ukmar for The New York Times

Elsewhere, new projects are offering far more than closing cost rebates. At One Manhattan Square, a new 815-unit skyscraper south of Chinatown, the developer Extell recently offered to pay for seven years of common charges on the purchase of a two-bedroom apartment. Two-beds make up about 40 percent of the inventory and prices for those now start around $2.1 million, which would mean more than $100,000 of forgiven common charges, paid for by the developer.

That promotion is no longer being offered, said Raizy Haas, a senior vice president with Extell, but “the truth is, we’re reasonable.” The developer is now testing a rarely seen model in luxury condos: rent-to-own plans, in which a tenant can apply the rent toward the purchase of the unit.

As of Oct 24., there were 209 closed sales at the building, or about a quarter of the total inventory, according to an updated StreetEasy analysis. Ms. Haas said there were “hundreds more that have not yet closed.”

How a discount is derived can vary, but increasingly, it’s becoming the rule in new development, said Mr. Peters of Warburg Realty.

“There’s practically nowhere where you can’t negotiate the price, and the transfer taxes, and the mansion tax, and the legal fees, and who knows what else,” he said. Where to draw the line in the sand is another thing.

“I can’t count how many times I’ve heard a client say ‘O.K., if I drop the price, can you guarantee me a quick sale?’ And my response is no,” he said. “All I can guarantee you is no sale, if you don’t.”

For weekly email updates on residential real estate news, sign up here. Follow us on Twitter: @nytrealestate.

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Trump wanted to release his taxes in 2013 to show how smart he was for paying so little

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New York (CNN)President Donald Trump’s fight to keep his tax returns private is at odds with his own thinking in 2013 and 2014 that releasing them as part of a presidential bid would make him look like a smart businessman who had spent years lowering his taxable income, according to two people with firsthand knowledge of conversations at the time.

Sam Nunberg, Trump’s political adviser from 2011 to August 2015, tells CNN that during a meeting he had with Trump in the summer of 2013 at Trump Tower, the future president said he was comfortable releasing his tax returns and, even, that he thought it would be a good idea. Nunberg assumed this was because of how little Trump must pay in taxes.
“He thought he could defend the return,” says Nunberg, who did not himself view Trump’s returns. “I inferred from the conversation that he believed that it was a low number and he’d look savvy.”
    A second person, a former senior adviser to Trump, who also joined them for lunch that day, recalls Trump being enthusiastic about releasing his returns for this reason.
    Nunberg remembers that at the time Trump had recently returned from delivering a political speech in Iowa and that his motivation to look like a scrappy businessman was fueled by the failed presidential bid of Mitt Romney. “He felt that Romney had avoided looking successful,” says Nunberg. “Romney had posed beside a shopping cart in his jeans. Trump wanted to appear to be the opposite of that. He was proud of his business track record.”
    In May 2014, Trump told an Irish television station that he would “absolutely” release his tax returns if he entered the race. “If I decide to run for office, I’ll produce my tax returns, absolutely,” he said. “And I would love to do that.”
    It wasn’t until November 2014 that Trump abandoned the idea, according to Nunberg. At that point it was still eight months before Trump announced for president. At another one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, Nunberg says he convinced Trump to change tack, and told him that federal election rules obliged him to release only a broad financial statement, rather than his full tax returns. Trump liked the idea because he could show how rich he was, says Nunberg.
    “He wanted to look rich rather than smart,” Nunberg says.
    Neither the White House, Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow, nor the Trump Organization responded to a request for comment.

    A losing fight

    That change of heart nearly five years ago has had massive repercussions. During the 2016 campaign, Trump became the first major party nominee not to release his taxes in more than 30 years.
    As President, he has faced numerous legal challenges seeking the release of his tax returns, including from House Democrats and the New York district attorney.
    In fighting to keep them private, Trump has deployed an assortment of arguments both legal and prosaic, ranging from claims he’s under audit by the IRS to simply stating his taxes are “none of your business.” Trump has also acknowledged that he has fought to “very hard to pay as little tax as possible.”
    But after a string of court losses, Trump’s unprecedented struggle to block the release of his tax returns is looking legally tenuous and appears more likely to head to the Supreme Court.
    On Friday, Trump lost his appeal to stop House Democrats from subpoenaing his taxes from his longtime accountant Mazars USA. In a 2-1 ruling, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit upheld a lower court ruling saying the firm must turn over eight years of accounting records.
    Trump can appeal to the Supreme Court to stop Mazars, but courts, including the Supreme Court, previously have refused to curtail Congress’ subpoena power.

    A matter of vanity

    Speculation has swirled around why Trump hasn’t released his taxes, including that they could reveal long-denied ties to foreign interests or that he has donated embarrassingly little to charitable organizations. Trump’s critics have also suggested that a full public airing of his tax records might prove that he has exaggerated his wealth and isn’t as rich as he claims to be.
    It’s this last reason that is closest to the truth, according to Nunberg, who told CNN it’s his impression that Trump’s real motivation for not releasing his taxes was a simple matter of vanity.
    A tax return of a New York real estate developer typically makes them look much less wealthy than they really are, on account of complex rules that include the ability for owners of profit-making buildings to write them off as losses.
    Nunberg says the reason he suggested Trump not release his tax returns came down to three factors. First, by then Trump had told him that he was in fact under audit by the IRS. Secondly, he and Roger Stone, a mentor to Nunberg and himself a former Trump adviser, had started to realize that some of Trump’s business history — the bankruptcy of the Trump Organization in the 1990s in particular — would come under attack and the returns might highlight that.
    Third, Nunberg assumed, given his knowledge of the common tax practice of New York real estate magnates, there would likely be a vast discrepancy between Trump’s net worth and what his tax returns showed — and that this might be difficult to explain to voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Nunberg knew that tax laws for commercial real estate developers are notoriously riddled with loopholes peculiar to that industry.
    “I wanted him to run. I wanted him to feel as comfortable as he could. I didn’t want any complications or hiccups. I tried so that this wouldn’t hurt the Trump brand in any way,” Nunberg said.

    Changing his story

    By early 2015, Trump was starting to slightly change the way he answered questions about his taxes. In February of that year, he told radio host Hugh Hewitt that he would “certainly show tax returns if it was necessary.”
    By October, he was hedging even more, telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he was considering releasing his tax returns. “I’m thinking about maybe when we find out the true story on Hillary’s emails,” he said of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
    The financial statement Trump filed with the Federal Election Commission in July 2015 was 92 pages long and claimed $1.4 billion in assets and $265 million in liabilities.
    Nunberg was fired from the campaign in August 2015, shortly after the financial statement was released.
    During the presidential campaign Trump used the excuse of being under audit as the chief reason he could not release his taxes. He’s repeated that defense as President. It’s true that every president is audited every year, but there is no law that forbids them from releasing their returns while under audit.
    “The President has fought releasing his tax returns since the early days of his campaign,” said the former senior Trump adviser who says they still regularly speak with the President. “He has no interest in showing them or he would have released them. As usual I expect the Democrats will be disappointed if they are released, as they might just show Trump is a savvy, successful wealthy businessman.”
    But in May The New York Times reported that 10 years of Trump’s tax records the paper had viewed, starting in 1985, appeared to show the exact opposite, and that Trump had lost $1.17 billion during that period.
    The paper reported that, according to the tax records, Trump would have “lost” more money than any individual taxpayer in the entire country. Trump’s attorney, Charles Harder, told the Times that statements about the records were “inaccurate” but pointed to no specific inaccuracies. He later added that IRS transcripts “are notoriously inaccurate.”
      In a response to the Times, a senior White House official said, “The president got massive depreciation and tax shelter because of large-scale construction and subsidized developments. That is why the president has always scoffed at the tax system and said you need to change the tax laws. You can make a large income and not have to pay large amount of taxes.”
      In other words, Nunberg’s assumptions about why Trump’s tax returns would be damaging to the Trump brand were spot on.

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      Planned Parenthood’s political arm to spend $45 million on electing candidates backing reproductive rights

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      (CNN)Planned Parenthood‘s super PAC kicked off a $45 million electoral program targeted toward battleground states for the 2020 election, the reproductive rights giant announced on Wednesday.

      The group’s self-identified largest program to date will go toward “large-scale grassroots organizing programs and targeted canvass, digital, television, radio and mail programs,” according to a press release. Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin will all be focuses of the initiative, per the release.
      “Who we elect will determine our access to birth control, cancer screenings, sex education, abortion access and more,” said Kelley Robinson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes, in a statement.
      “That’s why Planned Parenthood Votes will use every tool at our disposal to hit the pavement, flood the airwaves, and elect reproductive rights champions up and down the ballot,” she added. “We know this is a fight we can win.”
      The super PAC pledged to back reproductive rights candidates “from the White House to the Senate to statehouses and ballot initiatives across the country,” indicating a state-level focus after a year that saw a slew of pre-viability abortion restrictions coming out of conservative state legislatures. Planned Parenthood is among the plaintiffs in lawsuits challenging such laws in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri and Ohio.
      Anti-abortion leaders decried Planned Parenthood’s election efforts, accusing the group of looking to protect its own finances and lamenting its federal subsidies. Planned Parenthood received $563.8 million in government funding in 2018, according to its annual report.
      Lila Rose, president of anti-abortion group Live Action, slammed the funding effort as a display of “ruthless prioritization of politics and their bottom line over women’s health care.”
      March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said in a statement that the funding effort was unsurprising “because this Administration has implemented a pro-life agenda in many areas, including the Protecting Life in Global Health Policy and new Title X regulations, both of which impacted Planned Parenthood’s bottom line.”
      “It is unfair to force Americans to subsidize through their tax dollars this partisan political organization bent on electing pro-abortion politicians,” she added.
      This year, Planned Parenthood rejected some federal funding. The group decided to drop Title X funding in August after the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Trump administration rule blocking recipient providers from discussing abortion services with patients. HHS told recipients in July that the rule would go into effect despite several pending challenges.

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