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A Mobster's Murder, and the Jockeying to Move Up the Hierarchy 14 Dec 2019, 5:20 pm

A Mobster's Murder, and the Jockeying to Move Up the HierarchyNEW YORK -- On a quiet night in March, a mob leader was executed in New York City for the first time since 1985. The body of Francesco Cali, a reputed boss of the Gambino crime family, lay crumpled outside his Staten Island home, pierced by at least six bullets.Hours later, two soldiers in the Gambino family talked on the phone. One of them, Vincent Fiore, said he had just read a "short article" about the "news," according to prosecutors.No tears were shed for their fallen leader. The murder was "a good thing," Fiore, 57, said on the call. The vacuum at the top meant that Andrew Campos, described by authorities as the Gambino captain who ran Fiore's crew, was poised to gain more power.Cali's death was just the beginning of surprises to come for the Gambino family.Last week, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn charged Fiore and 11 others in a sprawling racketeering scheme linked to the Gambinos, once the country's preeminent organized crime dynasty. The charges stemmed from a yearslong investigation involving wiretapped calls, physical surveillance and even listening devices installed inside an office where mob associates worked.As part of the case, the government released a court filing that offered an extremely rare glimpse at the reactions inside a Mafia family to the murder of their boss -- a curious mix of mourning and jockeying for power. The case showed that life in the mob can be just as petty as life in a corporate cubicle."Mob guys are the biggest gossips in the world," said James J. Hunt, the former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration's office in New York. "You think they're tough guys, but they're all looking out for themselves. The only way they get promoted is by a guy dying or going to jail."While Fiore initially plotted how Cali's death would help him and his faction, he adopted a different tone when calling his own ex-wife a few days later, prosecutors said. He warmly referred to Cali as "Frankie" and seemed to mourn the boss as a man who "was loved." He speculated about the killer's motive, saying he had watched the surveillance tape from Cali's home that captured the murder.Vincent Fiore appeared ambitious, court documents showed, eager to reveal his connections to other gangs and organized crime families. About two weeks after Cali's death, Fiore bragged in another wiretapped conversation about how he could take revenge on students who had hit his son at school, a government filing said.Fiore talked first about sending his daughter to beat the students up.But he also had other options, he said on the call. His ex-wife's father was a Latin King, her nephews were Bloods, and her cousin was a member of the Ching-a-Lings, the South Bronx motorcycle gang.Vincent Fiore and the other defendants have each pleaded not guilty to the charges. A lawyer for Fiore did not respond to a request for comment.Despite decades of declining influence in New York City, the Gambino family, led by the notoriously flashy John J. Gotti in the 1980s, is still raking in millions of dollars, according to the government. Prosecutors said they had evidence that the family had maintained its long-standing coziness with the construction industry, infiltrating high-end Manhattan properties.The indictments accused Gambino associates of bribing a real estate executive to skim hundreds of thousands of dollars from New York City construction projects, including the XI, a luxury building with two twisting towers being built along the High Line park in West Chelsea.At the height of their power in the 1980s and early 1990s, the Gambinos and other organized crime families had a stranglehold on New York City construction, through their control of construction unions and the concrete business.Some of the defendants charged last week operated a carpentry company called CWC Contracting Corp., which prosecutors said paid kickbacks to real estate developers in exchange for contracts.Despite the scramble after Cali's death in March, the Gambino crime family continued to thrive through fraud, bribery and extortion, investigators said.The wiretaps quoted in court papers hinted at the crime family's capacity for violence. One of the defendants was recorded in April claiming that he had a fight in a diner and "stabbed the kid, I don't know, 1,000 times with a fork." Inside another defendant's home and vehicle, agents found brass knuckles and a large knife that appeared to have blood on it.Among the notable names in last week's takedown were two longtime Gambino members, Andrew Campos and Richard Martino, who were once considered by Gotti to be rising stars in the Mafia, according to former officials."John was enamored by these guys," said Philip Scala, a retired FBI agent who supervised the squad investigating the Gambino family. "He couldn't believe what they were doing. These kids were making millions of dollars as entrepreneurs."In particular, Martino has long been viewed by mob investigators as somewhat of a white-collar crime genius, former officials said. Prosecutors have previously accused him of orchestrating the largest consumer fraud of the 1990s, which netted close to $1 billion. One part of that scheme involved a fake pornography website that lured users with the promise of a free tour and then charged their credit cards without their knowledge.Campos, 50, and Martino, 60, each pleaded guilty in 2005 to their role in the fraud and served time in federal prison.But as soon as they were released, the government said, they returned to the family business.Martino is now accused of hiding his wealth from the government to avoid paying the full $9.1 million forfeiture from his earlier case.After Martino's release from prison in 2014, he still controlled companies that conducted millions of dollars in transactions, using intermediaries to obscure his involvement, the government alleged. This included investments in pizzerias on Long Island and in Westchester County, according to a person familiar with the matter.Martino's lawyer, Maurice Sercarz, said his client fully paid the required forfeiture before reporting to prison. He added, "The suggestion that Mr. Martino concealed his ownership of businesses and bank accounts to avoid this obligation ignores or misrepresents his financial circumstances."Campos, meanwhile, climbed the ranks to become a captain inside the Gambino family, according to prosecutors.Henry E. Mazurek, a lawyer for Campos, said the government's photos and surveillance footage of his client were not evidence of a crime. "The government presents a trumped-up case that substitutes old lore for actual evidence," Mazurek said.After searching Campos' home in Scarsdale, New York, a wealthy suburb north of New York City, investigators found traces of a storied mob legacy. In his closet there were photos taken during his visits with Martino to see Frank Locascio, Gotti's former consigliere, or counselor, in prison.Locascio is serving a life sentence. He was convicted in 1992 alongside Gotti by the same U.S. attorney's office that brought last week's indictment. Gotti, who died in prison in 2002, was found guilty of, among other things, ordering the killing of Paul Castellano in 1985, the last time a Gambino boss was gunned down in the street.On March 14, the day after Cali's death, Campos drove into Manhattan around 5:50 p.m. to discuss the circumstances of the murder with Gambino family members, seemingly unaware that law enforcement was tracking his every move.He parked near a pizzeria on the Upper East Side, according to a person familiar with the matter. As the night progressed, he met with Gambino family captains on the Upper East Side and near a church in Brooklyn. They stood in the street, chatting openly, but law enforcement officials could not hear the conversations.Several days later, Campos and Fiore drove to Staten Island for a secret meeting. A group of about eight high-level Gambino lieutenants gathered to discuss Cali's murder, a court filing said. In a wiretapped call the next day, Fiore complained that he had stayed out past midnight.Fiore said on the call that a woman had been at Cali's home the night of his death, pointing to her as a possible connection. Court papers do not reveal the woman's identity.Nobody within the mob family seemed to suspect the person who was charged: a 25-year-old who appeared to have no clear motive.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

UN climate talks unravelling, face failure 14 Dec 2019, 4:41 pm

UN climate talks unravelling, face failureA UN climate summit in Madrid risked collapsing Saturday after all-night negotiations between countries left them more divided than ever over on how to fight global warming and pay for its ravages. Diplomats from rich nations, emerging giants and the world's poorest countries -- each for their own reasons -- found fault in a draft agreement put forward by host Chile in a botched attempt to strike common ground. Faced with five-alarm warnings from science, deadly extreme weather made worse by climate change, and weekly strikes by millions of young people, negotiations in Madrid were under pressure to send a clear signal that governments are willing to double down in tackling the crisis.

Johnson's win may deliver Brexit but could risk UK's breakup 14 Dec 2019, 4:30 pm

Johnson's win may deliver Brexit but could risk UK's breakupLeaving the European Union is not the only split British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has to worry about. Johnson’s commanding election victory this week may let him fulfill his campaign promise to “get Brexit done,” but it could also imperil the future of the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland and Northern Ireland didn’t vote for Brexit, didn’t embrace this week’s Conservative electoral landslide -- and now may be drifting permanently away from their neighbors.

The 25 Best Survival Games 14 Dec 2019, 4:00 pm

The 25 Best Survival Games

Why is the president of the United States cyberbullying a 16-year-old girl? 14 Dec 2019, 1:15 pm

Why is the president of the United States cyberbullying a 16-year-old girl?What it says to girls is: no matter what you do, no matter how much you achieve, powerful men will try to cut you downThe morning after election day 2016, I got a call from a girls’ school in New York where I was scheduled to speak. “We have to reschedule,” said a representative from the school. “The girls are too upset.”Girls across the country were upset when Trump was elected, but not simply on partisan grounds. They were upset because Donald Trump was a bully, a cyberbully, and he bullied girls and young women like them – women like the former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, who revealed that, when she was 19, he called her “Miss Piggy,” a dig at her weight.In a New York Times poll in the run-up to the election, nearly half of girls aged 14 to 17 said that Trump’s comments about women affected the way they think about their bodies. Only 15% of girls said they would vote for him if they could.And now Trump has a new target for his bullying: Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old environmental activist. Thunberg seems to be really making Trump upset, without meaning to. She doesn’t fit into any of his ideas of how girls are supposed to act. She isn’t trying to be a contestant in one of his beauty pageants. She’s too busy trying to get world leaders like him to do something about the climate crisis. She’s too occupied by giving speeches at places like the UN – where Trump was laughed at, when he gave a speech in 2018, and Thunberg was met with respect, despite slamming the entire body for “misleading” the public with inadequate emission-reduction pledges.In the last couple of weeks, while Trump was seemingly mocked by his peers at the Nato summit in London, and impeachment hearings against him began, Thunberg was named Time’s person of the year, an honor Trump reportedly wanted. And so he did what he always seems to do, on Twitter, when he’s upset: he lashed out by accusing the person upsetting him of the very things he’s feeling, or is guilty of.“Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend!” Trump tweeted on Thursday. “Chill Greta, Chill!”Poor Trump. This tweet didn’t sound very chill. And Thunberg knew it. Like the majority of girls growing up in the digital age, she has been cyberbullied before – by Trump himself, who, after her celebrated speech before the UN General Assembly, sarcastically tweeted, “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!”Both times Trump has tweeted about her, Thunberg’s responses have been jocular, and sarcastic in kind. This week, she changed her Twitter bio to: “A teenager working on her anger management problem. Currently chilling and watching a good old fashioned movie with a friend.”In her handling of being cyberbullied by the president of the United States, at age 16, Thunberg has become an inspiration for girls two times over – first as a climate activist, then as a social media ninja.But that doesn’t mean that Trump’s cyberbullying of Thunberg is any less despicable, or dangerous. What it says to girls all over the world is: no matter what you do, no matter how much you achieve, powerful men can and will try to cut you down.This message is depressing, scary and not without potentially dire consequences. It’s a message that has contributed to a precipitous rise in the suicide rate among girls. It’s a message that has contributed to rising anxiety and depression among girls and young women. It’s a message that Trump’s wife, Melania, is supposed to be combatting, with her campaign against cyberbullying.But girls don’t need Melania Trump to be their role model in fighting against online harassment. They have each other, and they have Thunberg. * Nancy Jo Sales is a writer at Vanity Fair and the author of American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers

Kamala Harris flames out: Black people didn't trust her, and they were wise not to 14 Dec 2019, 12:00 pm

Kamala Harris flames out: Black people didn't trust her, and they were wise not toYounger blacks and black progressives took a deeper, dispassionate dive into Kamala Harris’ real-world record. They didn’t like what they found

Iran Demands $6 Billion Oil Payment From South Korea: Chosun 14 Dec 2019, 10:47 am

Iran Demands $6 Billion Oil Payment From South Korea: Chosun(Bloomberg) -- Iran’s Foreign Ministry called in the South Korean ambassador last month to demand payment of 7 trillion won ($6 billion) for oil it sold to the Asian country, Chosun Ilbo reported, citing officials it didn’t identify.Iran expressed “strong regret” over Seoul’s failure to complete the payment, which has been deposited at two South Korean banks without being transferred to Iran’s central bank for years due to U.S. sanctions against the Middle Eastern country, the newspaper said. It added that other Iranian authorities including the central bank also complained.South Korea sent a delegation to the Middle East late last month and explained that the country will cooperate with the U.S. to successfully complete transfer of the payment, it added.To contact the reporter on this story: Kanga Kong in Seoul at kkong50@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at, Sara Marley, Siraj DatooFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

2 children dead after being swept away in Arizona floodwaters 14 Dec 2019, 10:34 am

2 children dead after being swept away in Arizona floodwatersThe bodies of two children were found about three miles from the crash scene.

U.S. sanctions on Iran violate international law: Mahathir 14 Dec 2019, 8:52 am

U.S. sanctions on Iran violate international law: MahathirThe American sanctions imposed on Iran violate the United Nations charter and international law, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told a conference in Qatar on Saturday. ''Malaysia does not support the reimposition of the unilateral sanctions by the US against Iran,'' he told the Doha Forum, also attended by Qatar Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

Satellite evades ‘day of reckoning' to discover puzzling weather phenomenon on Jupiter 14 Dec 2019, 2:51 am

Satellite evades ‘day of reckoning' to discover puzzling weather phenomenon on JupiterAt first glance, these newly released images by NASA may look like lava churning in the heart of a volcano, but they reveal otherworldly storm systems whirling in a way that surprised scientists.The swirls in the photos are cyclones around Jupiter's south pole, captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft on Nov. 3, 2019. Juno has been orbiting the solar system's largest planet since 2016 and has seen these polar cyclones before, but its latest flight over this region of the planet revealed a startling discovery - a new cyclone had formed unexpectedly. Six cyclones can be seen at Jupiter's south pole in this infrared image taken on Feb. 2, 2017, during the 3rd science pass of NASA's Juno spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM) Prior to its early November pass, Juno had photographed five windstorms arranged in a uniform, pentagonal pattern around one storm sitting stationary over the south pole."It almost appeared like the polar cyclones were part of a private club that seemed to resist new members," said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.It is unclear when exactly the new cyclone formed, but it changed the arrangement of the storms from a pentagon to a hexagon.Winds in these cyclones average around 225 mph, according to NASA, wind speeds higher than any tropical cyclone ever recorded on Earth. An outline of the continental United States superimposed over the central cyclone and an outline of Texas is superimposed over the newest cyclone at Jupiter's south pole give a sense of their immense scale. The hexagonal arrangement of the cyclones is large enough to dwarf the Earth. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM) The discovery of this evolving meteorological phenomenon almost didn't happen as Jupiter itself almost caused the mission to end abruptly.Juno is a solar-powered spacecraft that relies on constant light from the sun to keep the craft alive. Flying through Jupiter's enormous shadow would take about 12 hours to complete, which would cut off the power source, drain the spacecraft's battery and potentially spell the end of the mission."Our navigators and engineers told us a day of reckoning was coming, when we would go into Jupiter's shadow for about 12 hours," said Steve Levin, Juno project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.To avoid the potential mission-ending eclipse, Juno fired up its engine (which was not initially designed for such a maneuver) and adjusted its trajectory just enough to avoid the icy grip of Jupiter's shadow. Jupiter's moon Io casts its shadow on Jupiter whenever it passes in front of the Sun as seen from Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS Image processing by Tanya Oleksuik, (C) CC BY) "Thanks to our navigators and engineers, we still have a mission," said Bolton. "What they did is more than just make our cyclone discovery possible; they made possible the new insights and revelations about Jupiter that lie ahead of us."NASA scientists will continue to study these polar vortices in future flights over Jupiter's south pole to better understand the atmosphere over this part of the planet."These cyclones are new weather phenomena that have not been seen or predicted before," said Cheng Li, a Juno scientist from the University of California, Berkeley. "Nature is revealing new physics regarding fluid motions and how giant planet atmospheres work. Future Juno flybys will help us further refine our understanding by revealing how the cyclones evolve over time."

New Zealand divers attempt to recover last 2 volcano victims 14 Dec 2019, 2:40 am

New Zealand divers attempt to recover last 2 volcano victimsPolice divers working in near zero visibility in contaminated waters around New Zealand's volcanic White Island tried Saturday to find the remaining two victims of an eruption that left at least 16 dead and dozens severely burned. Ash and other fallout from Monday's eruption has made the sea near the island toxic and divers have to be washed clean after every completed dive. Navy divers are expected to join the police search effort later Saturday.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warns Iran of 'decisive response' if harm in Iraq 14 Dec 2019, 1:52 am

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warns Iran of 'decisive response' if harm in IraqSecretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday warned Iran of a “decisive” response if U.S. interests are harmed in Iraq, after a series of rocket attacks on bases.

Supreme Court to decide Native American land dispute in Oklahoma 14 Dec 2019, 1:43 am

Supreme Court to decide Native American land dispute in OklahomaTen states, from Maine to Texas to Montana, have warned that the boundaries of Native American lands have jurisdictional consequences there as well.

The Tiny, Simple Nuclear Reactor That Could Change Energy 14 Dec 2019, 1:31 am

The Tiny, Simple Nuclear Reactor That Could Change EnergyThe next step in nuclear power is 1/100th the size of today's reactors.

Democrats say they won't cross picket line over union conflict at debate host site 14 Dec 2019, 1:09 am

Democrats say they won't cross picket line over union conflict at debate host siteA local union at Loyola Marymount University will picket at the university ahead of Thursday’s debate.

Ex-DOJ official: Trump was 'vulnerable' to foreign intelligence agencies 13 Dec 2019, 10:44 pm

Ex-DOJ official: Trump was 'vulnerable' to foreign intelligence agenciesMary McCord, the top Justice Department official who oversaw the FBI investigation into Donald Trump’s ties to Russia in its early stages, talks to the Yahoo News “Skullduggery” podcast.

Warren, slumping in the polls, attacks Biden and Buttigieg 13 Dec 2019, 10:39 pm

Warren, slumping in the polls, attacks Biden and ButtigiegWith polls showing her once steady rise to the top tier of the Democratic race stalling, Elizabeth Warren went on the attack in New Hampshire.

Democrats threaten to boycott next debate over labor dispute 13 Dec 2019, 10:37 pm

Democrats threaten to boycott next debate over labor disputeAll seven Democratic presidential candidates who qualified for next week's debate threatened on Friday to skip the event if an ongoing labor dispute forces them to cross picket lines on the campus hosting it. The Democratic National Committee said it is trying to come up with an "acceptable resolution” to the situation so the debate can proceed. A labor union called UNITE HERE Local 11 says it will picket as Loyola Marymount University hosts Thursday’s sixth Democratic debate of the cycle, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders responded by tweeting they wouldn’t participate if that meant crossing it.

Would China Try to Claim Most of the Pacific Ocean? 13 Dec 2019, 10:11 pm

Would China Try to Claim Most of the Pacific Ocean?Nine-dash line? How about two hundred and fifty? Some fake news freaked an academic conference out several years ago.

The 10 Best Tech Gadgets of 2019 13 Dec 2019, 9:58 pm

The 10 Best Tech Gadgets of 2019

Spokane Cop Accused of Sex Assault Finally Loses Pay After More Accusers Come Forward 13 Dec 2019, 8:32 pm

Spokane Cop Accused of Sex Assault Finally Loses Pay After More Accusers Come ForwardA Washington state police officer once told a coworker he would “say exactly what's on my mind, unless I'm on body camera.” This week, his boast came back to haunt him. The Spokane Police Department suspended Officer Nathan Nash without pay after a domestic violence victim accused him of assaulting her, and a police investigation found he had turned off his body camera during the event.The investigation began in October, when a domestic violence victim told the police department Nash had sexually assaulted her in a follow-up call to her house. The woman says she called Nash to ask about the location of her evidence photos, according to court documents obtained by KXLY. Nash allegedly asked her to meet in a private place to “go over the bruises on her body” and then pressed her to let him come over before her mother returned. On his way to the woman’s apartment, Nash allegedly turned off both his body camera and tracking equipment, resulting in a 36-minute location gap that a police analyst later described as “peculiar.” Once inside, the woman says, Nash followed her into her bedroom and directed her to take off her pants and underwear. She told investigators she was confused by the request, but complied because he was a police officer. The woman says Nash then penetrated her with his fingers for 30 seconds to a minute. She says she panicked, but thought it might be what he was supposed to do. Eventually, she says she told Nash "OK, that's enough." She later told investigators the alleged assault was the worst thing that has ever happened" to her.Before leaving, the woman says, he gave her his personal cellphone number. He did not photograph or otherwise document her bruises.When questioned by investigators, Nash blamed the incident on the domestic violence victim, suggesting that she had come on to him and become “embarrassed, mad, or upset,” when he ended the sexual contact, according to court documents. He added that the police department's body camera manual was more than 100 pages and “there's no way I'm gonna know all that content." In a statement after Nash's arrest, his personal attorney Rocco Treppiedi said Nash “categorically denies the allegation of sexual assault and any criminal activity.” “Ofc. Nash considered the additional evidence she provided, and immediately followed up on the information she provided,” Treppiedi said. Nash’s attorneys did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.In the weeks after the initial report, two more women came forward with concerns about Nash. One was a second domestic violence victim, who told investigators that Nash had come on to her while he was investigating her complaint in May. During a visit to her home, the woman said, Nash made a point of turning off his bodycam, then gave her his personal cellphone number and said he would respond faster than 911. Over the following weeks, she says he friended her on Facebook and started liking photos of her in lingerie, and sending her “creepy” and “needy” messages. According to court documents, she told investigators she felt he “had a hidden agenda of starting a relationship with her.”A police department volunteer also complained about Nash, claiming he had given her his personal number and sent her inappropriate texts, including a Jeopardy-themed message reading, “Things I would like to do to you for $600,” and “Answer: what is a naked back rub?”“I’m too old to play games, no need in beating around the bush,” Nash allegedly wrote in another message. “I just say exactly what’s on my mind, unless I’m on body camera."Nash was arrested on Nov. 22 and pleaded not guilty to second- and third-degree rape and official misconduct. His trial is set to begin in February.Nash was originally placed on administrative leave while the investigation progressed. This week, the police department put him on “unpaid lay-off status,” meaning he will not work or be paid until the outcome of his case is determined.  If he is found not guilty, he will be reinstated while the department investigates whether he violated any department policy, City spokesperson Marlene Feist told local news station KREM.“The alleged conduct is completely unacceptable and in absolute conflict with the high standards of the Spokane Police Department,” Chief Craig Meidl said in a press release. “Our men and women took an oath to protect and serve the community in which we live. We will not shy away from that oath and it will be upheld.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

McConnell Vows ‘Total Coordination’ with White House during Senate Impeachment Trial 13 Dec 2019, 7:54 pm

McConnell Vows ‘Total Coordination’ with White House during Senate Impeachment TrialSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised Thursday night that Republicans will remain in lockstep with the White House on messaging strategy once impeachment proceedings reach the senate."Everything I do during this I'm coordinating with the White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president's position and our position as to how to handle this," the Kentucky Republican said.McConnell met privately with White House counsel Pat Cipollone on Thursday to dicuss the next phase of the impeachment process.The House Judiciary Committee approved two articles of impeachent, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, againt President Trump on Friday and Democrats are expected to pass them in a full House vote next week. The articles will then be sent to the Senate for a trial to take place after Congress returns from Christmas break.McConnell said he has no choice but to take up impeachment but plans to be in "total coordination with the White House counsel's office and the people who are representing the president in the well of the Senate.""The president's counsel may or may not decide they want to have witnesses. The case is so darn weak coming over from the House," McConnell added. "I'm going to take my cues from the president's lawyers. But yes, if you know you have the votes, you've listened to the arguments on both sides and believe the case is so slim, so weak that you have the votes to end it, that might be what the president's lawyers would prefer."McConnell's pledge drew harsh criticism from Democrats, who compared the Senate leader's cooperation with the president's team to a jury being in cahoots with a defendant.“In other words, the jury — Senate Republicans — are going to coordinate with the defendant — Donald Trump — on how exactly the kangaroo court is going to be run," said Representative Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat.

U.K. Election Sees Record Number of Women Elected to Parliament 13 Dec 2019, 7:33 pm

U.K. Election Sees Record Number of Women Elected to Parliament(Bloomberg) -- The gender gap in the U.K. parliament is still closing even after a spate of female politicians quit this year saying they had been subject to abuse.After Thursday’s election, a record 219 women will take up seats at Westminster, up from 208 at the last election in 2017 and 143 a decade ago, according to Randall’s Monitoring. Women will occupy more than a third of the House of Commons, compared with just one seat in 1918.Women’s groups had expressed alarm before the election at the number of female MPs standing down because they had been the subject of abuse. Among them were Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan and Labour’s Louise Ellman.There has also been concern that a poor work-life balance and lack of maternity pay is turning women away. At the start of this year, Labour MP Tulip Siddiq delayed the cesarean birth of her second child to ensure she could vote in a crucial Brexit debate.Labour will now have more female than male MPs for the first time, but that’s down to its crushing defeat, which saw many men lose their seats. Women will occupy 104 out of Labour’s 203 seats.The Conservative Party, which has produced Britain’s two female prime ministers, increased its tally of women MPs by 20 to 87. The majority of its 365 MPs are still men.To contact the reporter on this story: Jessica Shankleman in London at jshankleman@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at, Edward Evans, Alex MoralesFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Meghan McCain Confronts Tom Steyer: ‘You Bought Your Way’ Onto Debate Stage 13 Dec 2019, 7:30 pm

Meghan McCain Confronts Tom Steyer: ‘You Bought Your Way’ Onto Debate Stage2020 Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer got a warm welcome from every co-host of The View except one on Friday morning. “Mr. Steyer, between you and Mayor Bloomberg, you have now spent $200 million on political ads,” Meghan McCain told their guest. “It hasn't really helped you very much in the polls, but you did make it to the next debate stage. I think you bought your way there, and I don't think it's fair that you’re there and Cory Booker isn't. Change my mind.” After letting out an uncomfortable chuckle, Steyer skirted the question by touting his message about a “broken” government “bought by corporations.” When the candidate pointed out that he has been spending time in the early primary states—unlike that other billionaire—McCain shot back, “Cory Booker has too, who doesn't have $200 million.” “I’m talking about breaking a corporate stranglehold on our government that is preventing it from acting on anything,” Steyer said. “And no one can say that I have been purchased, but I also have 10 years of putting together coalitions like the people in this audience to stand up for our rights and to take on unchecked corporate power that has bought our government.” “But it’s good you have $100 million to buy Facebook ads to get you on a debate stage,” McCain said, interrupting him. “I’m completely unconvinced by this, but we can move on.” Later in the segment, after Steyer vowed to help elect whoever the Democratic nominee ends up being and reminded the hosts that he started “one of the biggest grassroots organizations in the United States,” McCain came back with, “That doesn’t make you a good politician, with all due respect.” “Mayor Bloomberg was mayor for three terms, and so if you’re going to go the billionaire route,” she continued, with a dramatic eye roll, “he's a lot more compelling than you are.” Meghan McCain: Greta Thunberg Didn’t ‘Earn’ Person of the YearRead more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

Iraq's top Shiite cleric condemns gruesome hanging of teen 13 Dec 2019, 6:25 pm

Iraq's top Shiite cleric condemns gruesome hanging of teenIraq's top Shiite cleric on Friday denounced the killing of a teenager whose body was strung up by his feet from a traffic pole in a Baghdad square, as conflicting versions emerged about what led to the 16-year-old’s death. Security officials initially told The Associated Press that he had been beaten to death by an angry mob after he killed four anti-government protesters and two shopkeepers in a shooting spree. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the nation’s top Shiite cleric, called the teen's killing a “horrific crime” that must not be repeated and urged Iraqi authorities to hold the perpetrators accountable.

Man gets life for killing 2 engaged doctors in their condo 13 Dec 2019, 5:52 pm

Man gets life for killing 2 engaged doctors in their condoBampumim Teixeira, 33, requested not to be in the courtroom when the sentence was handed down because he said he wouldn't control himself. Teixeira declined to address the court, but the victims' families gave impact statements. Field's brother, Jason Field, delivered a tearful speech in which he described his brother as his “life adviser and best friend," the best man at his wedding and his roommate in college.

The US and NATO are preparing for Russia to go after troops in the field and at home 13 Dec 2019, 5:43 pm

The US and NATO are preparing for Russia to go after troops in the field and at homeNATO is designed for air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace operations, but on the fringes of those, hybrid activity poses a new kind of challenge.

Should surfing the web count as a human right? The view from South Africa. 13 Dec 2019, 5:38 pm

Should surfing the web count as a human right? The view from South Africa.South Africa’s Competition Commission wrote in a December report that two major phone providers’ data prices were “anti-poor” and should be lowered.

Man attempts to defend smacking TV presenter on bottom live on air by saying ‘I got caught up in the moment’ 13 Dec 2019, 5:19 pm

Man attempts to defend smacking TV presenter on bottom live on air by saying ‘I got caught up in the moment’The man who objectified a TV reporter when he smacked her on the bottom during a live broadcast has spoken out, saying it was a “misjudge in character” and he “was caught up in the moment”.Tommy Callaway, a 43-year-old youth minister and boy scout leader, spoke to newsmagazine Inside Edition in his first interview since a video of him smacking WSAV News reporter Alex Bozarjian went viral.

Dems: Postponing impeachment vote was tactical 13 Dec 2019, 4:37 pm

Dems: Postponing impeachment vote was tacticalAfter a marathon session of debate, the House Judiciary Committee abruptly postponed a historic vote late Thursday on articles of impeachment against President Trump.

‘Move to Canada’ searches spike after Tories win general election 13 Dec 2019, 4:08 pm

‘Move to Canada’ searches spike after Tories win general electionOnline searches for 'move to Canada' surged 49-fold in the wake of the Conservative's general election victory, according to data from Google.People seemingly unhappy with the prospect of another five years of Tory rule began searching for alternative countries as soon as the exit poll results were published on Thursday evening.

What went so badly wrong for the Liberal Democrats? 13 Dec 2019, 2:45 pm

What went so badly wrong for the Liberal Democrats?Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson went into the general election predicting numerous gains but ended up losing her seat.

Stomach flu outbreak terrorizes school in Washington state, sickening over 100 students, staff 13 Dec 2019, 2:31 pm

Stomach flu outbreak terrorizes school in Washington state, sickening over 100 students, staffA number of schools from Seattle Public Schools and Vancouver Public Schools were forced to close to disinfect and clean because of the outbreak.

Turkey adds former Palestinian politician Dahlan to most wanted list 13 Dec 2019, 2:26 pm

Turkey adds former Palestinian politician Dahlan to most wanted listTurkey has added exiled Palestinian politician Mohammed Dahlan to its "red list" of most-wanted terrorism suspects, offering a reward of up to 10 million lira ($1.75 million) for information leading to his capture, the Interior Ministry said on Friday. Arrest warrants have been issued for Dahlan on accusations of playing a role in the 2016 attempted coup in Turkey, seeking to change the constitutional order by force, and various spying-related charges, the ministry said in a statement. Dahlan has also recently been an outspoken critic of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

Man dresses as mother to take driving test after she failed three times 13 Dec 2019, 1:23 pm

Man dresses as mother to take driving test after she failed three timesA man has been arrested for attempting to take a driving test on his mother’s behalf – by dressing like her in a bold attempt to fool examiners.Heitor Márcio Schiave, 43, wore a stuffed bra, floral top, long skirt, earrings, and a handbag to impersonate his mother at the State Department of Traffic in Novo Mutum Parana, in the Brazilian Amazon.

Turns out I'm Jewish after all 13 Dec 2019, 12:45 pm

Turns out I'm Jewish after allBeing Jewish has become hard again.After decades when Jews in America permitted themselves to believe they had finally found a welcoming home in a majority Christian, creedally universalist country, things have begun to shift in familiar and terrifying ways. Jews have been murdered in synagogues and kosher delis in the United States. They are regularly harassed and beaten on the streets of American cities. Swastikas scrawled on walls, acts of attempted arson and vandalism at synagogues, shouted slurs — the stories add up, amplifying one another and mixing with similar and worse stories from abroad.Over a hundred gravestones in a Jewish cemetery in France were spray-painted with swastikas earlier this month. It was the latest in a seemingly endless series of incidents across the continent. And of course leaders (and would-be leaders) of nations, along with prime-time TV pundits, now actively encourage such demonization, turning Jewish philanthropists into scapegoats, blaming them for a wide range of injustices. As enemies of the Jewish people have always done.It's a painful spectacle for anyone committed to liberal ideals of pluralism and tolerance. But it's especially, existentially, agonizing for Jews themselves — even for bad, part-time Jews like me.I was born Jewish — my father is the son of orthodox Jewish immigrants from Central Europe (Poland and Austria), and my mother a convert — but for much of the past two decades, that hasn't much mattered. I grew up identifying as a Jew, but we never worshipped at a synagogue (even on high holy days). I received no Jewish education. There was no Hebrew school. No bar mitzvah.By the time I started to sense religious stirrings in my late 20s, I knew far more about Christian, and especially Catholic, theology and moral teaching than I did about Judaism. Plus, by then I'd gone and done what American Jews are often warned against doing (and yet increasingly do anyway): I married a non-Jew. That my wife's family hoped and expected our children to be raised Catholic made the path forward obvious. I would repudiate my upbringing by converting to Catholicism.As regular readers know, the conversion didn't take. After 17 years, in August 2018, I publicly renounced Catholicism. The decision was mainly motivated by disgust at the church's systematic sexual perversion and corruption. But there was also something else going on.Exploration of existential possibilities is relatively easy in good times. When I turned away from my birthright, I knew it was a rejection — a turning of my back on my family, an act of disregard for the demographic fate of the Jewish community, which would lose me and my progeny forevermore. But I would still express love for my family in other ways, and my rejection of Judaism seemed like the infliction of a very small harm. True, there aren't that many Jews in the world. But really, how important was little old me, my kids, and those who would follow us? And anyway, the Jews were doing just fine — in the U.S., in other liberal democracies around the world, in Israel. My contribution seemed pretty close to infinitesimal, utterly irrelevant in the grand scheme of Jewish history.But things look and feel very different in dark times. Not that I'm now deluded enough to think the fate of Judaism in the world depends in any measurable way on whether or not I call myself a Jew or rise in defense of Jews when they face threat or come under outright attack. Of course it doesn't. I'm as infinitesimal and irrelevant as ever. Yet the fact remains that my youthful shirking of my inheritance no longer feels like a liberation. It feels more like an act of cowardice, perhaps even an expression of decadence, a sign that I took certain things for granted that no Jew should ever treat as a given.I also fear that at some level I was trying to hide, conceal, or camouflage myself by seeking to blend in so thoroughly and completely to the default Christianity of the surrounding culture. At the time of my conversion, in the center-right circles where I then worked, that culture was maximally welcoming of my spiritual decision while also treating the Judaism I left behind with a great deal of sincere respect. The borderline between traditions and faiths felt porous. Permeable.But not anymore. Walls are going up. Hard edges and irreconcilable differences are returning all over the liberal democratic world, raising a serious question about whether and to what extent that world will remain liberal and democratic. It would be nice if the cosmopolitan universalism that prevailed in the decade or so following the conclusion of the Cold War — during the era when so many of us permitted ourselves to believe that history had come to a peaceful end — could continue to feel compelling in the face of this threat. But it doesn't. It feels like foolishness. The world has changed, and we are changing with it. And we don't know how far the change is going to go.Turns out I'm Jewish after all. However malformed and badly enacted that Jewishness is and has been. The times are no longer compatible with, they no longer afford me the luxury of, denying it. Anything else would be irresponsible.That certainly doesn't mean I'll stop being infuriatingly, unreliably contrarian in my judgment of political issues and disputes. I'll continue to judge Israel's settlement policies and some of its punitive actions against the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza to be acts of moral and strategic idiocy. But I'll also continue to defend Israel's unconditional right to exist and defend itself against military threat. I'll continue to view President Trump's gestures of support for Jews with considerable skepticism — as incompatible with free speech and as doing little to compensate for the much greater harm precipitated by his intolerant and inflammatory rhetoric, which has done so much to activate previously dormant racism and anti-Semitism in the country. But I'll also continue to think of Judaism as a nationality or ethnicity as well as a religion. (Otherwise I could never have been considered a Jew in the first place.)But then what does my reaffirmation of my own Judaism amount to?All it means is that if things get worse — and who would dare try to reassure a Jew that it won't? — I will know exactly how and where I'll be taking my stand: in proud, defiant self-defense with my fellow Jews.More stories from Trump's pathological obsession with being laughed at The most important day of the impeachment inquiry Jerry Falwell Jr.'s false gospel of memes

The dream is dead: Johnson election triumph breaks UK 'remainer' hearts 13 Dec 2019, 5:53 am

The dream is dead: Johnson election triumph breaks UK 'remainer' heartsAfter all the arguments and all the mass marches, opponents of Brexit faced a stark truth on Friday after Prime Minister Boris Johnson's election landslide: there will be no second referendum and divorce from Europe is inevitable. With the Conservatives set to win their largest parliamentary majority since 1987, Johnson will be able to push his divorce deal through parliament, allowing Britain to leave the EU next month. It will be Britain's most significant geopolitical move since World War Two.

Salvadoran man murdered in Mexico waiting U.S. asylum hearing 13 Dec 2019, 5:49 am

Salvadoran man murdered in Mexico waiting U.S. asylum hearingA Salvadoran man seeking asylum in the United States was kidnapped and murdered in the Mexican border city of Tijuana where he was sent to wait for his asylum court hearing under a migrant protection program instated by President Donald Trump. Critics of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) have argued that the migrants affected by the initiative, mostly from the impoverished and violence-plagued countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, are at risk in Mexico. The 35-year-old Salvadoran man, father of two, had waited for four months in Tijuana where he had found a job at a pizzeria, said his widow.

Small plane makes emergency landing on California interstate 13 Dec 2019, 5:38 am

Small plane makes emergency landing on California interstateThe single-engine Cessna had two people on board when it landed on Interstate 5's center divider in Carlsbad as smoke filled the cockpit. Both were unhurt.

In 2030, What Countries Will Have the Most Power Airforces? 13 Dec 2019, 4:30 am

In 2030, What Countries Will Have the Most Power Airforces?We can tell you.

Washington state seeks to ban sale of 'assault weapons,' high capacity magazines 13 Dec 2019, 2:46 am

Washington state seeks to ban sale of 'assault weapons,' high capacity magazinesIf successful, Washington would become the seventh U.S. state to ban assault weapons, which it defines as semi-automatic rifles with at least one military feature, and the ninth to limit the capacity of ammunition magazines. "We should be making it harder for those who want to inflict mass violence and destruction upon innocent people," Governor Jay Inslee said in announcing the gun-control push.

The campaign to stop Brexit is over and Britain is heading for another decade of Conservative dominance 13 Dec 2019, 1:25 am

The campaign to stop Brexit is over and Britain is heading for another decade of Conservative dominanceIf borne out in the results, the official exit poll suggests the UK is heading for Brexit and at least ten more years of Conservative government

Republican congressman publicly identifies purported whistleblower 13 Dec 2019, 12:52 am

Republican congressman publicly identifies purported whistleblowerOn Wednesday, Rep. Louie Gohmert publicly named a person some Republicans and allies of President Trump claim is the alleged whistleblower who first brought the Trump-Ukraine scandal to light.

McDonald’s Wins High-Stakes Labor Battle With Help From White House 13 Dec 2019, 12:19 am

McDonald’s Wins High-Stakes Labor Battle With Help From White House(Bloomberg) -- In a television commercial that’s become part of the lore surrounding Donald Trump’s affinity for McDonald’s Corp., he embraced a purple, lumpy denizen of the fast-food chain’s “McDonaldland” and said, “Together, Grimace, we could own this town.”He was talking about New York, not Washington. Yet on Thursday, some 17 years after he appeared in that spot for the “Big ’N’ Tasty” sandwich, President Trump’s appointees delivered a high-stakes political victory for McDonald’s in one of the most important labor disputes in decades.The national board that referees union-organizing drives effectively absolved the company of liability for alleged labor-law violations in some of its franchisees’ restaurants, easing a major threat to the fast-food giant’s business structure. Trump’s appointees overrode an agency judge and rebuffed ethical concerns raised by labor advocates to approve a group of settlements in the matter on a 2-1 decision. The deal resolves allegations of wrongdoing without holding the corporation legally liable as “joint employer” with its franchisees.The victory, which eluded McDonald’s during Obama’s presidency, could help the fast-food giant close a bruising chapter in its history that imperiled its valuable brand as well as the franchise structure it’s built on.  In an emailed statement, McDonald's Corp. said it was “pleased” that the case had been concluded, and that the decision “allows our franchisees and their employees to move forward, and resolves all matters without any admission of wrongdoing.”Separately, top administration officials, including acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, are pushing to enact new, more lenient rules that would help insulate McDonald’s and similar chains from liability for the conduct of their franchisees. “President Trump has made deregulation a priority across the administration, which has helped unleash unprecedented economic and job growth,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said.There’s no sign that Trump has personally intervened in the NLRB’s McDonald’s case. Regardless, the case stands apart—both in terms of its history and its potential repercussions.During a messy, multi-year saga, the company became a focal point in the “Fight for $15” movement to increase pay and unionize fast-food workers, among others. As protests engulfed McDonald’s restaurants, a corporate team responded by organizing a central effort to help franchisees push back against the union, according to evidence submitted in the case. Workers eventually complained to the NLRB, alleging that the tactics franchisees used amounted to illegal retaliation for engaging in federally protected union activities. In 2014, the board’s general counsel found enough merit in the workers’ claims to issue formal complaints against a group of franchisees, complaints that also accused McDonald’s of acting as a “joint employer” with them. McDonald’s and the franchisees have denied any illegal retaliation or other unfair practices. McDonald’s has called the allegations baseless and argued that it can’t be legally held responsible for decisions of its franchisees, who run more than 90% of McDonald’s restaurants and set their own wages and hiring practices. Franchisees denied the allegations as well.  In the board’s ruling Thursday, two Trump appointees approved proposed settlements that provide back pay to McDonald's workers but do not hold McDonald's Corp. liable as a "joint employer." In their decision, the members wrote that the deal would "remedy every violation alleged" in the government’s complaints against McDonald's."Moreover, we conclude that further litigation would impose a substantial burden on the parties, without a significant probability of prevailing on the complaint’s joint-employer allegation," board members Marvin Kaplan and William Emanuel said in the ruling.Union advocates had lodged a formal petition with the board arguing that Emanuel needed to recuse from the case because he worked at a law firm that McDonald’s hired to counter the Fight for $15 organizing and protest efforts.Emanuel "has considered the motion and has determined, in consultation with the Board’s Designated Agency Ethics Official, not to recuse himself," according to the ruling, which noted that his firm had not been representing McDonald’s or franchisees in the NLRB case itself. Last month, Board Chairman John Ring — who also came from a law firm that has worked for McDonald’s — revamped ethics policies that might have made it harder for him or Emanuel to participate in the case. As it turned out, Ring was not part of the three-member panel that ruled on the McDonald’s decision.In a dissent, the NLRB's sole Democrat, Lauren McFerran, said the settlements were "unreasonable," and that with McDonald's joint-employer status unaddressed, "it is likely that similar issues will arise in the future."The decision represents a setback for the Service Employees International Union, which since 2012 has backed the “Fight for $15” protests. The SEIU’s president, Mary Kay Henry, pledged to appeal any adverse decision.“It’s going to take a lot more than a politically motivated decision on behalf of a Trump administration doing McDonald’s bidding to stop the workers of the Fight for $15,” Henry said in a statement.The board's vote also means that the corporation’s moves to help resist the protests and unionization effort have received, more or less, tacit acceptance from federal regulators. Those tactics, which were discussed by and, at times, coordinated by regional executives of the company, included gathering intelligence from a cashier who attended a union meeting as a mole, circulating names of suspected pro-union workers and coaching a franchisee on how to avoid hiring union sympathizers, according to excerpts from thousands of previously unreported documents and internal emails. The documents, which were provided to the NLRB by McDonald’s and several franchisees under a federal judge’s subpoena, reveal an inside look at how McDonald’s corporate staff members worked with franchisees on strategies to fight the union.McDonald’s didn’t respond to specific questions about several allegations, but said in a statement to Bloomberg News that the case is “incredibly complex” and that the “evidence is vast and complicated, and requires significant context to accurately and responsibly consider.” The company took issue with Bloomberg’s summary of that evidence, saying, “What you have highlighted are selective allegations and asserted them as facts, when there has been no judicial decision or review.” Last year, as she rejected a proposed settlement in the case, an administrative judge for the NLRB found that the case contained “copious evidence pertinent to McDonald's activities in order to provide resources and support for its franchisees throughout the country in response to the Fight for $15 campaign.” Specifically, Judge Lauren Esposito wrote that the case included “evidence that McDonald’s response to the Fight for $15 campaign was formulated and implemented from its corporate headquarters.” On Thursday, the board ordered her to accept the settlement.The joint-employer question at the heart of the NLRB case carries profound implications. In 2015, in a different case that didn’t involve McDonald’s, the NLRB issued a ruling that would make it easier to hold companies accountable for franchisees’ mistreatment of workers. By 2017, that issue was seen as so dire—not just for McDonald’s, but for franchise operations generally—that the then-chair of the International Franchise Association compared it to the 9/11 terror attacks. While fighting McDonald’s at the NLRB, the union has opened other fronts too, arguing the company should share any liability for a range of alleged transgressions inside franchised stores. Recently, dozens of workers have alleged sexual harassment in the chain’s restaurants in lawsuits or complaints filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In August, McDonald’s announced an “operator-led, company-supported” training initiative for 850,000 workers across the country to help ensure “safe and respectful” workplaces.Last month, amid that latest rash of allegations, the company fired Chief Executive Stephen Easterbrook for engaging in a consensual relationship with an employee, a violation of company policy. During his almost five-year tenure atop McDonald’s, Easterbrook presided over a sharp rise in the company’s share price—despite a decline in annual revenue to about $21 billion from $25 billion. The revenue changes stem from a “refranchising” strategy to sell corporate-owned stores to independent owners that began in 2015, according to McDonald’s. Over the same period, annual profit margins surged to about 28% from 17%, a jump driven partly by new innovations such as all-day breakfast, touch-screen ordering kiosks and home delivery.But in time, overseeing the company’s reversal of fortune in Washington—and preserving the liability buffer between the corporate headquarters and the franchisees—may be viewed as Easterbrook’s most lasting impact. After being targeted by the Fight for $15 campaign for years, this March McDonald’s announced that it would no longer fund lobbying efforts to prevent minimum wage increases. The company said in a letter that it would continue talking to lawmakers about how any increases should work, including that “all industries should be treated the same way.” In its statement, the company said it has “made significant investments in our people practices to provide employees at both McDonald’s corporate-owned and franchise locations with opportunities for competitive wages, education and safe and respectful workplaces.”Average starting pay at its corporate-owned restaurants is $10 an hour, the company said—well above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour but well below the fought-for $15. The average starting wage equates to $20,800 over a year’s worth of 40-hour weeks. “While franchisees control wages in their restaurants, we believe they are similar and competitive,” the company said.Most people remember Ray Kroc, who took McDonald’s from a small, California-based chain to a global fast-food empire, for innovations in franchising, but he also pioneered the low-wage fast-food job. As he oversaw the chain’s proliferation nationwide, the new restaurants staffed up with low-wage workers, many of them teenagers. Today, teens are a declining share of the food-service workforce; 18% of restaurant workers are aged 16 to 19, down from 20% in 2008, according to the National Restaurant Association, which projects additional declines by 2026. About 90 percent of McDonald’s 14,000 U.S. restaurants are franchises, a structure that keeps the company relatively asset-light and low-risk. The Trump administration is working on new rules that would reduce legal exposure for corporate franchisers. The proposals would make it harder, for example, to hold McDonald’s Corp. liable, along with franchisees, if kitchen managers are accused of sexual harassment or workers claim they weren’t paid overtime. The structure also makes it nearly impossible for workers at franchised restaurants to win the right to bargain collectively with McDonald’s executives—unless the NLRB determines that the corporation is indeed the workers’ “joint employer.” Without that, or a negotiated deal between the company and the union, any organizing effort would have to take place in pieces, franchise by franchise. The risk that the corporation could simply drop any unionized franchise would make that even harder to accomplish.Over the years, the company has weathered its share of public relations challenges. French anti-globalization radicals bombed its restaurants. Animal-rights extremists distributed “Unhappy Meals” with a plastic chicken covered in fake blood. The 2001 book Fast Food Nation tied McDonald’s to the obesity epidemic. But the Fight for $15 movement took place on a scale the company hadn’t seen before.Beginning in 2012, in the wake of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, a union-backed drive immersed McDonald’s restaurants in street protests that eventually spread globally. Protesters jammed drive-thrus, chanted in restaurants, banged on windows and stood atop tables. Corporate executives monitored developments as managers helped orchestrate a years-long anti-union response across the U.S., according to an analysis of thousands of pages of documents filed in the national labor board’s case. In 2014, the NLRB’s Obama-era general counsel alleged that the company’s subsidiary, McDonald’s USA LLC, was liable as a joint employer for a nationwide pattern of anti-union activity that included franchisees making threats, conducting surveillance, cutting work hours and firing workers who sought better pay and working conditions.Signs of unionizing efforts began emerging in October 2012, as reflected in a memo about organizing activity that circulated via McDonald’s internal email. “Seems to be affiliation with Occupy Wall Street movement,” said the document, which was in an email from a senior director of human resources. Soon, notes about the union showed up on an internal McDonald’s “activity log.” Said one entry: “White male talking to employees about affordable housing and asking questions about pay. Repeatedly in restaurant.”After word of an upcoming union meeting surfaced, a cashier at one New York City McDonald’s acted as a mole for the company, records show. She attended the meeting in Harlem, and by the next day, she shared her findings: About a dozen workers signed up to be union leaders, a report on the incident said.“They said McD makes $Billions + only pay minimum wage,” the worker reported. “… Focus seems to be on young, attractive female cashiers that speak English well ….”On Nov. 29, 2012, the Fight for $15 campaign made its first public splash with protests at fast-food restaurants across New York City as workers at McDonald’s and other chains went on strike for the day. From there, protests spread nationwide, fueled by old-school organizing and social-media messaging. At the time, McDonald’s had only a sparse social-media team and had yet to match the union in that capacity, according to two people familiar with the company’s operations.The company created fast, effective communications channels with franchisees to discuss the union’s activities. In emails and text messages, its managers made plans to combat “the opposition” and emphasized that some messages needed to be secret.“There is a sense of urgency regarding the gathering of this intel so that we can plan and prep the operators …,” said one email from a human resources director. “As a tip, you can text your operators regarding this message, however you have to instruct them to ERASE the message and response back to you, and you will need to do the same.” McDonald’s didn’t respond to questions about why recipients were advised to erase messages.In addition to a cadre of labor lawyers and several public relations firms, McDonald’s worked with “union avoidance” strategists, records show. In one case, a regional executive shared with a franchisee strategies on how to identify and avoid “salts,” or people who try to get hired in order to help organize a workplace. Federal law restricts the organized avoidance of such hires.Corporate employees circulated names of workers thought to be supporting the union. Once, in 2013, the company dispatched a “mobile security detail” to several Manhattan franchisees’ restaurants after receiving what an internal email described as “intel” about a possible Fight for $15 rally. The company told Bloomberg News that at times “security may be necessary on-site at restaurants for the safety of our property, customers and/or employees.”More than once, a regional McDonald’s executive organized gatherings in downtown Chicago for franchisees to discuss the situation, internal emails show. Their choice of venue? A Ronald McDonald House, part of the nonprofit foundation whose stated mission is to “improve the health and well-being of children and their families.”Since the unionization drive began, dozens of workers have filed complaints with the NLRB alleging elements of an anti-union culture in McDonald’s restaurants. Emmanuel Flores, 28, told Bloomberg he saw just such a culture firsthand at a company-owned restaurant in Monterey Park, California.Flores said he endured months of lewd comments, sexual overtures and groping from supervisors and co-workers. Early this year, on the advice of a union organizer, he told his store manager about it.The next day, Flores said, his shift hours were cut. Days later, during an informal staff meeting with him and other workers, the manager compared union activists to “leeches” and said “that even if we got paid $15 an hour, it wouldn’t matter because she would cut our hours,” Flores said. Flores filed complaints with California officials and the EEOC, and he was named as a witness in a retaliation complaint that the union filed with the NLRB. Trump’s fondness for McDonald’s is no secret. During his 2016 campaign, it was part of his standard fare; one order consisted of “two Big Macs, two Fillet-O-Fish, and a chocolate malted,’’ wrote his former campaign aides Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie in their 2017 book, Let Trump Be Trump.McDonald’s soon met with senior members of the new administration. In July 2017, Trump’s first labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, sat down for dinner at The Smith, a popular restaurant near Capitol Hill, with Easterbrook and Sam Tatevosyan, the company’s top lobbyist, according to the official Department of Labor calendar. The next day, Acosta and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin spoke at a McDonald’s lobbying summit, records show. Acosta declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Mnuchin.McDonald’s said it hosts both Democrats and Republicans for such Washington meetings. “The company traditionally invites officials from the current administration to discuss topics relevant to the business—and did the same during the Obama administration,” the company said.  Once Trump’s appointees began taking office, McDonald’s sought to end its long struggle at the NLRB. In December 2017, a lawyer for the company emailed a letter to the board’s new general counsel, Peter Robb. Robb prosecuted a landmark case against the American air traffic controllers’ union during President Ronald Reagan’s administration. The union was found to have engaged in an illegal strike, and Reagan fired more than 11,000 workers, a lasting blow to the American labor movement.“Our request is straightforward,” said the McDonald’s letter, a copy of which was reviewed by Bloomberg News. “We ask that you use your prosecutorial discretion to end this waste of taxpayer resources and consider what your predecessor would not consider—a global resolution of the underlying unfair labor practice allegations.” The lawyer asked for a resolution that would not designate McDonald’s a “joint employer.”Within a few months, the company got what it asked for: Robb’s office offered to settle the case with no joint-employer finding. The proposed settlement would have provided back pay to about 20 workers, in amounts ranging from about $30 to $50,000, and it required no admission of any wrongdoing. But the administrative judge overseeing the case, Esposito, rejected the settlement, calling it too lenient on the company.The White House in effect aided McDonald’s in other ways. According to people who’ve worked in the administration, Acosta drew Mulvaney’s ire for dragging his feet on Labor Department rule changes, including making the agency’s “joint employer” standard more lenient. Colleagues thought Acosta was too concerned about provoking congressional Democrats, according to two people familiar with the situation. Trump’s aides repeatedly pressed Acosta’s staff during White House meetings about the status of the rules—and Mulvaney largely replaced Acosta in the process, taking final say over the new rules’ content and timing, the people said. Mulvaney tends to get more involved in policy than previous chiefs of staff because of his dual role as White House budget director, according to a White House official who spoke on background. When his Office of Management and Budget pushes back on an agency’s work, it’s for good reasons, the official said.At the NLRB, Trump appointees have attempted to defang the joint-employer threat, despite encountering ethical snags. The Board tried in 2017 to overturn an Obama-era precedent on the issue, but then had to quickly invalidate that change after the agency’s ethics officer found that one of Trump’s appointees, Emanuel, had wrongly failed to recuse himself. The board is now trying to change the standard using its rulemaking authority instead.Meanwhile, Robb has asked board members to overturn the judge’s rejection of his proposed McDonald’s settlement. Union advocates lodged a formal petition with the board, arguing that two of Trump’s appointees must recuse themselves from the case because they worked at law firms that McDonald’s hired to counter the Fight for $15 organizing and protest efforts.On Nov. 19, the board’s Trump-appointed chairman, John Ring, released what he called a “first of its kind” internal ethics review, which clears a path for the board to set aside such objections. Ring is one of the two board members who’ve been urged to recuse; while he came to the board from a law firm that worked for McDonald’s, there’s no evidence that he personally worked for the company.Ring’s unusual “ethics recusal report” last month concluded that each NLRB member can “insist on participating” in cases even if federal ethics officials say otherwise. While the ethics officials’ decisions may be binding, they’re not “self-enforcing,” the report found. So NLRB board members can overrule them simply by disagreeing with their legal conclusions, Ring wrote. He didn’t respond to a request for comment.The McDonald’s case has generated 21,000 pages of trial transcript, with testimony from more than 100 witnesses. Judge Esposito called it “the largest case ever adjudicated by this agency.” The union’s pledge to appeal Thursday’s decision suggests that it could go on for years to come.For now, at least, the company has friends in the White House. In April, Mulvaney spoke at McDonald’s latest lobbying event, where the joint-employer issue was a key topic. He wore a tie the color of the golden arches.—With assistance from Leslie Patton and Ben Penn.  (Updates throughout with labor board’s decision. An earlier version of this story was  updated with additional comment from McDonald’s on refranchising strategy)To contact the authors of this story: Lauren Etter in Los Angeles at letter1@bloomberg.netJosh Eidelson in Palo Alto at jeidelson@bloomberg.netHassan Kanu in Arlington at hkanu2@bloomberg.netMichael Smith in Miami at mssmith@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: John Voskuhl at, Flynn McRobertsFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

George P. Bush says GOP can't let 'racist' episodes slide 12 Dec 2019, 11:28 pm

George P. Bush says GOP can't let 'racist' episodes slideRepublican George P. Bush, the only member of the Bush dynasty still in public office, condemned Thursday recurring episodes of what he described as racist or hateful rhetoric within the Texas GOP, and ripped what he called false accusations fanned by his Hispanic heritage. Bush, Texas' land commissioner, first denounced a white GOP state legislator who suggested “Asian" challengers on the ballot in 2020 were motivated by race.

US military releases photos showing Bagram Air Base damage following brazen Taliban assault 12 Dec 2019, 11:22 pm

US military releases photos showing Bagram Air Base damage following brazen Taliban assaultA source on the ground detailed to Military Times that a firefight between the Taliban and Afghan and U.S. forces lasted nine to 10 hours.

US soldiers and airmen helped clean up Venice after the historic city was hit by the worst flooding in 53 years 12 Dec 2019, 11:15 pm

US soldiers and airmen helped clean up Venice after the historic city was hit by the worst flooding in 53 yearsFifteen airmen, 14 soldiers, and three military family members and civilians helped Venetians clean up after the flood.

For Gaetz to raise Hunter Biden's substance abuse is 'the pot calling the kettle black,' Johnson says 12 Dec 2019, 8:54 pm

For Gaetz to raise Hunter Biden's substance abuse is 'the pot calling the kettle black,' Johnson saysThe House Judiciary Committee debate over articles of impeachment against President Trump took an ugly turn Thursday when Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., brought up Hunter Biden’s past drug use.

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