In Brief: October 21, 2020

Report: Tax records show Trump tried to land China projects

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump spent a decade unsuccessfully pursuing projects in China, operating an office there during his first run for president and forging a partnership with a major government-controlled company, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

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China is one of only three foreign nations — the others are Britain and Ireland — where Trump maintains a bank account, according to a Times analysis of the president’s tax records. The foreign accounts do not show up on Trump’s public financial disclosures, where he must list personal assets, because they are held under corporate names.

The Chinese account is controlled by Trump International Hotels Management LLC, which the tax records show paid $188,561 in taxes in China while pursuing licensing deals there from 2013 to 2015.

In response to questions from The Times, Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, said the company had “opened an account with a Chinese bank having offices in the United States in order to pay the local taxes” associated with efforts to do business there. He said the company had opened the account after establishing an office in China “to explore the potential for hotel deals in Asia.”

“No deals, transactions or other business activities ever materialized and, since 2015, the office has remained inactive,” Garten said. “Though the bank account remains open, it has never been used for any other purpose.”

How Google evolved from ‘cuddly’ startup to antitrust target

SAN RAMON, Calif. — In Google’s infancy, co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin reviled Microsoft as a technological bully that ruthlessly abused its dominance of the personal computer software market to choke off competition that could spawn better products.

Their disdain for Microsoft spurred Google to adopt “Don’t Be Evil” as a corporate motto that remained its moral compass during its transition from a free-wheeling startup to a publicly traded company suddenly accountable to shareholders.

That pledge is now a distant memory as Google confronts an existential threat similar to what Microsoft once faced.

Like Microsoft was 22 years ago, Google is in the crosshairs of a Justice Department lawsuit accusing it of wielding the immense power of its internet search engine as a weapon that has bludgeoned competition and thwarted innovation to the detriment of the billions of people using a stable of market-leading services that includes Gmail, Chrome browser, Android-powered smartphones, YouTube videos and digital maps.

“They are definitely not a cuddly company any longer,” said Maelle Gavet, author of the book, “Trampled By Unicorns: Big Tech’s Empathy Problem and How To Fix It.”

US, European leaders divided on response to surging virus

SALT LAKE CITY — Virus cases are surging across Europe and many U.S. states, but responses by leaders are miles apart, with officials in Ireland, France and elsewhere imposing curfews and restricting gatherings even as some U.S. governors resist mask mandates or more aggressive measures.

The stark contrasts in efforts to contain infections come as outbreaks on both sides of the Atlantic raise similar alarms, including shrinking availability of hospital beds and rising deaths.

Governors of states including Tennessee, Oklahoma, Nebraska and North Dakota are all facing calls from doctors and public health officials to require masks.

In Utah, a spike in cases since school reopened has created a dynamic that Republican Gov. Gary Herbert has called “unsustainable.”

But Herbert, who has been pressured by an outspoken contingent of residents opposed to masks, has resisted a statewide mandate. Instead, he announced last week that they would be required only in six counties with the highest infection rates, while leaving it to others to make their own rules. Meanwhile, many hospitals are being pushed to the breaking point.

From wire sources

McConnell warns White House against COVID relief deal

WASHINGTON — Washington negotiations on a huge COVID-19 relief bill took a modest step forward on Tuesday, though time is running out and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, President Donald Trump’s most powerful Senate ally, is pressing the White House against going forward.

McConnell on Tuesday told fellow Republicans that he has warned the White House not to divide Republicans by sealing a lopsided $2 trillion relief deal with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before the election — even as he publicly said he’d slate any such agreement for a vote.

Pelosi’s office said talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday were productive, but other veteran lawmakers said there is still too much work to do and not enough time to do it to enact a relief bill by Election Day.

McConnell made his remarks during a private lunch with fellow Republicans on Tuesday, three people familiar with them said, requesting anonymity because the session was private.

The Kentucky Republican appears worried that an agreement between Pelosi and Mnuchin would drive a wedge between Republicans, forcing them to choose whether to support a Pelosi-blessed deal with Trump that would violate conservative positions they’ve stuck with for months. Many Republicans say they can’t vote for another huge Pelosi-brokered agreement.

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Grand juror speaks after judge ruling in Breonna Taylor case

LOUISVILLE, Ky — A grand juror who won a court fight to speak publicly about the Breonna Taylor investigation took issue Tuesday with statements by Kentucky’s attorney general and said the jury was not given the option to consider charges connected to Taylor’s shooting death by police.

The anonymous grand juror had filed suit to speak publicly after Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced last month that no officers would be directly charged in the March shooting death of Taylor during a narcotics raid. The grand jury charged one officer with endangering her neighbors.

In a written statement after winning a judge’s permission to break silence in the case, the grand juror, who was not identified, said that only wanton endangerment charges were offered to them to consider against one officer. The grand jury asked questions about bringing other charges against the officers, “and the grand jury was told there would be none because the prosecutors didn’t feel they could make them stick,” the grand juror said.

Cameron had opposed in court allowing grand jurors to speak about the proceedings. He said Tuesday that he would not appeal the judge’s ruling. Grand juries are typically secret meetings, though earlier this month the audio recordings of the proceedings in the Taylor case were released publicly.

Cameron announced the results of the grand jury investigation in a widely viewed news conference on Sept. 23. At that announcement, he said prosecutors “walked the grand jury through every homicide offense.”

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California boat owners faulted for fire that killed 34

LOS ANGELES — One of the deadliest accidents in recent U.S. maritime history was the fault of owners of a Southern California dive boat whose lack of oversight resulted in a fire that swept through the vessel and killed 34 people in their bunks below deck, federal safety officials ruled Tuesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the Conception’s captain failed to post a roving night watchman aboard the vessel, which allowed the fire to quickly spread and trap the 33 passengers and one crew member. The NTSB also faulted the Coast Guard for not enforcing that requirement and recommended it develop a program to ensure boats with overnight passengers actually have the watchman.

Last year’s tragedy during a Labor Day weekend scuba diving excursion near Santa Cruz Island off Santa Barbara prompted criminal and safety investigations. Court documents say charges against the captain, Jerry Boylan, are imminent.

In a chilling revelation, investigators told the NTSB that because some of the recovered bodies were wearing shoes, they believe the victims were awake and trying to escape before being overcome with smoke. Both exits from the bunkroom were blocked by flames and coroner reports list smoke inhalation as the cause of death for all.

Board member Jennifer Homendy, who traveled to Santa Barbara in 2019 and toured a sister ship of the Conception, blasted Boylan and the owners, Truth Aquatics, during a virtual hearing on the investigation findings.

Altered photo shows Ice Cube, 50 Cent in ‘Trump 2020’ hats

An altered photo of rappers Ice Cube and 50 Cent in hats that appear to show support for President Donald Trump circulated widely on social media Tuesday, fueled in part by a tweet by Eric Trump.

“Two great, courageous Americans,” Trump’s son tweeted. He removed the tweet with a photo of the two rappers in hats saying “Trump 2020” after being called out by Ice Cube on Twitter.

In the original photo, both entertainers were wearing baseball caps with sports logos. Ice Cube’s hat says “Big3,” a reference to a 3-on-3 basketball league he co-founded, and 50 Cent wears one with the New York Yankees logo. Ice Cube shared the original photo on his Twitter account on July 6 to send a birthday message to 50 Cent.

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“Happy birthday to the homie ⁦@50cent,” he tweeted with the photo.

The manipulated image was shared thousands of times on Twitter and Facebook since it began gaining attention on Monday.

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