Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for May 6th, 2017

In a Beijing ballroom, Kushner family pushes $500,000 ‘investor visa’ to wealthy Chinese

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This seems very like selling visas to me, with the profit going to the Kushners. Emily Rauhala and William Wan report in the Washington Post:

The Kushner family came to the United States as refugees, worked hard and made it big — and if you invest in Kushner properties, so can you.

That was the message delivered Saturday by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s sister Nicole Kushner Meyer to a ballroom full of wealthy Chinese investors in Beijing.

Over several hours of slide shows and presentations, representatives from the Kushner family business urged Chinese citizens gathered at a Ritz-Carlton hotel to consider investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a New Jersey luxury apartment complex that would help them secure what’s known as an investor visa.

The potential investors were advised to invest sooner rather than later in case visa rules change under the Trump administration. “Invest early, and you will invest under the old rules,” one speaker said.

The tagline on a brochure for the event: “Invest $500,000 and immigrate to the United States.”

And the highlight of the afternoon was Meyer, a principal for the company, who was introduced in promotional materials as Jared’s sister.

The event underscores the extent to which Kushner’s private business interests have the potential to collide with his powerful role as a top official in his father-in-law’s White House, particularly when it comes to China, where Kushner has become a crucial diplomatic channel between Beijing and the new administration.

While Kushner has reported divesting from elements of the family business, including the specific project that his sister pitched in Beijing, the session Saturday demonstrated that the company is perceived as enjoying close ties to the Trump administration. Ethics laws prohibit government officials from profiting personally from their public-sector work.

Watchdogs and ethics experts on Saturday criticized the Beijing event as an attempt to cash in on Kushner’s newfound proximity to power.

“It’s incredibly stupid and highly inappropriate,” said Richard Painter, the former chief White House ethics lawyer in President George W. Bush’s administration, who has become a vocal critic of the Trump administration. “They clearly imply that the Kushners are going to make sure you get your visa. . . . They’re [Chinese applicants] not going to take a chance. Of course they’re going to want to invest.”

Among the wealthy elites in China, family, business and politics are all deeply intertwined. . .

Continue reading.

There’s more. The report concludes:

. . . Kushner’s personal financial disclosure form reflects that he divested his interest in K One Journal Square LLC. The form described the asset as undeveloped real estate in Jersey City. Because the asset was already divested, Kushner’s filing does not reflect its estimated value. But he did report between $1 million and $5 million in income connected to the project.

At Saturday’s event, attendee Wang Yun, a Chinese investor, said the Kushner family’s ties to Trump were an obvious part of the project’s appeal.

“Even though this is the project of the son-in-law’s family, of course it is still affiliated,” Wang said.

Wang reasoned that the link to Trump would be a boon if the presidency goes well but could be disastrous if it does not: “We heard that there are rumors that he is the most likely to be impeached president in American history. That’s why I doubt this project.”

Many of the people who attended the event declined to be interviewed, citing privacy concerns, or were blocked by organizers from speaking to the news media.

Although the event was publicly advertised in Beijing, the hosts were exceptionally anxious about the presence of reporters.

Journalists were initially seated at the back of the ballroom, but as the presentations got underway, a public-relations representative asked The Washington Post to leave, saying the presence of foreign reporters threatened the “stability” of the event.

At one point, organizers grabbed a reporter’s phone and backpack to try to force that person to leave. Later, as investors started leaving the ballroom, organizers physically surrounded attendees to prevent them from giving interviews.

Asked why reporters were asked to leave, a PR person who declined to identify herself said simply, “This is not the story we want.”

Sounds to me as though they know that what they are doing is unsavory if not outright illegal.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 May 2017 at 5:48 pm

How the Affordable Care Act Drove Down Personal Bankruptcy

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Allan St. John writes in Consumer Reports:

As legislators and the executive branch renew their efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act this week, they might want to keep in mind a little-known financial consequence of the ACA: Since its adoption, far fewer Americans have taken the extreme step of filing for personal bankruptcy.

Filings have dropped about 50 percent, from 1,536,799 in 2010 to 770,846 in 2016 (see chart, below). Those years also represent the time frame when the ACA took effect. Although courts never ask people to declare why they’re filing, many bankruptcy and legal experts agree that medical bills had been a leading cause of personal bankruptcy before public healthcare coverage expanded under the ACA. Unlike other causes of debt, medical bills are often unexpected, involuntary, and large.

“If you’re uninsured or underinsured, you can run up a huge debt in a short period of time,” says Lois Lupica, a bankruptcy expert and Maine Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Maine School of Law.

So did the rise of the ACA—which helped some 20 million more Americans get health insurance—cause the decline in bankruptcies?

The many experts we interviewed also pointed to two other contributing factors: an improving economy and changes to bankruptcy laws in 2005 that made it more difficult and costly to file. However, they almost all agreed that expanded health coverage played a major role in the marked, recent decline.

Some of the most important financial protections of the ACA apply to all consumers, whether they get their coverage through ACA exchanges or the private insurance marketplace. These provisions include mandated coverage for pre-existing conditions and, on most covered benefits, an end to annual and lifetime coverage caps. Aspects of the law, including provisions for young people to be covered by a family policy until age 26, went into effect in 2010 and 2011, before the full rollout of the ACA in 2014.

“It’s absolutely remarkable,” says Jim Molleur, a Maine-based bankruptcy attorney with 20 years of experience. “We’re not getting people with big medical bills, chronically sick people who would hit those lifetime caps or be denied because of pre-existing conditions. They seemed to disappear almost overnight once ACA kicked in.” . . .

Continue reading.

Chart (and more) at the link. And this one is really worth reading in full since you get to read about actual people who will be hurt by the GOP AHCA plan.

Later in the article:

Grossberg adds that her bankruptcy business has slowed so much that she has been forced to take on other kinds of legal work—landlord-tenant and housing discrimination cases—to cover her own bills.

The American Bankruptcy Institute suggested that veteran Chicago bankruptcy attorney and trustee David Leibowitz could also help parse the reasons for the decadelong decline.

First, he says, the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 made it more difficult for consumers to file for bankruptcy. The law required credit counseling and income verification and forced many consumers to seek protection under Chapter 13, which restructures, but does not eliminate, most debt. The piles of paperwork also meant most filers needed a lawyer, which made bankruptcy more costly and therefore not an option for many poor consumers.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 May 2017 at 3:05 pm

Republicans exempt their own insurance from their latest health care proposal

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The GOP says that at some point they will introduce a bill to remove this exemption, but I simply do not believe them on that: the GOP has a long and inglorious record of flat-out lying, and they lied about many aspects of the AHCA (such as that it still protects those with pre-existing conditions from being rejected from healthcare insurance or charged extremely high premiums: that is a lie).

Sarah Kliff reports in Vox on May 3:

Update: After Vox reported this story, Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) released a statement saying he would close this loophole. Read the story here. The fix, however, will be contained in separate legislation and not offered as part of the American Health Care Act. The version of the bill the House will vote on Thursday still contains the exemption for legislators described below.

House Republicans appear to have included a provision that exempts members of Congress and their staff from their latest health care plan.

The new Republican amendment, introduced Tuesday night, would allow states to waive out of Obamacare’s ban on preexisting conditions. This means that insurers could once again, under certain circumstances, charge sick people higher premiums than healthy people.

Continue reading.

The GOP has poisoned the well of trust by continually lying. Sad. Even sadder: Their obvious glee at taking health insurance coverage away from 24 million Americans.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 May 2017 at 8:50 am

The Wee Scot and the 102, with HTGAM Chocolate Bourbon and D.R. Harris Marlborough

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For some reason—too long between shaves?—my HTGAM soap would not load well (and I did try a different brush just to see whether the problem was the Wee Scot) so I switched to a sample of Van Yulay Café Vetyver that I had—and that produced a terrific lather.

The Wee Scot is a wonderful little brush—I should bring it out more—and it has wonderful lather capacity: the Tardis of lather someone called it.

Three passes—three very comfortable, very smooth passes—with the iKon 102 left my face perfectly smooth, and I applied a splash of D.R. Harris Marlborough to complete the job. I have used this aftershave in a while, and I do like. On Monday I’m planning a repeat, with the soap being my D.R. Harris Marlborough shave stick.

A good start to the weekend. And I have two more turkey thighs to make that recipe again.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 May 2017 at 8:28 am

Posted in Shaving

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