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Scams, Schools, viruses and violence

In this edition: (1). The U.S. president, and his inner-circle, has COVID-19… it’s touch and go; (2). A mute button won’t solve the ‘debates’; (3). How a school in East Africa is handling re-opening (update); (4). California’s legislative session is worth looking at; (5). The Trump tax scam saga (reiteration); (6). Kushner Co. benefits from shady loans; (7). peace rejected in the Caucasus (update).

Share The Stringer by Daniel Mollenkamp


The black hole news item of the week, sucking the airtime from other stories, is Trump’s COVID-19 contraction. Quite a few members of the Trump coterie, in fact, have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Trump, flaunting that presidential privilege, has already received treatment that is not available to the followers he has convinced the disease is no big deal, and for whom his campaign will not, according to CNN, implement more safety measures at rallies. The president himself has tried to downplay the seriousness of the contraction and has taken irresponsible risks to do so, despite some apparently worrying signs. This opens up an array of potentially interesting scenarios, but none of which will we consider here… Speaking of which, it is wrong to wish harm to President Trump. It is also wrong to empathize with him. The Trump body count, which includes Trump supporters who took unnecessary risks based on his cavalier and knowing lies, is worth keeping in mind. The right pose here is merely stone-faced.

The first U.S. presidential debate also occurred after the last edition of this newsletter. I won’t comment, except to say that presidential debates in the U.S. have not been “debates” in a long time since they intentionally deny the opportunity for back and forth. Perhaps what is needed is not a mute button, which would allow the debates to stay content-less and be more corporate-friendly, but a properly structured debate. We have enough press releases and press conferences already.

Some other news items:

  • Schools in East Africa: To update a previous story, the secondary school in Rumbek, South Sudan, for which I serve on the board, Abukloi Foundation, is looking at re-opening for the year, following coronavirus closures. The newest directive to arrive in my cluttered inbox says that the ministry of education has decreed that schools will open in two phases: senior 4s will attend from Oct. through March, and seniors 1,2, and 3 will open in April. Social distancing measures will be taken.

  • California bills: California’s legislative year has been scrunched (about two months shorter) due to the coronavirus. CalMatters reported on the bills that got lost in the ellipses, so to speak, including a “Green New Deal” bill and a mortgage forbearance bill. About three-quarters of the bills introduced in the state legislature have been cut. However, the ones that made it through are worth looking at.

  • Trump’s taxes: Mentioned last week. I wanted to reiterate that it sure seems like the president was claiming fraudulent write-offs, though I’m no tax lawyer. This story, which continues an arc from the very beginning of his candidacy, deserves its airtime.

  • Shady loans: Propublica’s deep dive into the $786 mil loan from Freddie Mac to the Kushner Co. reported that the terms were unusually, shockingly, improbably, one might even say suggestively good. It is also worth noting that, (a) the deal was one of the largest in the history of the govt.-backed agency, (b) Kushner is still financially benefiting from the family buiz., (c) the loan was followed by two more, two months after, for another $63.5 mil. Cui bono? More of a rhetorical question in this case.

  • Tension in the Caucasus: Update on last week’s news item: Azerbaijan and Armenia have forgone peace talks over the fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, Reuters reported. The Caucasus region is crucial for oil and gas pipelines, making countries like the U.S. and Russia not desirous of sustained conflict. Fighting continues.


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