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Hometown: America's Finest City
Current location: District 50
Member since: 2001
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A recording accidentally attached to an email is latest twist in world's biggest corruption scandal

Source: LA Times

Brazil’s prosecutors broke the world’s biggest corruption scandal wide open with the help of one man.

Joesley Batista, a billionaire who with his brother owns the world’s largest meatpacker, JBS, admitted in May to paying out more than $192 million in bribes to roughly 1,900 politicians in exchange for favors for his company.

He also handed over an audio recording of a March conversation he had with President Michel Temer, who appears to approve the payment of hush money to Eduardo Cunha, a former congressman who was impeached and is now in prison for corruption, money laundering and tax evasion.

In return for the information, prosecutors allowed Batista and his brother, Wesley, to avoid jail time and each pay fines of $35 million, along with a $3.3-billion fine paid by their holding company J&F.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-brazil-corruption-tapes-20170905-story.html

Debt, sanctions and disrepair: Venezuela's oil sector in agony

After decades of being Venezuela's cash cow, the state oil company PDVSA is a ragged shadow of its former self: overburdened, underfed, and in hock to Russian and Chinese creditors.

The woes of the group, whose full name is Petroleos de Venezuela S.A., look set to worsen because of US sanctions imposed last month restricting its access to credit.

Oil production keeps declining and much of what is exported goes to repay billions of dollars in loans.

That puts the government of President Nicolas Maduro in a very tight spot. It relies on PDVSA's export income for 96 percent of foreign earnings, and to pay for many social programs.


Way to go, Chavistas.

Americans Take Day Off From Looking For Work

NEW YORK—Citing the day-in, day-out grind of waking up early every morning and plugging away nonstop to find a job, Americans across the nation are spending their Labor Day taking a well-deserved day off from looking for work.

Whether it’s spending time at the park, firing up the grill, or simply enjoying a relaxing day inside watching television, U.S. citizens, who reportedly work an average of eight hours a day searching for employment, said they were glad to take some time off from the near-constant pressure of their job hunts.

“It’s definitely good to recharge,” said unemployed operations manager Rob Wilkes, 44, who vowed to relax and not send a single looking-for-work-related email the entire day. “I honestly can’t remember the last time I took a day off from trying to find a job.”

Added Wilkes, “Labor Day last year, maybe?”


Where the border fence meets the sea, a strange beach scene contrasting the U.S. and Mexico

Thrusting into the sky from the edge of the Pacific, Tijuana’s lighthouse, or faro, sends out a beacon where the northwestern nook of Latin America edges against the southwestern tip of the United States.

A coastal esplanade south of the fence marking the international boundary is both a beachy hangout and a hub for border artists and activists, yoga aficionados and bemused tourists snapping selfies.

It is also the site of often-emotional encounters during which stranded deportees on the south visit with separated loved ones on the north, albeit through a mesh-steel fence. A minister of the “church of the lighthouse” says an interfaith prayer on behalf of divided families. The barrier has become a kind of politically charged art installation, featuring evolving images and slogans, most condemning President Trump’s immigration policies.

“Family reunification,” reads one graffiti manifesto splashed on the southern face of the fence. “A future to believe in.”


A win for majority rule on local finances

In California, it takes just a simple majority of voters to elect a mayor, a governor or even a member of Congress. But it requires a supermajority — two-thirds of the vote — to pass a local tax to fund a specific program, such as street repairs, parks or libraries. This disparity is due to Proposition 218, a 1996 ballot measure designed to make it harder for local governments to raise taxes, fees and assessments.

At least, it used to take a supermajority. On Aug. 28, the state Supreme Court struck a welcome blow to the unreasonably high vote thresholds in Proposition 218, upholding a lower court ruling that the proposition applies only to measures put on the ballot by elected government bodies, not to those sponsored by citizens. This is good news for communities that need to raise taxes for worthy projects, reaffirming the democratic principle that such decisions ought to reflect the will of the majority.

Proposition 218 — which, it must be pointed out, needed only a majority of votes to pass — subverted this principle by requiring cities, counties, school districts and other local governments to obtain the approval of two-thirds of the voters for most proposed tax increases. The sole exception was for taxes that go into a municipality’s general fund to support overall government operations, perhaps because general-purpose tax hikes are a tougher sell than those with a specific goal, such as building housing for the homeless or funding public transportation projects.

The restraints imposed by Proposition 218 reflected its supporters’ belief that local governments had overstepped in their desperation for revenue in the years after voters approved another anti-tax measure, Proposition 13. The lawsuit that led to the Supreme Court’s ruling last week, however, wasn’t primarily a fight over tax rates — it was a battle over whether a marijuana-related initiative could appear on a special-election ballot in Upland — and did not seek to upend the supermajority threshold. That was a happy accident.


Get ready for the next round in the battle over the Vietnam War

There are two Vietnam wars, and the second is still going 40 years after the first ended. The United States fought the first one from 1959 to 1975 in the jungles, villages and airspace of Indochina. The second is the war over how that war, the first lost war in America’s national history, is remembered. This month, as Ken Burns’ 10-part Vietnam documentary is aired on PBS, the second conflict is sure to heat up again with renewed intensity.

The positions will be fiercely argued. What was the war good for? Absolutely nothing, as the 1970 song put it? Or was it a heroic cause? The most important — and poignant — group who will offer answers to these questions is Vietnam veterans themselves.

They see themselves reflected, against the roll of the dead, on the black granite walls of Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, or in the faces of Frederick Hart’s evocative sculpture of three soldiers nearby.

Many who served came home and got on with their lives, whatever the wounds and scars of war. A more visible subset of aging warriors sits astride motorcycles in Veterans Day parades or stands in the median strips of our streets holding cardboard placards. They live their lives as war survivors. They ponder what might have been.


Behind a $13 shirt, a $6-an-hour worker

Before dawn six days a week, Norma Ulloa left the two-bedroom apartment she shared with four family members and boarded a bus that took her to a stifling factory on the outskirts of downtown Los Angeles.

She spent 11 hours a day there, pinning Forever 21 tags on trendy little shirts and snipping away their loose threads in the one-room workshop. On a good day, the 44-year-old could get through 700 shirts.

That work earned Ulloa about $6 an hour, well below minimum wage in Los Angeles, according to a wage claim she filed with the state.

Ulloa’s claim is one of nearly 300 filed since 2007 by workers demanding back pay for producing Forever 21 clothing, according to a Los Angeles Times review of nearly 2,000 pages of state labor records.


Trump's summer of discontent bleeds into high-stakes fall

After a summer of staff shake-ups and self-made crises, President Donald Trump is emerging politically damaged, personally agitated and continuing to buck at the confines of his office, according to some close allies.

For weeks, the West Wing has been upended by a reorganization that Trump has endorsed and, later, second-guessed, including his choice of retired Marine Gen. John Kelly as chief of staff. The president recently lashed out at Kelly after a boisterous rally in Phoenix, an incident relayed by a person with knowledge of the matter. In private conversations, Trump has leveled indiscriminate and harsh criticism on the rest of his remaining team.

Seven months into his tenure, Trump has yet to put his mark on any signature legislation and his approval ratings are sagging. Fellow Republicans have grown weary of his volatility, and Trump spent the summer tangling with some of the same lawmakers he’ll need to work with in the coming weeks to pass a government funding bill, raise the country’s borrowing limit and make a difficult bid for tax overhaul legislation.

“He’s in a weak position,” said Christopher Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax and a longtime Trump friend. “A lot of the Republican establishment has not been supportive, his poll numbers are down and he has spent most of his early presidency appealing to his base while most presidents would be seeking more consensus.”


Trump Boys Gather Rations Of Comic Books, Candy Bars For Night Hiding From Special Prosecutors

WASHINGTON—Saying they could “live out here in the wild for months” if they had to, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. reportedly spent Wednesday rounding up supplies of comic books and candy bars as they prepared to hide out that night from special prosecutors in their makeshift White House Rose Garden fort.

According to sources, the Trump boys were seen carrying pillows, fruit snacks, a Connect Four game, an assortment of action figures, a screwdriver, a pair of plates from the State Dining Room’s china service, and other supplies, making several trips out to the blanket fort where they planned to lie low during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into links between Russia and their father’s presidential campaign.

“No one’s getting inside here—this place is super secure,” said Donald Jr., dumping a pillowcase filled with butter knives, a deck of Pokémon cards, and several individually wrapped Swiss cake rolls onto the fort’s grass floor. “We can forage during the day and sleep here at night. Mueller’s never gonna find us, not with all those leaves and twigs we put on the roof for camouflage.”

“Even if he did, he’d never get past our booby traps,” added Donald Jr., referring to the thorny branches the brothers had gathered from nearby rose bushes and placed around the fort’s perimeter.

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