YouTube Campus Shooting Ends With Suspect Dead, Three Hurt

  • Female suspect dies of self-inflicted wound, police chief says
  • Local hospitals report ready to receive patients from incident

A woman shot and injured at least three people before killing herself at Google’s YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, California, police said.

San Bruno Police Chief Ed Barberini said three victims were transported to local hospitals Tuesday afternoon. The woman found at the scene appeared to be dead of “a self-inflicted” gunshot wound, he said. No motive was given for the shooting.

Sepand Parhami, a YouTube software engineer, said he was having lunch on an outside patio when he heard shots and saw what looked to be a woman moving from a garage to the lobby of the building. He scrambled for the door and went inside as the woman started shooting, he said in an interview after the incident.

Police said they received multiple emergency calls beginning at 12:46 p.m. local time. Two minutes later officers arrived on the scene and encountered people escaping from the building. They began a search and found someone with gunshot wounds, according to Barberini. As the search continued they found a second person, a female, with what appeared to be a self-inflicted fatal gunshot wound. Police then found two more people with gunshot wounds, he said.

Zach Vorhies, a YouTube software engineer, said he saw a man on the ground with an apparent gunshot wound to the stomach. The victim was a heavyset man lying in the courtyard outside the building, Vorhies said in an interview. Vorhies said he then saw a police officer coming in with an assault rifle and ran out of the building through a rear exit.

Vadim Lavrusik, a product manager at YouTube, wrote earlier on Twitter that he and coworkers were barricaded inside a room at the 901 Cherry Ave. headquarters, before later tweeting “Safe. Got evacuated. Outside now.”

“Our security team has been working closely with authorities to evacuate the buildings and ensure the safety of employees in the area,” Alphabet Inc.’s Google said in a statement. “We advised all other employees in the Bay Area, and people with meetings scheduled, to stay away from the area, and that there is no need to take any action. We have provided employees a helpline.”

Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, which has the city’s major trauma center, said they were treating three patients from the incident: a 36-year-old man in critical condition, a 32-year-old woman in serious condition and a 27-year-old woman in fair condition. The patients had multiple injuries, Andre Campbell, a hospital surgeon, told reporters. Campbell declined to specify the type of gunshot wounds suffered by the victims.

“Gun violence happens here everyday,” Campbell said. “We have a serious problem that we need to address. This is a real problem.”

The Stanford Health Care Center, which had been told to prepare for patients from the shooting, didn’t receive any victims to treat, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives responded to the scene. U.S. President Donald Trump, in a tweet, said he was briefed on the shooting and offered his “thoughts and prayers” for everyone involved.

San Bruno is a city 11 miles south of downtown San Francisco which is adjacent to San Francisco International Airport. The city has been the home of YouTube, the world’s largest online video site, for more than a decade. It’s the northern border of Silicon Valley and is also home to a major Walmart e-commerce office.

As the incident started, a Google employee at a nearby complex to the YouTube office said several police sirens were heard around the office and colleagues inside of the building were texting them updates. Videos and photos posted to Snapchat showed police officers running into the YouTube offices. People were also seen evacuating the offices in a line with their hands up in the air, according to the videos. Television reports showed police officers patting down people who had left the building to check for weapons.

Across the nation, the gun control debate has gained increasing attention from voters and legislators in the wake of the February mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. Congress recently bolstered the federal background check system for gun purchases as part of a larger spending bill and an additional report clarified that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could study the causes of gun violence. Additional measures have been passed at the state level.

An FBI study of active shooter incidents from 2000 to 2013 found that only six such cases, or 3.8 percent, involved a female shooter. Among the 160 shootings the study focused on, 23 occurred in business environments, and in 22 of those, the shooter worked for or had worked for the company targeted. Two of those shooters were women. In 40 percent of the total incidents studied, the shooter committed suicide.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-03/police-investigating-reports-of-shooter-at-youtube-campus

Trump Vows to Take On NRA, Boasts of Willingness to Rush Shooter

President Donald Trump said Monday that he’s willing to take on the National Rifle Association though he doubts they will resist his response to the high school massacre that killed 17 people in Florida earlier this month.

Trump, in a freewheeling discussion with governors at the White House that lasted more than an hour, also said he would have run into the school unarmed to try to confront the attacker, contrasting his hypothetical response with sheriff’s deputies who didn’t enter the building during the rampage.

The president’s evolving responses to the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, have been largely consistent with the outlook of the NRA, particularly an emphasis Trump has put on arming school teachers. The organization has been a strong political ally of the president, spending $31 million in the 2016 election either to support Trump or attack his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“Don’t worry about the NRA, they’re on our side,” Trump said during the meeting with state governors, adding that he had lunch over the weekend with NRA Chief Executive Officer Wayne LaPierre and top lobbyist Chris Cox. “But sometimes we’re going to have to be very tough and we’re going to have to fight them.”

Businesses are rushing to cut ties to the NRA. Among the companies that severed deals with the NRA: Avis Budget Group Inc., Best Western International Inc., Chubb Ltd., Delta Air Lines Inc., MetLife Inc., Symantec Corp. and United Continental Holdings Inc. Others are under intense social media pressure to follow.

Trump suggested the country also should make it easier to involuntarily commit people to psychiatric institutions and open more such facilities.

“In the old days you’d put him in a mental institution, a lot of them, and you could nab somebody like this,” Trump said, referring to the accused Florida shooter, Nikolas Cruz. “Hopefully he gets help or whatever, but he’s off the streets.”

QuickTake: The U.S. Gun Debate Explained

“We’re going to have to start talking about mental institutions,” Trump said, complaining that states had closed too many “because of cost.”

Trump reiterated disparaging comments about the armed sheriff’s deputy assigned to the school who didn’t enter the school while the shooting was taking place, saying he “choked” under the pressure of the situation. He also referenced a CNN report that several other armed sheriff’s deputies who were among the first officers to arrive at the school didn’t initially enter.

"I really believe, you don’t know until you’re tested, but I think I’d, I really believe I’d run in even if I didn’t have a weapon,” Trump said.

Monday’s meeting at the White House was a wide-ranging discussion of ideas to address gun violence at schools. Suggestions ranged from a possibly new rating system for violent videos to arming teachers to filling schools with smoke during an attack to make it harder for a shooter to find targets.

Trump has called for changes in the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting at the Parkland high school. He has voiced support for expanding the background check system to include more mental health information, raising the age for the purchase of some guns to 21 from 18, and regulatory action ending the sale of “bump stocks.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders injected a bit of uncertainty on the president’s backing for raising age limits, saying the president is “supportive of the concept” but the idea is “still being discussed” and the president’s position will depend on the final form of legislation.

Trump has signaled support for a bipartisan bill from Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, known as Fix-NICS. It would penalize federal agencies that fail to report relevant criminal records that would bar someone from purchasing a firearm under current law to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Trump told the governors the administration is “going to strengthen” the measure.

Concealed Weapons

The background checks legislation stalled in a Senate committee, but elements of it passed in the House, paired with a requirement opposed by gun-control advocates that every state recognize licenses to carry a concealed handgun issued by other states. NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said the concealed carry law is the group’s top priority but the NRA would support the background check bill even without the added provision.

The House is waiting for the Senate to act, according to a senior Republican aide. Senate leaders haven’t indicated plans for considering the legislation.

Trump has been most vocal about a controversial proposal to allow some “talented” teachers to carry concealed firearms in schools. He has indicated that state governments might take the lead. Trump says “hardening” the schools would make them less attractive targets for a potential assailant.

“Armed Educators (and trusted people who work within a school) love our students and will protect them,” Trump posted on Twitter last week. “Very smart people. Must be firearms adept & have annual training. Should get yearly bonus. Shootings will not happen again – a big & very inexpensive deterrent. Up to States.”

‘Less Tweeting’

Trump on Monday reiterated his call for states to move forward without federal action.

“States can do most of this and we’ll back you up,” Trump said. “We’ll help you no matter what your solution is,” adding “my attitude is get it done and get it done properly.”

The White House is also considering the idea of using restraining orders to take firearms away from people considered dangerous as part of its response to the Parkland shooting, two people familiar with the matter said.

Jay Inslee, the Democratic governor of Washington, endorsed such an approach, saying his state has had success with so-called extreme risk protection orders. Inslee, though, pushed back on Trump’s idea of arming people at schools. “Educators should educate,” he said, adding that law enforcement and teachers do not support such a move.

“Let’s just take that off the table and move forward,” Inslee said. “I would suggest we need a little less tweeting here and a little more listening.”

Florida Governor Rick Scott unveiled a proposal last week to raise the age requirement for purchasing semiautomatic rifles to 21, and allow some guns to be temporarily confiscated from people deemed mentally unstable by a judge.

Scott has said he’s opposed to arming teachers, but supports increasing the number of law enforcement officials in schools. State legislators in Florida are considering proposals to allow for some school officials to be trained to carry concealed weapons. At the White House meeting on Monday, Scott also noted that students will be able to get more mental health counseling and he aims to have threat assessments in schools.

The Parkland massacre has “created momentum to make sure that something happens this time,” Scott said.

Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP, which operates Bloomberg News, serves as a member of Everytown for Gun Safety’s advisory board and is a donor to the group. Everytown for Gun Safety advocates for universal background checks and other gun control measures.

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-26/trump-says-ready-to-take-on-nra-in-response-to-florida-shooting

    School Shooting Suspect Made ‘Disturbing’ Social Media Posts

    Parkland, Fla. (AP) — The suspect in a deadly rampage at a Florida high school is a troubled teenager who posted disturbing material on social media before the shooting spree that killed at least 17 people, according to a law enforcement official and former schoolmates.

    Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said the 19-year-old suspect, Nikolas Cruz, had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for "disciplinary reasons."

    "I don't know the specifics," the sheriff said.

    However, Victoria Olvera, a 17-year-old junior, said Cruz was expelled last school year after a fight with his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend. She said Cruz had been abusive to his girlfriend.

    School officials said Cruz was attending another school in Broward County after his expulsion.

    Broward County Mayor Beam Furr said during an interview with CNN that the shooter was getting treatment at a mental health clinic for a while, but that he hadn't been back to the clinic for more than a year.

    "It wasn't like there wasn't concern for him," Furr said.

    "We try to keep our eyes out on those kids who aren't connected … Most teachers try to steer them toward some kind of connections. … In this case, we didn't find a way to connect with this kid," Furr said.

    Israel said investigators were dissecting the suspect's social media posts.

    "And some of the things that have come to mind are very, very disturbing," he added without elaborating.

    Daniel Huerfano, a student who fled Wednesday's attack, said he recognized Cruz from an Instagram photo in which Cruz posed with a gun in front of his face. Huerfano recalled Cruz as a shy student and remembered seeing him walking around with his lunch bag.

    "He was that weird kid that you see … like a loner," he added.

    Dakota Mentcher, a 17-year-old junior, said he used to be close friends with Cruz but hadn't seen him in more than a year following his expulsion from school.

    "He started progressively getting a little more weird," Mentcher said.

    Mentcher recalled Cruz posting on Instagram about killing animals and said he had talked about doing target practice in his backyard with a pellet gun.

    "He started going after one of my friends, threatening her, and I cut him off from there," Mentcher said.

    "I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him," Mentcher said.

    Broward County School District Superintendent Robert Runcie told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that he did not know of any threats posed by Cruz to the school.

    "Typically you see in these situations that there potentially could have been signs out there," Runcie said. "I would be speculating at this point if there were, but we didn't have any warnings. There weren't any phone calls or threats that we know of that were made."

    However, a teacher told The Miami Herald that Cruz may have been identified as a potential threat to other students. Jim Gard, a math teacher who said Cruz had been in his class last year, said he believes the school had sent out an email warning teachers that Cruz shouldn't be allowed on campus with a backpack.

    "There were problems with him last year threatening students, and I guess he was asked to leave campus," Gard said.

    ___

    This story has been corrected to show that Dakota Mentcher, not Victoria Olvera, said, "I think everyone had in their minds if anybody was going to do it, it was going to be him."

      Read more: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-15/school-shooting-suspect-made-disturbing-social-media-posts

      Cuomo Seeks New York Tax Revisions to Thwart Federal Changes

      New York state would end income taxes on wage earners and make up the revenue with an employer payroll tax that’s federally deductible as part of a restructuring plan that Governor Andrew Cuomo is recommending to mitigate harmful effects of the new U.S. tax code.

      The new federal law limits deductions for individuals’ state and local taxes — raising levies 25 percent on all New Yorkers, no matter where they live, Cuomo said Tuesday. The federal changes could push residents and businesses out of state, the Democratic governor said as he presented a budget for the next fiscal year.

      “We’re doing everything we can to thwart the effects of the federal plan,” Cuomo said. “This is going to be the most difficult challenge that we’ve had to take on because it’s the most complicated, but I have no doubt that this is the fight of New York’s future.”

      Earlier this month, Cuomo said his administration would file a lawsuit seeking to repeal the new federal tax law, arguing that it discriminates against states with high local and state taxes. In his budget speech, Cuomo for the first time fleshed out his plan to further reduce the impact of the federal law by changing the way the state taxes wage earners’ income.

      In the tax-overhaul legislation that President Donald Trump signed last month, the Republican-controlled Congress cut income-tax rates on businesses and individuals across the board. But it also limited the deductions that individuals can take for state and local taxes — including income and property levies — to $10,000.

      That so-called SALT provision is widely viewed as an attack on Democratic-leaning states, which tend to have higher taxes. On Tuesday, Cuomo called the SALT cap “ an economic missile” aimed at New York, which he said pays $48 billion more to the federal government than it gets back each year. The changes will add $14 billion more to that tally this year, Cuomo said.

      New York’s ‘Penalty’

      “It targets New York with a penalty,” he said. Overall, he said 12 states would be targeted by limiting the SALT deductions to help pay for other cuts. “Coincidentally, they all happen to be Democratic.”

      In response, Cuomo said his proposal, the “New York State Taxpayer Protection Act,” would eliminate the state income tax on wage earners. Instead, the state would levy a wage tax on the employer. By doing so, the tax burden would shift from workers — who face new limits on their ability to deduct state income taxes — to employers, who could still take full deductions for such payroll taxes. The legislation would spell out which kinds of companies would be eligible for this treatment.

      “It may actually reduce the liability because it may bring the worker down to a lower income bracket,” Cuomo said. 

      The plan would apply only to wage earners. For other sources of income — including investment gains — the state would continue to run its personal income tax system, Cuomo said. The state Department of Taxation will spell out more details Wednesday, he said.

      Cuomo also said he intends to create state charitable funds for education and health care, which would allow individuals to get state tax credits for their donations. This would mitigate the impact of the federal tax plan on high-income earners, he said. California and New Jersey officials are considering similar proposals.

      The governor also proposed deferring tax credits for companies that receive $2 million or more in credits for one year, which would raise $300 million in state revenue, he said. The federal tax changes — which cut the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent — will more than make up for that change, he said.

      “They weren’t expecting the tax cut; they got the tax cut,” Cuomo said. “It’ll more than offset the deferral of our credits.”

        Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-16/cuomo-says-new-york-to-alter-tax-law-to-thwart-federal-changes

        Everything You Need to Know About the GOP Tax Bill

        Here are key changes to U.S. tax law for individuals and businesses that have emerged from the final Republican bill that’s headed for votes in the House and Senate next week.

        Individual Tax Rates

        (Note: Individual rate cuts would expire after 2025.)

        Current law:

        • Seven rates, starting at 10 percent and reaching 39.6 percent for incomes above $418,401 for singles and $470,701 for married, joint filers.

        Proposed: 

        • Seven rates, starting at 10 percent and reaching 37 percent for incomes above $500,000 for singles and $600,000 for married, joint filers.
          For joint filers:
          • 10 percent: $0 to $19,050
          • 12 percent: $19,050 to $77,400
          • 22 percent: $77,400 to $165,000
          • 24 percent: $165,000 to $315,000
          • 32 percent: $315,000 to $400,000
          • 35 percent: $400,000 to $600,000
          • 37 percent: $600,000 and above

          For single filers:

          • 10 percent: $0 to $9,525
          • 12 percent: $9,525 to $38,700
          • 22 percent: $38,700 to $82,500
          • 24 percent: $82,500 to $157,500
          • 32 percent: $157,500 to $200,000
          • 35 percent: $200,000 to $500,000
          • 37 percent: $500,000 and above

        Corporate Tax Rate

        Current law: 35 percent

        Proposed: 21 percent, beginning in 2018.

        Corporate Alternative Minimum Tax

        Current law: Applies a 20 percent rate as part of a parallel tax system that limits tax benefits to prevent large-scale tax avoidance. Companies must calculate their ordinary tax and AMT tax, and pay whichever is higher.

        Proposed: Repealed.

        Individual Alternative Minimum Tax

        Current law: Individual AMT can apply after exemption level of $54,300 for singles and $84,500 for married, joint filers, and the exemptions phase out at higher incomes.

        Proposed: Increase the exemption to $70,300 for singles and $109,400 for joint filers. Increase the phase-out threshold to $500,000 for singles and $1 million for joint filers. The higher limits would expire on Jan. 1, 2026.

        Expensing Equipment

        Current law: Businesses must take depreciation, spreading the recognition of their equipment costs for tax purposes over several years.

        Proposed: Businesses could fully and immediately deduct the cost of certain equipment purchased after Sept. 27, 2017 and before Jan. 1, 2023. After that, the percentage of cost that could be immediately deducted would gradually phase down.

        Repatriation

        Current law: The U.S. taxes multinationals on their global earnings at the corporate rate of 35 percent, but allows them to defer taxes on those foreign earnings until they bring them back to the U.S., or “repatriate” them.

        Proposed: U.S. companies’ overseas income held as cash would be subject to a 15.5 percent rate, while non-cash holdings would face an 8 percent rate.

        Pass-Through Deduction

        Current law: Pass-through businesses, which include partnerships, limited liability companies, S corporations and sole proprietorships, pass their income to their owners, who pay tax at their individual rates.

        Proposed: Owners could apply a 20 percent deduction to their business income, subject to limits that would begin at $315,000 for married couples (or half that for single taxpayers).

        Obamacare Individual Mandate

        Current law: An individual who fails to buy health insurance must pay penalties of $695 (higher for families) or 2.5 percent of their household income — whichever is higher, but capped at the national average cost of the most basic, low-premium, high-deductible plan.

        Proposed: Repeal the penalties.

        Standard Deduction and Personal Exemptions

        Current law: $6,350 standard deduction for single taxpayers and $12,700 for married couples, filing jointly. Personal exemptions of $4,050 allowed for each family member.

        Proposed: $12,000 standard deduction for single taxpayers and $24,000 for married couples, filing jointly. Personal exemptions repealed.

        Individual State and Local Tax Deductions

        Current law: Individuals can deduct the state and local taxes they pay, but the value is subject to certain limits for high earners.

        Proposed: Individuals can deduct no more than $10,000 worth of the deductions, which could include a combination of property taxes and either sales or income taxes.

        Mortgage Interest Deduction

        Current law: Deductible mortgage interest is capped at loans of $1 million.

        Proposed: Deductible mortgage interest for new purchases of first or second homes would be capped at loans of $750,000 starting on Jan. 1, 2018.

        Medical Expense Deduction

        Current law: Qualified medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income are deductible.

        Proposed: Reduce the threshold to 7.5 percent of AGI for 2017 and 2018.

        Child Tax Credit

        Current law: A $1,000 credit for each child under 17. The credit begins phasing out for couples earning more than $110,000. The credit is at least partially refundable to qualified taxpayers who earned more than $3,000.

        Proposed: Double the credit to $2,000 and provide it for each child under 18 through 2024. Raise the phase-out amount to $500,000, and cap the refundable portion at $1,400 in 2018.

        Estate Tax

        Current law: Applies a 40 percent levy on estates worth more than $5.49 million for individuals and $10.98 million for couples.

        Proposed: Double the thresholds so the levy applies to fewer estates. The higher thresholds would sunset in 2026.

          Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-15/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-gop-tax-overhaul-bill

          Should the Upper Middle Class Take the Biggest Tax Hit?

          Humans learn the concept of fairness at a very young age. After all, it doesn’t take long for a child to start whining about a sibling who gets an extra serving of ice cream. As the Republican-controlled Congress tries to push through tax reform this year, one group of Americans may similarly question why it’s coming up a scoop short.

          The upper middle class gets relatively few benefits and a disproportionate number of tax hikes under the $1.4-trillion Tax Cuts and Jobs Act approved by the U.S. House of Representatives last week. Families earning between $150,000 and $308,000—the 80th to 95th percentile—would still get a tax cut on average. But by 2027, more than a third of those affluent Americans can expect a tax increase, according to the Tax Policy Center.

          If the House bill becomes law, overall benefits for the upper middle class will start out small, and later vanish almost entirely.

          Is this fair? Some argue it’s only right for the upper middle class to carry a heavier burden. This is because the top fifth of the U.S. by income has done pretty well over the past three decades while the wages and wealth of typical workers have stagnated. People in the 81st to 99th percentiles by income have boosted their inflation-adjusted pre-tax cash flow by 65 percent between 1979 and 2013, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That’s more than twice as much as the income rise seen by the middle 60 percent. (The top 1 percent, meanwhile, saw their income rise by 186 percent over the same period, but that’s another story.)

          “Many upper-middle-class families will tell you they do not feel wealthy,” said Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a right-leaning think tank. “Their standard of living [is] closer to the middle class than to the top 1 percent.” The income numbers don’t tell the whole story, he explained. The upper middle class is weighed down by high costs: Affluent workers live in expensive areas, pay a lot for real estate and daycare, and are taxed far more than Americans further down the ladder.

          Richard Reeves, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Brookings Institution, isn’t buying that argument. He’s the author of “Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It.”

          “There’s a culture of entitlement at the top of U.S. society,” Reeves said. While others focus on rising wealth of the top 1 percent, Reeves argues that the gap is widening between the top 20 percent and everyone else. The upper middle class is guilty of “hoarding” its privileges, using its power to skew the job market, educational institutions, real estate markets, and tax policy for its own benefit, he contends.

          “The American upper middle class know how to take care of themselves,” Reeves said during a presentation at the City University of New York last week. “They know how to organize. They’re numerous enough to be a serious voting bloc, and they run everything.”

          So by his measure, the tax legislation’s disproportionate hit to the upper middle class is indeed fair.

          A family earning $240,000 a year is bringing in four times the U.S. median household income of $59,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. All that money, along with the upper middle class’s political power, buys some huge advantages, Reeves said. For example, affluent parents compete for access to the best schools, bidding up home values in the best school districts. Then, they use zoning rules to prevent new construction, keep property values high, and prevent lower-income Americans from moving in. In the process, children of this demographic end up at the most prestigious universities, nab the best internships and jobs, and ultimately join their parents at the top of U.S. society. 

          The very existence of the House tax bill rebuts Reeves’s argument that the upper middle class is in a position to manipulate Washington. (The Senate is considering its own tax legislation, which differs from the House bill in several ways.) Compared with middle class Americans, the upper middle class is less likely to see marginal tax rates fall under the House legislation. The bill also limits or scraps entirely some of the group’s favorite tax breaks, especially deductions for state-and-local taxes, and medical expenses, and tax breaks for education.

          If you’re part of the upper middle class and concede you should be paying more, don’t count on wealthier groups making the same sacrifice—at least under the House bill. 

          While a repeal of the alternative-minimum tax helps some people with incomes below $300,000, it’s more likely to benefit those on the higher wealth rungs. The very rich, including President Donald Trump, who has been pressing for a legislative victory before the end of his first year in office, would benefit from a repeal of the estate tax, lower corporate tax rates and a lower “pass-through” rate on business income. The House bill explicitly tries to limit the pass-through benefit for doctors, lawyers, accountants, and other high-earning professionals—traditional denizens of the upper middle class. 

          This all may seem terribly unfair to members of the upper middle class, but there are some provisions they can take solace in. The bill leaves untouched some sweet tax breaks that predominately benefit people with lower six-figure salaries, such as 529 college savings plans and 401(k)s and other retirement perks. The CBO calculates that two-thirds of the government’s costs for retirement tax breaks go to the top 20 percent.

          But beyond these few exceptions, much of the upper middle class will still take it on the chin.

          And maybe they should. Higher taxes on the upper middle class make sense to some liberal tax experts—but only if the proceeds are used the right way, they said, for things like better health care, more affordable college, and rebuilding infrastructure. Under the House bill, though, any new tax revenue is used to offset tax cuts—much of which will benefit the super wealthy and corporations, especially over time.

          “There would be a lot of people in the country who would be willing to chip in for those goals,” said Carl Davis, research director of the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. In the House plan, however, the upper middle class is “going to pay more for a bill that’s going to grow the national debt, and provide the lion’s share of the benefits to corporations and their shareholders.”

          Riedl, who has advised Republican candidates, argues the upper middle class should get a more generous tax cut under GOP tax reform. “It’s hard to argue the upper middle class is not currently paying its fair share,” he said. Reeves said the U.S. should ultimately tax the upper middle class more—but “the top 5 percent more still.”

          Looking at Republican tax plans, Reeves said, “it’s like they only read half my book.”

            Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-20/should-the-upper-middle-class-take-the-biggest-tax-hit

            Trump Officials Dispute the Benefits of Birth Control to Justify Rules

            When the Trump administration elected to stop requiring many employers to offer birth-control coverage in their health plans, it devoted nine of its new rule’s 163 pages to questioning the links between contraception and preventing unplanned pregnancies.

            In the rule released Friday, officials attacked a 2011 report that recommended mandatory birth-control coverage to help women avoid unintended pregnancies. That report, requested by the Department of Health and Human Services, was done by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine — then the Institute of Medicine — an expert group that serves as the nation’s scientific adviser.

            “The rates of, and reasons for, unintended pregnancy are notoriously difficult to measure,” according to the Trump administration’s interim final rule. “In particular, association and causality can be hard to disentangle.”

            Multiple studies have found that access or use of contraception reduced unintended pregnancies. 

            Claims in the report that link increased contraceptive use by unmarried women and teens to decreases in unintended pregnancies “rely on association rather than causation,” according to the rule. The rule references another study that found increased access to contraception decreased teen pregnancies short-term but led to an increase in the long run.

            “We know that safe contraception — and contraception is incredibly safe — leads to a reduction in pregnancies,” said Michele Bratcher Goodwin, director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy at the University of California, Irvine, School of Law. “This has been data that we’ve had for decades.”

            Riskier Behavior

            The rules were released as part of a broader package of protections for religious freedom that the administration announced Friday.

            The government also said imposing a coverage mandate could “affect risky sexual behavior in a negative way” though it didn’t point to any particular studies to support its point. A 2014 study by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found providing no-cost contraception did not lead to riskier sexual behavior.

            The rule asserts that positive health effects associated with birth control “might also be partially offset by an association with negative health effects.” The rule connects the claim of negative health effects to a call by the National Institutes of Health in 2013 for the development of new contraceptives that stated current options can have “many undesirable side effects.” 

            The rule also describes an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality review that found oral contraceptives increased users’ risk of breast cancer and vascular events, making the drugs’ use in preventing ovarian cancer uncertain.

            Federal officials used all of these assertions to determine the government “need not take a position on these empirical questions.”

            “Our review is sufficient to lead us to conclude that significantly more uncertainty and ambiguity exists in the record than the Departments previously acknowledged.”

              Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-06/trump-officials-dispute-birth-control-benefits-to-justify-rules

              Exclusive: footage shows young elephants being captured in Zimbabwe for Chinese zoos

              Rare footage of the capture of wild young elephants in Zimbabwe shows rough treatment of the calves as they are sedated and taken away

              The Guardian has been given exclusive footage which shows the capture of young, wild elephants in Zimbabwe in preparation, it is believed, for their legal sale to Chinese zoos.

              In the early morning of 8 August, five elephants were caught in Hwange national park by officials at Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks).

              These captures are usually kept as secret as possible. The Guardian understands that in this case the usual procedure was followed. First, a viable herd is identified. Then operatives in a helicopter pick off the younger elephants with a sedative fired from a rifle. As the elephant collapses, the pilot dive-bombs the immediate vicinity so the rest of the herd, attempting to come to the aid of the fallen animal, are kept at bay. When things quieten down, a ground-team approaches the sedated elephants on foot, bundles them up, and drags them on to trailers.

              The footage, a series of isolated clips and photographs provided to the Guardian by an anonymous source associated with the operation, documents the moment that operatives are running into the bush, then shows them tying up one young elephant. The elephants are then seen herded together in a holding pen near the main tourist camp in Hwange.

              Elephant
              In this part of the footage, a young female elephant is seen being kicked in the head repeatedly by one of the captors. Photograph: The Guardian

              Finally, in the most disturbing part of the footage, a small female elephant, likely around five years old, is seen standing in the trailer. Her body is tightly tied to the vehicle by two ropes. Only minutes after being taken from the wild, the animal, still groggy from the sedative, is unable to understand that the officials want her to back into the truck, so they smack her on her body, twist her trunk, pull her by her tail and repeatedly kick her in the head with their boots.

              Altogether, 14 elephants were captured during this time period, according to the source, who asked to remain to anonymous for fear of reprisal. The intention was to take more elephants, but the helicopter crashed during one of the operations. It is estimated that 30-40 elephants were to be captured in total.

              The elephants that were taken are now in holding pens at an off-limits facility within Hwange called Umtshibi, according to the source. One expert who reviewed the photographs, Joyce Poole, an expert on elephant behaviour and co-director of the Kenya-based organisation ElephantVoices, said the elephants were bunching huddling together because they are frightened.

              The
              The young elephants in their enclosure. According to experts, they are bunching, huddling together because they are frightened. Photograph: The Guardian

              Audrey Delsink, an elephant behavioural ecologist and executive director for Executive Director for Humane Society International Africa, also reviewed the photos and footage. She believed that most of the elephants were aged between two and four. Basically, these calves have just been weaned or are a year or two into the weaning process. In the wild, elephants are completely dependent on their mothers milk until they are two, and are not fully weaned until the age of five.

              A number of the calves, she said, were displaying temporal streaming a stress-induced activity. Many of the gestures indicate apprehensive and displacement behaviour trunk twisting, trunk curled under, face touching, foot swinging, head-shaking, ear-cocking, displacement feeding, amongst others. Zimparks were approached but did not make a comment.

              The buyer for the young elephants is a Chinese national, according to inside sources who asked not to be named. Last year he was associated with a case involving 11 wild hyenas, who were discovered in a truck at Harare international airport that had been on the road for 24 hours without food or water and were reportedly in an extremely stressed condition, dehydrated and emaciated and, in some cases, badly injured.

              One
              One of the hyenas found in a consignment at Harare airport in Zimbabwe. Photograph: The Guardian

              The legal live trade in wild animals

              The capture of the baby elephants is just one of a number of operations that have taken place in Zimbabwe and across the continent over several decades. Nine elephants were reportedly exported from Namibia to Mexico in 2012, six from Namibia to Cuba in 2013, and more than 25 from Zimbabwe to China in 2015. In 2016, the US imported 17 elephants from Swaziland despite objections from the public and conservationists. From 1995-2015, more than 600 wild African elephants and 400 wild Asian elephants are reported to have been traded globally, according to a database kept by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).

              Under Cites, trading live elephants is legal, with a few stipulations. The destination must be appropriate and acceptable, and the sale must benefit conservation in the home country. But elephant conservationists and animal welfare advocates point out a number of flaws in the system. There are no criteria setting out what appropriate and acceptable means and what is really contributing to conservation, explained Daniela Freyer of Pro-Wildlife, a German-based organisation that seeks to improve international legislation protecting wildlife. Currently, it is entirely up to authorities in the importing countries to define and decide. There are no common rules and no monitoring of the conditions of the capture, the number of animals being traded, where they will end up or the conditions in which they will be kept at their destination. There is also no monitoring of the requirement that a sale benefit conservation.

              For example, Zimbabwe and China are the biggest players in the live elephant trade, but Iris Ho, wildlife programme manager at Humane Society International (HSI), says they have found little information from the importing countries on the animals arrival. We dont know how many facilities in China have received the elephants imported from Zimbabwe during the last few years. We dont know the status of these animals.

              Attempts to comply with the few Cites stipulations such as appropriate and acceptable destinations are sometimes dismissed. In 2016, a Zimbabwe delegation of Zimparks and ZNSPCA inspectors travelled to China to access the facilities, where they found that most of the zoos showed signs of poor treatment of the animals. But their recommendation that a shipment of 36 elephants remain in Zimbabwe until the holding facilities in China were completed and assessed for compliance by Zimbabwe, was ignored.

              On September 16 Chinese papers announced in cheery headlines that three elephants two females and a male, aged approximately four years old had arrived at the Lehe Ledu wildlife zoo. Photographs of the elephants from Chinese media were analysed by Poole, who noted that the face one of the females looked pinched and stressed. The elephant appears to have begun to wear her tusks down on the bars, rubbing back and forth in frustration. Poole added that the sunken look, dark eyes and mottled skin are common for young, captured elephants. In the wild, you only see the pinched, sunken look in sick or orphaned elephants.

              The zoo has said that it is providing more than 1,000 square metres of indoor space and 3,000 sq metres outdoors. The animals have six full-time babysitters and every meal is prepared carefully, based on scientific recommendation.

              A video posted on YouTube celebrating the arrival of the elephants at Lehe Ledu zoo.

              Finally, questions have been asked about whether Zimbabwe is complying with the Cites stipulation that the sale of the elephants must benefit their conservation in the wild. The environment minister, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, was reported in the Guardian last year as saying the sale of the elephants was necessary to raise funds to take care of national parks in Zimbabwe, which have been ravaged by drought and poaching. But in the past, there have been unconfirmed reports of Grace Mugabe, the presidents wife, using funds from the sales of elephants to pay off a military debt to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

              The international body governing the trade, Cites, is increasingly coming under fire for its role. The scientific literature states that captive facilities continue to fall far short of meeting elephants natural needs for movement, space and extended social networks, with negative effects on health, behavior and reproduction, said Anna Mul, a legal adviser on animal law at Fondation Franz Weber, an organisation that is lobbying Cites to end the trade of live elephants.

              A spokesman for CITES said: The triennial CITES conference held last year (CoP17) agreed that appropriate and acceptable destinations was defined as destinations where the importing State is satisfied that the recipient of the live animals is suitably equipped to house and care for them. CoP17 also agreed on a process to assess if additional guidance on this matter is required. Further, both the importing and exporting countries are now required to be satisfied that any trade in live elephants should promote the conservation of elephants in the wild. In addition, the exporting Party must also be satisfied that animals are prepared and shipped so as to minimize the risk of injury, damage to health or cruel treatment of live elephants in trade… CITES does not address the way in which the animals are captured or stored prior to export.

              But for now, China continues to import the vulnerable elephants at almost conveyor-belt speed. According to Ho, some pressure to stop the practice is beginning to be felt, but the country is influenced by the view that breeding is conservation. And then, of course, there is a willing partner in Zimbabwe and the thrill of seeing African elephants by the visitors.

              Its a win-win, she said, for those who are financially profiting from the legal trade in the calves. But its a lose-lose for the animals, both imported and left behind.

              Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/03/exclusive-footage-shows-young-elephants-being-captured-in-zimbabwe-for-chinese-zoos

              Trump’s New Obamacare Killer to Cost Uncle Sam $194 Billion

              President Donald Trump is halting some Obamacare subsidies. A big money saver for taxpayers, right? Wrong. The move could actually force the government to dole out almost $200 billion more on health insurance over the next decade.

              Here’s why: The insurer payouts Trump cut off aren’t the only government funds financing the program. Consumers also can get help with their insurance premiums. When the insurer subsidies are discontinued, those premiums are pushed higher — and because the consumer subsidies are far bigger than those given to insurers, that’s a costly trade.

              More than eight in ten individuals who buy Obamacare plans get help paying their premiums directly from the federal government. Those subsidies effectively cap how much people have to pay for insurance as a percentage of their income. 

              Even if premiums climb, people who receive those benefits won’t pay more out of their own pockets. The subsidies are available to people making as much as four times the federal poverty level, or just over $97,000 for a family of four.

              That means that those most likely to be hurt by the president’s action aren’t low-income people who will still get help with their costs. Instead, consumers who make too much money to qualify for subsidies will now have to pay a much higher price for their health plans.

              It all adds up to a hefty bill for taxpayers for as long as the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that ending the cost-sharing payments would increase the U.S. fiscal shortfall by $194 billion over the next decade as subsidy outlays jump.

                Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-13/trump-s-latest-obamacare-killer-will-cost-uncle-sam-194-billion

                These Suburbanites May Have No Fracking Choice

                When Bill Young peers out the window of his $700,000 home in Broomfield, Colo., he drinks in a panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains. Starting next year, he may also glimpse one of the 99 drilling rigs that Extraction Oil & Gas Inc. wants to use to get at the oil beneath his home.

                There’s little that Young and his neighbors can do about the horizontal drilling. Residents of the Wildgrass neighborhood own their patches of paradise, but they don’t control what’s under them. An obscure Colorado law allows whole neighborhoods to be forced into leasing the minerals beneath their properties as long as one person in the area consents. The practice, called forced pooling, has been instrumental in developing oil and gas resources in Denver’s rapidly growing suburbs. It’s law in other states, too, but Colorado’s is the most favorable to drilling.

                Now fracking is coming to an upscale suburb, and the prospect of the Wildgrass homeowners being made by state law to do something they don’t want to do has turned many of them into lawyered-up resisters. “It floors me that a private entity could take my property,” says Young, an information security director.

                Many states require 51 percent of owners in a drilling area to consent before the others have to join. Pennsylvania doesn’t allow forced pooling at all in the Marcellus, one of the most prolific shale gas regions in the country. Texas, the center of the nation’s oil production, has strict limits on the practice. Despite its founding cowboy ethos of rugged individualism, Colorado has one of the lowest thresholds. “There’s a tension in oil and gas law between allowing private property owners to develop their mineral estates on their own and the state’s desire to ensure that ultimate recovery of oil and gas is maximized,” says Bret Wells, a law professor at the University of Houston.

                The rise of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing over the past decade has ushered in a modest oil boom on Colorado’s Front Range by enabling companies to wring crude more cheaply from the stubborn shale that runs beneath Denver’s northern suburbs. From 2010 to 2015, Colorado’s crude output almost quadrupled. This year the state is pumping more than 300,000 barrels a day, most of it from the Wattenberg oil field beneath Wildgrass and beyond.

                Colorado’s population is booming, too. As Denver’s suburbs bloom northward into oil and gas territory—Wildgrass is about 20 miles north of Denver, not far from Boulder—housing developments are erupting where once there were only drilling rigs and farmland. And because horizontal drilling can reach as far as 2 miles in all directions from a well, companies need underground access to more land to maximize production from each site. The Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission issues hundreds of pooling orders every year. “It’s an entirely new issue,” says David Neslin, former director of the commission, now an attorney at Davis Graham & Stubbs in Denver. “That’s creating some understandable friction with local governments and local communities.”

                Denver-based Extraction Oil & Gas is at the epicenter of that friction. Although it has rural holdings, a substantial amount of its reserves are located in populated areas. So the company, like others in the region, has put a lot of energy—and cash—into making its operations more palatable to suburbanites who fear the prospect of a drilling rig sprouting up within sight of their kiddie pools. Extraction almost exclusively uses electric drills, which are quieter than diesel-powered, and a new generation of hydraulic fracturing equipment that cuts noise. “It’s incumbent upon us to learn to live with these communities,” says Extraction spokesman Brian Cain. “Where we can go the extra mile to minimize impacts, we wish to do so.”

                The company’s latest project involves drilling 99 horizontal wells in Broomfield. That means leasing mineral rights from Wildgrass residents. Letters went out to some of them last year offering a 15 percent royalty and a $500 signing bonus. Some signed, others demurred, and still others organized a campaign aimed at blocking the project. Extraction hasn’t applied for a forced pooling order, but Young and his neighbors have come to believe it’s inevitable.

                The suburb’s agitation prompted the city to create a special task force to evaluate Extraction’s proposal. The company responded by taking members of the task force on a tour of oil and gas country. It wanted to show how its operations are less disruptive than traditional drill sites.

                Ultimately, the company agreed to more stringent environmental standards than the state requires. It will move some wells 1,300 feet from neighborhoods, almost three times farther than the law mandates. It will reduce the number of wells per site, monitor air emissions as well as water and soil quality, and build pipelines to transport oil immediately off-site instead of storing it in the city. “I can see Broomfield turning out to be a new model for how large-scale development gets done,” says Matt Lepore, director of the state commission, which will rule on Extraction’s applications for siting the wells this month.

                Such concessions have smoothed the path for development in many communities. But for some Wildgrass residents, any leasing is unacceptable. They say they fear accidents, such as the April pipeline explosion that killed two people and destroyed a home in Firestone, 20 miles away. Some simply find the terms of the initial lease offer laughable.

                “The money is so negligible,” says Elizabeth Lario, a health coach who’s lived in Wildgrass since 2005. And then there are property values: Homes in Wildgrass range from $500,000 to more than $1 million. “The royalties won’t offset the drop in property value,” says Stephen Uhlhorn, an engineer who’s lived in Wildgrass for four years. Oil development “is now hitting affluent neighborhoods where people have assets and livelihoods that exceed the value of any royalty they’re offered.”

                The bedrock of Colorado’s oil and gas policy is a 1951 law that says responsible fossil fuel development is in the public interest. The state, the law says, must protect the public from “waste”—industry parlance for oil that’s left in the ground. While Colorado has some of the strictest environmental regulations of any oil-producing state, it gives companies latitude in choosing where to drill. The Colorado Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the state’s interest in developing mineral resources preempts any local law that would curb drilling.

                Efforts to change the statute have fizzled. State Representative Mike Foote, a Democrat whose district is adjacent to Broomfield’s, introduced a bill earlier this year to raise the pooling threshold to 51 percent. It passed the House by a slim margin but died in a Senate committee in a party-line vote, with Republicans opposed. “The oil and gas industry pretty much controls the capital, particularly in the Senate,” Foote says. “Operators can do whatever they want.” Lepore, the head of the state oil commission, concedes the pooling threshold is low compared with other states. “I have no philosophical objection to a 51 percent requirement,” he says. “There are intelligent changes that could be made to the forced pooling law.”

                Young, the Wildgrass resident, received a lease offer last year. Since then he’s been working with a lawyer to consider his options, and so far he doesn’t like them. “You couldn’t put a Walmart where they’re putting these wells—no one would approve that zoning,” he says. “But for some reason, the industry is completely exempt from everything.”

                  BOTTOM LINE – In Colorado, whole neighborhoods may have to lease the minerals under their land if just one homeowner agrees.

                  Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-03/these-suburbanites-may-have-no-fracking-choice