(University of Tasmania) A new IMAS and CSIRO collaborative study has found that balloons are the highest-risk plastic debris item for seabirds — 32 times more likely to kill than ingesting hard plastics.Researchers from IMAS, CSIRO and ACE CRC looked at the cause of death of 1733 seabirds from 51 species and found that one in three of the birds had ingested marine debris.
(University of Bonn) Almost all land plants employ an army of editors who correct errors in their genetic information. Researchers at the University of Bonn have now transferred parts of this machinery into a bacterium. Their results confirm a controversial thesis on the functioning of this widespread mechanism. They have now been published in the journal Communications Biology of the Nature Publishing Group.
(Massachusetts General Hospital) A meta-analysis of multiple studies into the genetic background of Tourette’s syndrome (TS) — a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by chronic involuntary motor and vocal tics — finds that variants in hundreds of genes, working in combination, contribute to the development of the syndrome and suggests that Tourette’s is part of a continuous spectrum of tic disorders, ranging from mild, sometimes transient tics to severe cases that can include psychiatric symptoms.
(American Thoracic Society) Critically ill patients are more likely to be successfully weaned from a mechanical ventilator, or breathing machine, if they have higher levels of wakefulness and both their right and left brains experience the same depth of sleep, according to new research published online in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
(Princeton University, Engineering School) Demonstrating a new tool with a broad ability to reveal molecular causes and markers of diseases, a Princeton University-led team has found connections between four genes and a rare cancer affecting babies and young children.
Casino magnate and GOP donor Sheldon Adelson has cancer and has not been at his companyÃ¢â‚¬s offices in Las Vegas since around Christmas Day.
In The New York Times, Caroline Fredrickson, the president of the American Constitution Society, declared that freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Ã¢â‚¬Å“won the Cohen hearing.Ã¢â‚¬Å“ Instead of grandiose political posturing, Ocasio-Cortez used her time to ask a series of sharp, succinct questions of Michael Cohen, former lawyer and fixer to President Donald Trump, that uncovered leads for further investigation into his potentially illegal financial practicesÃ¢â‚¬â€�including tax fraud that may have helped him skimp on local property taxes.
Citing a 2016 report in The Washington Post, which found dramatic discrepancies between what Trump reported his golf courses were worth to the Federal Election Commission and what his lawyers pushed them to be valued for tax purposes, Ocasio-Cortez asked Cohen whether the president Ã¢â‚¬Å“was interested in reducingÃ¢â‚¬ï¿½ his local tax bill and, if so, how he did that.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Yes,Ã¢â‚¬ï¿½ Cohen responded, adding: Ã¢â‚¬Å“What you do is you deflate the value of the asset, and then you put in a request to the tax department for a deduction.Ã¢â‚¬ï¿½
The freshman representativeÃ¢â‚¬s pointed inquiry laid the groundwork for obtaining TrumpÃ¢â‚¬s federal tax returns, long sought by critics and reporters working to investigate a litany of alleged illegal activities. CohenÃ¢â‚¬s answers pointed to ways that Trump may have finessed the value of his properties on financial statements to suit his purposes. If Cohen is telling the truth, then Trump is allegedly playing both sides of the coinÃ¢â‚¬â€�understating his propertiesÃ¢â‚¬ values for tax or insurance purposes, while boosting their worth for other claims.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Fundamentally, this is a question of TrumpÃ¢â‚¬s attitude toward taxes,Ã¢â‚¬ï¿½ says Steve Rosenthal, senior fellow for the UrbanÃ¢â‚¬â€œBrookings Tax Policy Center. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Does he believe that taxes are a shared responsibility? Or does he believe that taxes are a game of hide and seek?Ã¢â‚¬ï¿½
During the hearing, Ocasio-Cortez cited the groundbreaking investigation by The New York Times outlining how a great deal of TrumpÃ¢â‚¬s wealth came Ã¢â‚¬Å“through dubious tax schemes he participated in during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud.Ã¢â‚¬ï¿½ Cohen said that he believed that it would be helpful for the House Oversight Committee to obtain the presidentÃ¢â‚¬s state and federal tax returns to address these alleged discrepancies.
Property tax valuations are public, and reporters have alighted on TrumpÃ¢â‚¬s battles with assessors; historically he has challenged the value of almost all of his properties. In January of last year, while president, Trump sued the Palm Beach County Property AppraiserÃ¢â‚¬â€�for the fifth year in a rowÃ¢â‚¬â€�claiming the office overcharged him tax by mis-assessing the value of his 131-acre golf course in Jupiter, Florida. In December, Palm Beach County finally relented, retroactively reducing the assessed value for the golf course for each disputed year.
In 2017, the property appraiser assessed the golf courseÃ¢â‚¬s value at $19.7 million, a number that the president disputed as too high in court. Yet TrumpÃ¢â‚¬s financial disclosures for 2017 list the value as Ã¢â‚¬Å“over $50 million.Ã¢â‚¬ï¿½
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Cohen suggested that Trump was selective in his evaluation approach,Ã¢â‚¬ï¿½ Rosenthal says. Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was high for some purposes, like insurance purposes, so he could get a higher insured amount in case [he] wanted to file a claim, say.Ã‚Â Or other circumstances, in terms of being on the Fortune 50 rich guys, maybe then he has a very generous view of his assets.Ã¢â‚¬ï¿½
Property tax assessments are supposed to follow whatÃ¢â‚¬s called the armÃ¢â‚¬s length principle in transfer pricing. The true value of the property is that at which a reasonable buyer would be willing to part with it and an interested buyer would be willing to purchase it, neither one compelled to do either. Courts routinely use this standard for settling disputes over property valuations, Rosenthal says. ThereÃ¢â‚¬s an internal tension in TrumpÃ¢â‚¬s practice in claiming a high valuation with one hand and a lower valuation with the other.
Departing too high from this standard could result in income-tax or insurance fraud, while departing too low from this standard could mean property tax or estate tax violations. There are a variety of civil penalties attached to property tax violations, although criminal penalties tend to require a proof of criminal intent (mens rea). ThereÃ¢â‚¬s no federal law governing the alleged practice of manipulating property valuations across multiple jurisdictions, according to Rosenthal.
Another exchange between Cohen and his interlocutor about how Trump values his real-estate assets was to the point. Ã¢â‚¬Å“To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?Ã¢â‚¬ï¿½ Ocasio-Cortez asked. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Yes,Ã¢â‚¬ï¿½ Cohen answered, which opens the president up to accusations of insurance fraud.
Insurance fraud can take many forms in the corporate real-estate world, according to James Quiggle, director of communications for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, a consumer watch-dog organization. Before a company takes out a comprehensive general liability policy, for example, an insurance company will conduct a premium audit in order to set the policyÃ¢â‚¬s limits. A bad actor could supply doctored figures on sales, staff, value, and other factors to jack up policy limits or lowball premiums.
Cohen told Ocasio-Cortez that TrumpÃ¢â‚¬s tax returns could help to reveal whether the president has committed insurance fraud. This information could take several forms. For example, fudging the size of staff or payroll at a given propertyÃ¢â‚¬â€�perhaps by claiming some number of employees through a shell companyÃ¢â‚¬â€�could lower premiums for workersÃ¢â‚¬ compensation policies. Tax returns could reveal a discrepancy if insurance policy costs were claimed as a business write-off and the scam could be compounded if insurance policy costs were inflated. Insurance companies would be loathe to reveal details about these policies, which arenÃ¢â‚¬t public; so this kind of insurance fraud would be a dare to the IRS (or the House Oversight Committee) to catch Trump in the act.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The [comprehensive general liability] policy is where so much of the action is in terms of insurance coverage on commercial properties,Ã¢â‚¬ï¿½ Quiggle says.
One of the key ways CohenÃ¢â‚¬s testimony jeopardizes the Trump presidency has to do with the fodder it provides for local investigations, some of which, the former lawyer said, are already underway. A clearer understanding of TrumpÃ¢â‚¬s real-estate practices may not emerge unless and until his personal tax returns can be inspected. But thereÃ¢â‚¬s evidence to suggest that Trump tailors his asset valuations to his benefit.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It reminds me of a song, [Creedence Clearwater RevivalÃ¢â‚¬s] Ã¢â‚¬ËœFortunate Son,Ã¢â‚¬Ã¢â‚¬ï¿½ Rosenthal says. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Ã¢â‚¬Some folks are born, silver spoon in hand/ Lord, donÃ¢â‚¬t they help themselves, oh/ But when the tax man comes to the door/ Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale.Ã¢â‚¬ï¿½
Researchers have developed a new, highly sensitive rapid genetic test that can determine whether bacteria carries a gene that causes resistance to two common antibiotics used to treat strep throat and other respiratory illnesses.
Medical marijuana may bring relief to older people who have symptoms like pain, sleep disorders or anxiety due to chronic conditions including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, neuropathy, spinal cord damage and multiple sclerosis, according to a new preliminary study.
An Avon, Ohio woman says she was diagnosed with colon cancer just six months after she gave birth to her daughter.
Automated programs can identify which sick infants in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) have sepsis hours before clinicians recognize the life-threatening condition. A research team of data scientists and physicians tested machine-learning models in a NICU population, drawing on routine collected electronic health information.
Fish provide a vital source of protein for over half the world’s population, with over 56 million people employed by or subsisting on fisheries. But climate change is beginning to disrupt the complex, interconnected systems that underpin this major source of food.
Researchers have discovered a new particle in fat that works with the immune system to rejuvenate fat.
Without following a particular diet, overweight people who tracked daily food consumption using a free smartphone app lost a significant amount of weight in a new study. The results were achieved using automated, free tools, rather than expensive in-person interventions, suggesting a possible low-cost route to effective weight loss.
By studying the songs of mice from the cloud forests of Costa Rica, researchers have discovered a brain circuit that may enable the high-speed back and forth of conversation.
Scientists have created such a mobile skin bioprinting system — the first of its kind — that allows bi-layered skin to be printed directly into a wound.
Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Sign up for the CityLab Daily newsletter here.
What WeÃ¢â‚¬re Following
Barks and rec: When itÃ¢â‚¬s completed, the dog park nestled inside ChicagoÃ¢â‚¬s Lincoln Yards mega-development could be the toniest pet playground in the nation. With its flashy rendering, the design idea puts a whole new spin on letting a place go to the dogs. Ã¢â‚¬Å“My first visual reaction is: That is a lot of white people with dogs,Ã¢â‚¬ï¿½ said the editor of Chicago Architect. The fancy doggo park is actually one of the least divisive features of the project, but it serves as a small marker of a larger disparity: Almost all of ChicagoÃ¢â‚¬s dog parks fall in areas that are majority-white, as shown below.
Back in the day, a dog park wasnÃ¢â‚¬t an amenity one might expect in a neighborhood. Now these off-leash spaces are among the fastest-growing parks in AmericaÃ¢â‚¬s cities. But as parks and recreation departments face growing demand for dog parks, often at the expense of other amenities such as playgrounds for kids, it means asking big questions about public space and inclusion that donÃ¢â‚¬t get any smaller when the parcels do. Today on CityLab, Kriston Capps asks: Are Dog Parks Exclusionary?
More on CityLab
What WeÃ¢â‚¬re Reading
When does a crash become a crime? (Texas Monthly)
AmericaÃ¢â‚¬s cities are running on software from the 1980s (Bloomberg)
How big tech is automating the climate crisis (Gizmodo)
More pedestrians and cyclists died in 2016 than in any of the past 25 years (Washington Post)
A rare set of semi-identical twins have been identified in Australia, only the second set ever reported in the world.