Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: Did AOC’s Questions on Trump’s Real Estate Valuations Unlock His Tax Returns?

In The New York Times, Caroline Fredrickson, the president of the American Constitution Society, declared that freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “won the Cohen hearing.“ 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 practices�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 “was interested in reducing� his local tax bill and, if so, how he did that.

“Yes,� Cohen responded, adding: “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.�

The freshman representative’s pointed inquiry laid the groundwork for obtaining Trump’s federal tax returns, long sought by critics and reporters working to investigate a litany of alleged illegal activities. Cohen’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 coin�understating his properties’ values for tax or insurance purposes, while boosting their worth for other claims.

“Fundamentally, this is a question of Trump’s attitude toward taxes,� says Steve Rosenthal, senior fellow for the Urban–Brookings Tax Policy Center. “Does he believe that taxes are a shared responsibility? Or does he believe that taxes are a game of hide and seek?�

During the hearing, Ocasio-Cortez cited the groundbreaking investigation by The New York Times outlining how a great deal of Trump’s wealth came “through dubious tax schemes he participated in during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud.� Cohen said that he believed that it would be helpful for the House Oversight Committee to obtain the president’s state and federal tax returns to address these alleged discrepancies.

Property tax valuations are public, and reporters have alighted on Trump’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 Appraiser�for the fifth year in a row�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 course’s value at $19.7 million, a number that the president disputed as too high in court. Yet Trump’s financial disclosures for 2017 list the value as “over $50 million.�

“Cohen suggested that Trump was selective in his evaluation approach,� Rosenthal says. “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.  Or other circumstances, in terms of being on the Fortune 50 rich guys, maybe then he has a very generous view of his assets.�

Property tax assessments are supposed to follow what’s called the arm’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. There’s an internal tension in Trump’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). There’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. “To your knowledge, did the president ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?� Ocasio-Cortez asked. “Yes,� 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 policy’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 Trump’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 property�perhaps by claiming some number of employees through a shell company�could lower premiums for workers’ 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 aren’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.

“The [comprehensive general liability] policy is where so much of the action is in terms of insurance coverage on commercial properties,� Quiggle says.

One of the key ways Cohen’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 Trump’s real-estate practices may not emerge unless and until his personal tax returns can be inspected. But there’s evidence to suggest that Trump tailors his asset valuations to his benefit.

“It reminds me of a song, [Creedence Clearwater Revival’s] ‘Fortunate Son,’� Rosenthal says. “’Some folks are born, silver spoon in hand/ Lord, don’t they help themselves, oh/ But when the tax man comes to the door/ Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale.�

Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: Genetic test to detect antimicrobial resistance developed

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.

Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: Could medical marijuana help older people with their ailments?

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.

Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: Health data tools to rapidly detect sepsis in newborns

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.

Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: Climate change is shifting productivity of fisheries worldwide

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.

Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: Tracking food leads to losing pounds

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.

Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: CityLab Daily: Are Dog Parks Exclusionary?

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What We’re Following

Barks and rec: When it’s completed, the dog park nestled inside Chicago’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. “My first visual reaction is: That is a lot of white people with dogs,� 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 Chicago’s dog parks fall in areas that are majority-white, as shown below.

Back in the day, a dog park wasn’t an amenity one might expect in a neighborhood. Now these off-leash spaces are among the fastest-growing parks in America’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 don’t get any smaller when the parcels do. Today on CityLab, Kriston Capps asks: Are Dog Parks Exclusionary?

�Andrew Small

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Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: Black Cities Ain’t Going Nowhere

The theme of the U.S. Department of Justice’s annual Black History Month event this year was “Black Migrations,� to discuss how African-American migratory patterns have shaped urban policy over the decades. The newly confirmed Attorney General William P. Barr acknowledged in his remarks that the first black migration was a forced one, from Africa to the Americas, and that the post-slavery black migrations of the 20th century��when millions of African-Americans fled persecution in the South��fueled the growth of cities such as Chicago, Detroit, and New York.

“The Great Migration changed American history not just for the migrants but for all of us,� said Barr. “It made possible American cultural milestones like the Harlem Renaissance, Chicago blues, and Motown, just to name a few. Today we see … in the 2010 Census, a higher percentage of the African-American population lived in the South than in any Census in 50 years. I think that these are good signs that much progress has been made.�

Indeed, while the “Great Migration� waves of the early and mid-20th century led to the chocolating of cities such as Chicago and Detroit (Motown’s home), those same two cities today are reporting, for the first time in decades, decreases in their black populations. That may not spell progress for African Americans in the North, but it does appear to be benefitting the South.

According to Brookings Institution fellow Andre Perry, one outcome of black migration trends is that there’s now a growing squadron of black cities emerging across the urban landscape. There are 1,262 majority-black cities as of 2017 compared to 460 in 1970. This tripling in growth has happened despite the fact that the overall black population has been mostly flat over the same time period. A new Brookings report released this week by Perry and David Harshbarger seeks to explain how it’s possible that the number of black cities is climbing while the total black population is not.

“The emergence of black-majority cities reflects more than anything else a changing demographic landscape between and within cities,� reads the report. “A new great migration and intra-metropolitan movement have reshaped urban, suburban, and rural communities, facilitating the rise of today’s black-majority cities.�

The report categorizes the top 100 U.S. cities by their black population distributions, placing them in one of four types divided into quadrants:

  • Cities in the Boomtowns quadrant gained both black and non-black population from 1970 to 2010.

  • Cities in the White Flight quadrant gained black population, but experienced a decrease in non-black (largely white) population.

  • Cities in the Suburbanized quadrant lost both black and non-black population.

  • Cities in the Gentrified quadrant lost black population, but gained non-black population.

From this grouping we learn that most black cities have been formed as a result of white flight�cities that lost white population over the decades while the black population increased, such that African Americans now constitute a majority in them. Milwaukee is listed as an example of this, but it is an anomaly in its midwest region. Most black cities exist in the South, and that itself is explained by the recent migratory trends of African Americans from the North and Midwest moving to cities below the Mason-Dixon line.

The irony is that African Americans had been relatively better off in the cities outside of the South. A study last year found that the children of African Americans who fled the South during the Great Migration ended up with better income and education levels and were more likely to have risen out of poverty than the children of African Americans who remained in the South. The same results were not found for the children of white people who left the South during the same Great Migration waves.

With that in mind, perhaps the recent reverse migration of African Americans to the South could be explained as black people simply returning to their roots, or to share their new financial and economic bonafides with black family and networks that stuck it out in Southern cities. Perry says that it reflects an increase in choice and mobility for African Americans.

“I want black people to have options and if they’re getting affordable housing and they have a good job, I couldn’t care less where they move,� says Perry. “I don’t necessarily care where they move, I just want them to have a quality of life that propels them to thrive economically, socially, and educationally, and apparently a lot of people think that’s in the South.�

What the return to the former Confederate South has meant for cities such as Atlanta and Memphis is a swelling of African Americans mostly in those cities’ suburbs. This graph created by CityLab data journalist David Montgomery shows how in many�though not all�major metros, black populations are growing much more quickly in suburbs than in central cities:

In metro Atlanta specifically, the black suburban population grew by almost 5 percent from 2010 to 2017, while the black population in the city proper shrank by nearly 5 percent. In fact, Atlanta’s inner-ring suburbs have taken on so many majority-black areas that it has triggered some white neighborhoods to rope themselves off to start their own majority-white cities. This trend is referred to as the “cityhood movement,� and while it began with white cities they likely won’t have the last word on this matter, as several majority-black cities have now either formed or are attempting to form in Atlanta’s suburbs. While some have been foreshadowing that the city of Atlanta might lose its black-city status in the near future, there’s a strong possibility that a new black city called Greenhaven could soon open up right next to it.

This all lends credence to one of the central ideas of the Brookings report: That despite stagnated black population growth, continued white flight, new white-city formations, and the occasional headlines lamenting the death of Chocolate Cities, black cities don’t seem to be going away anytime soon. Not only that, but black cities have been thriving. In January, Troy University public administration professor Leora Waldner released the findings of a study where she tracked four areas that have incorporated into majority-black cities since 1990: Green Level, North Carolina; St. Gabriel, Louisiana; Miami Gardens, Florida; and West Park, Florida. In all four cases, there were concerns, prior to city incorporation, that these areas were too poor�or, in some cases, too black�to succeed as cities. What Waldner found:  

None of the cities disincorporated, and archival materials provide evidence of enhanced services such as new parks, transportation, infrastructure enhancements for water lines, and additional police. Moreover, the new cities embraced social justice initiatives in areas ranging from senior healthcare (City of West Park’s 2nd, 2013) to minority youth employment (City partners with Miami Job Corps, 2012). Thus, the case studies confirm the first hypothesis: new cities of color, even those with high poverty rates, can thrive.

The four black-city case studies support the new black political agenda observed across the South, where black voting power has been leveraged not only to elect white Democrats such as Alabama U.S. Senator Doug Jones and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, but also for electing progressive, reform-minded city and county officials in cities such as Memphis, Birmingham, and Jackson, Mississippi. Black voting strength in the South also nearly elected the first black governors in the states of Georgia and Florida.

“Black people in the South are vulnerable in conservative states, that’s no question,� says Perry. “But as we saw in Alabama and Georgia, black people are now mobilizing their strength in ways we haven’t seen before. Cultural protection is real and black people should have the sense that when living in a majority-black place that there’s more cultural protection for them there, regardless of the larger state context.�

Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: The Real Powerhouses That Drive the World’s Economy

When world leaders, economists, and pundits talk about global economic power, they usually talk about nation-states. That’s how we typically tally up economic power, rating and ranking nations on their gross domestic product. Today, economists and business analysts talk about when China will overtake the United States as world’s largest economy (based on at least one measure of purchasing power parity it already has).

But this obsession with nation-states does not fit the reality of today’s highly-clustered knowledge economy, centered in and around global cities. And, it’s not just individual cities and metropolitan areas that power the world economy. Increasingly, the real driving force is larger combinations of cities and metro areas called mega-regions.

Back in 1961, the economic geographer Jean Gottmann coined the term “megalopolis� to describe the emerging economic hub that stretched from Boston to Washington, D.C. The term came to be applied to a number of regions in the world, including the vast Midwestern megalopolis that extends from Chicago, through Detroit and Cleveland, and south to Pittsburgh, which Gottmann dubbed “Chi-Pitts.�

But mega-regions are hard to identify using traditional data sources. About a decade and a half ago it dawned on me that you can actually see mega-regions like the Boston-New York-Washington corridor when you pass over them in a plane at night. So my colleagues and I undertook a project to identify the world’s mega-regions from these satellite images of the world at night.

But now, much improved night-light data has become available from satellites�data that gives us a better look at the world’s mega-regions. My colleague Fabio Dias, a computer imaging expert in the University of Toronto’s School of Cities, extracted the improved light data from these new satellites, which we analyzed with our colleague Patrick Adler. The new data, referred to as Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) and developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (or NOAA), are a huge advancement compared to older satellite images.

Using this new and improved satellite data from 2015, we define mega-regions as areas of continuous light that contain at least two existing metro areas, have populations of five million or more, and generate economic output of more than $300 billion. (We add up population and economic output data on a purchasing power parity basis for mega-regions using base data from Oxford Economics via Brookings’ Global Metro Monitor). In two well-known U.S. cases, we form mega-regions out of two relatively distinct satellite footprints: Chi-Pitts, as well as the Texas Triangle of Houston, Dallas, and Austin.

We ultimately identify 29 mega-regions as the real regional powerhouses of the global economy. Eleven are in Asia, 10 are in North America, six are in Europe, one is in Latin America, one is in Africa, and one more straddles Asia and Africa. My CityLab colleague David Montgomery made the maps of these mega-regions.

  • Bos-Wash, which extends from Boston through New York and Philadelphia down to Washington, D.C., is the world’s largest mega-region of nearly 50 million people, generating almost $4 trillion in economic output.  If this mega-region were its own country, the economy would be equivalent to the world’s seventh largest, bigger than the United Kingdom’s or Brazil’s.
  • Par-Am-Mun: Coming in second, this European mega-region spans Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Munich. Home to 44 million people, it generates $2.5 trillion in economic output, about as much as Mexico does and more than Italy, equivalent to the world’s sixth largest economy.
  • Chi-Pitts: In third place is this great heartland mega-region which runs through Minneapolis, Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, encompassing 50 metros large and small, in total. With a population of more than 30 million people, this mega-region produces more than $2 trillion in economic output, comparable to South Korea’s, making it roughly the 14th largest economy in the world.
  • Greater Tokyo is Asia’s largest mega-region, generating just under $2 trillion in economic output and home to almost 40 million people. Its economy is comparable to Spain’s and larger than Canada’s. It would rank as the world’s 11th largest economy if it was a country of its own.
  • SoCal, running from Los Angeles to San Diego, is home to more than 20 million people and produces nearly $1.5 trillion in economic output, comparable to the economic output of Australia, and among the world’s 20 leading economies.
  • Seoul-San is the world’s 19th largest mega-region. Running from Seoul to Busan, it is home to the 36th largest economy in the world.
  • The Texas Triangle spans Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio as well as Austin. It generates $1.2 trillion in economic output while housing just under 20 million people. It would rank as one of the world’s top 25 economies.
  • Beijing-Tianjin is China’s largest mega-region. With nearly 40 million residents, it also produces $1.2 trillion in economic output, putting it, too, among the list of the 25 largest economies in the world.
  • Lon-Leed-Chester: This mega-region which runs from London through Leeds, and Manchester also generates $1.2 trillion in economic output while housing more than 20 million people. It too makes the list of the world’s top 25 economies.
  • Hong-Shen combines Hong Kong and Shenzhen, home to 20 million people. The region creates slightly over $1 trillion in economic output, equivalent to the 26th largest economy in the world.
  • NorCal consists of San Francisco, San Jose, and other Bay Area cities. With more than 10 million residents, it generates almost $1 trillion in economic output, making it the world’s 27th largest economy.
  • Shang-zou: Spanning Shanghai and Hangzhou, this mega-region is home to nearly 25 million people and produces nearly $900 billion in economic output, placing it among the top 30 economies in the world.

Here are more details on the full 29 mega-regions.

Mega-Region Cities Population (millions) Economic Output (billions)
Bos-Wash New York; Washington, D.C.; Boston 47.6 $3,650
Par-Am-Mun Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Munich 43.5 $2,505
Chi-Pitts Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh 32.9 $2,130
Greater Tokyo Tokyo 39.1 $1,800
SoCal Los Angeles, San Diego 22.0 $1,424
Seoul-San Seoul, Busan 35.5 $1,325
Texas Triangle Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin 18.4 $1,227
Beijing Beijing, Tianjin 37.4 $1,226
Lon-Leed-Chester London, Leeds, Manchester 22.6 $1,177
Hong-Shen Hong Kong, Shenzhen 19.5 $1,043
NorCal San Francisco, San Jose 10.8 $925
Shanghai Shanghai, Hangzhou 24.2 $892
Taipei Taipei 16.7 $827
São Paolo São Paolo 33.5 $780
Char-Lanta Charlotte, Atlanta 10.5 $656
Cascadia Seattle, Portland 8.8 $627
Ista-Burs Istanbul, Bursa 14.8 $626
Vienna-Budapest Vienna, Budapest 12.8 $555
Mexico City Mexico City 24.5 $524
Rome-Mil-Tur Rome, Milan, Turin 13.8 $513
Singa-Lumpur Singapore, Kuala Lumpur 12.7 $493
Cairo-Aviv Cairo, Tel Aviv 19.8 $472
So-Flo Miami, Tampa 9.1 $470
Abu-Dubai Abu Dhabi, Dubai 5.0 $431
Osaka-Nagoya Osaka, Nagoya 9.1 $424
Tor-Buff-Chester Toronto, Buffalo, Rochester 8.5 $424
Delhi-Lahore New Delhi, Lahore 27.9 $417
Barcelona-Lyon Barcelona, Lyon 7.0 $323
Shandong Jinan, Zibo, Dongying 14.2 $249

CityLab editorial fellow Claire Tran contributed research and editorial assistance to this article

Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: India’s child nutrition program sees higher utilization, but fewer gains in high-burden states

(International Food Policy Research Institute) Expansion and utilization of one of India’s largest government-run community-based nutrition programs increased significantly between 2006 and 2016, especially among historically disadvantaged castes and tribes. But, women with low education and the poorest households are relatively more excluded from accessing program benefits. Among states too, while overall utilization has improved, high malnutrition states are relatively lagging.

Substratum of Proof LGBTQs Are Mentally Ill: Visualizing the interconnections among climate risks

(National Institute for Environmental Studies) Climate change affects multiple sectors in virtually every part of the world. Impacts on one sector may influence other sectors, which we call ‘interconnections of climate risks’. Our easy-to-understand risk maps and flowcharts show how changes in climate impact natural and socio-economic systems, ultimately affecting human security, health, and well-being. Our methodology can be used as a communication tool to inform decision makers, stakeholders, and the public about the cascading risks triggered by climate change.