Kushner transactions part of DOJ money laundering probe at Deutsche Bank

The Justice Department has opened up a criminal investigation into potential money- laundering violations by Deutsche Bank — including transactions linked to President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, according to a report. The DOJ is investigating why the bank didn’t alert the US Treasury to potentially suspicious transactions by Kushner’s family and the Kushner Cos. in...
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Kim Kardashian and Kanye West working on their marriage at luxe Colorado resort
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Singer Kathleen Edwards on why she stepped away from music, and why she came back
Kathleen Edwards was one of the most acclaimed young songwriters on the indie music scene in the early 2000s. When her fourth album, "Voyageur," became her highest-charting album yet, Edwards stepped away from music and opened a coffee shop called Quitters in Ontario, Canada. After a request for a collaboration from country star Maren Morris, Edwards found herself writing music again and came out with a new album, "Total Freedom." She speaks to Anthony Mason about why she made the career switch and how it feels to be a singer again amid the coronavirus pandemic.
President Trump Dodges Question on QAnon Conspiracy Theory
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State law makes locally-sourced food more accessible than ever for Wyoming residents
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Number of children infected with COVID-19 is on the rise, CDC says
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The top 10 books New Yorkers are grabbing from the reopened Public Library
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Police Threaten Portland Protesters with 'Impact Weapons' For Failure to Disperse
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FedEx and UPS say they can’t help Post Office deliver mail-in ballots
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Arecibo radio telescope goes dark after mysterious destruction
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What America can learn from the fall of the Roman republic
Romans ruins of the city of Salamis, near Famagusta, Northern Cyprus. | Shutterstock The Roman republic destroyed itself. Are we on a similar path? If you were a Roman citizen around, say, 200 BC, you probably would have assumed Rome was going to last forever. At the time, Rome was the greatest republic in human history, and its institutions had proven resilient through invasions and all kinds of disasters. But the foundations of Rome started to weaken less than a century later, and by 27 BC the republic had collapsed entirely. The story of Rome’s fall is both complicated and relatively straightforward: The state became too big and chaotic; the influence of money and private interests corrupted public institutions; and social and economic inequalities became so large that citizens lost faith in the system altogether and gradually fell into the arms of tyrants and demagogues. If all of that sounds familiar, well, that’s because the parallels to our current political moment are striking. Edward Watts, a historian at the University of California San Diego, published a 2018 book titled Mortal Republic that carefully lays out what went wrong in ancient Rome — and how the lessons of its decline might help save fledgling republics like the United States today. I spoke to Watts about those lessons and why he thinks the American republic, along with several others, are in danger of going the way of ancient Rome. This conversation took place in January 2019, long before the coronavirus pandemic or the recent social unrest following George Floyd’s murder, but the broader questions he raised remain as relevant today as they were when we initially spoke. A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows. Sean Illing Why write a book about Rome’s decline now? Edward Watts When I started teaching Roman history, the main questions from students were always about comparing the end of the Roman empire with the state of the American empire, and this was usually tied to the Iraq War. In the past 10 years, those sorts of questions have died down. Now students are interested in Rome as a republic, and whether the American republic is collapsing in the same way. They see lots of parallels there, especially in how the two systems are structured. Sean Illing Tell me about some of those parallels, the ones you think are most relevant. Edward Watts First, we have to remember that the US is a representative democracy. We tend to drop the representative part when we’re talking about what political system we live under, but that’s actually quite important. This is not a direct democracy, and Rome was not a direct democracy either. What you have in both cases is a system where people are chosen by the voters to make decisions, and then there’s a period of time when they make those decisions, and then they’re held accountable for how those decisions turned out. But the representatives are making the choices — and people have noticed that that works fine until those representatives either stop making principled decisions or become paralyzed by the vicissitudes of popular opinion. Both of those things started to happen when Rome began to decline, and both of those things are happening in the US right now. “But it’s up to Americans, just like it was up to voters in Rome, to defend our institutions” Sean Illing Rome didn’t have to fail; it failed because Romans foolishly believed Rome would last forever. What could they have done differently, and when could they have done it? Edward Watts They could’ve recognized what their system was designed to do, which was produce compromise and consensus. Ultimately, it’s better to make no decision than to make a bad decision. What the Romans failed to appreciate was that their processes were slow and deliberative for very good reasons: that’s how representative systems avoid disaster, how you get people to the table to work out compromises. For 300 years, this system worked quite well in Rome, but for the past century or so of its existence these tools of deliberation were used not to facilitate compromise but to obstruct and punish political enemies and basically prevent anything from happening. That destroyed the goodwill within the system and really poisoned it in the minds of the voters. Sean Illing Well that sounds familiar! Edward Watts Indeed. Sean Illing Shortly after Donald Trump’s election, I wrote about Plato’s warning about the decline of democracy. Basically, he believed that democracies fall into tyranny when too much freedom leads to disorder and citizens choose the stability of autocracy over the chaos of democracy. This is what happened in Rome. Do you believe the same thing is happening right now? Edward Watts I think that we’re in the early stages of a process that could lead to that. The point at which Romans were willing to make that trade occurred after almost 150 years of political dysfunction, but it also occurred after a generation of really brutal civil war. And the process that started that was one of economic inequality and the inability and unwillingness of the people vested in the upper, successful parts of the Roman state to address that economic inequality. But as people’s needs were not being addressed for decades, the tensions heightened to the point where violence started breaking out. And once violence starts to break out, it’s very difficult for a republic to regain control of itself. It’s easy to see how the US and other established republics could be in the beginning states of a similar process. I don’t think we’re there quite yet, but there are reasons for genuine concern. Sean Illing The inequality problem is maybe the most striking for me. What you saw in Rome, and what you see quite clearly today, is the wealthy undermining the very system that made them wealthy, and a total failure to see how ruinous that is in the long term. Edward Watts Yeah, it’s a real problem today, and it was a real problem in Rome. There’s a pivotal period in Rome, around the middle part of the 2nd century BC, in which there’s an economic revolution that displaces a lot of people who had belonged to a hereditary aristocracy and moves them off the top economic rungs of the state. At the same time, it’s creating economic conditions that prompt people in the middle to basically become very frustrated that their economic prospects are not increasing either. And what ends up happening is the people who win from this economic revolution try to preserve their gains through just about any means they can, and that includes gross political obstructionism, the rigging of elections, and a total unwillingness to compromise. This kickstarts a death spiral that ultimately undoes the Roman system from within — and we’d do well to learn from it. Because the story of Rome shows that once you reach that breaking point, that point of no return, you cannot unwind the clock. Sean Illing Why couldn’t the Roman system respond to these disastrous trends quickly enough? What short-circuited in their process? Edward Watts There are signs that the system was trying to respond to this new economic reality between 140 and 130 BC. There are efforts to reform the electoral process so that it’s harder to buy votes and rig elections. But the reforms only go halfway because they’re undermined by entrenched interests, and so the decline just continues apace. Sean Illing You spend a lot of time mapping the decline of norms and political customs in Rome. Was this the result of Roman politicians elevating their own self-interest over the good of the republic, or was it something deeper happening in the culture? Edward Watts I think the erosion of norms really starts when Roman politicians convince themselves that their personal ambitions and the good of the republic are one and the same. In other words, they started acting in their own self-interest but deluded themselves into thinking that it was really for the betterment of Rome. The other thing you see is that Roman politicians, much like American politicians today, started to believe that all they needed was 51 percent of the people to support them, and that the other 49 percent didn’t matter. But that’s not how the Roman system was supposed to work, and it’s not how the US system is supposed to work. Representative democracies are designed to cool down the passions of a pure democracy and find representatives who can think more long-term and craft policies that solve problems in ways that also have broad support. “The story of Rome shows that once you reach that breaking point, that point of no return, you cannot unwind the clock” Sean Illing The thing that worries me the most is the loss of faith in public institutions, something that occurred in Rome and in many ways signaled the beginning of the end. It’s hard to look at the American political landscape and not see something similar afoot. Edward Watts I think that’s definitely a way to read the political moment in the United States right now, where people who need things from the system and from the government are not getting them, whether it’s healthcare or job training or economic opportunities or infrastructure. You see this in the late Roman republic too — it simply got too big and lacked the infrastructure to support its population. What the Roman story shows is that in a republic that’s old, where people have a lot of faith in that republican system, people like Donald Trump pop up every generation or so when things reach a tipping point. You have these cycles where the system reboots, and people are shocked by what happened, and they step back and allow things to fall back into some sort of normal rhythm before they get frustrated again. And I think this is the cycle that is perhaps most scary. If the decline of a republic is something that doesn’t take five years, but instead takes 50 years, or 70 years, or 120 years, Trump is likely not the last of these kinds of figures. Sean Illing The title of your book is a reminder that all political systems are finite and will, eventually, die. Rome lasted centuries before it ultimately imploded. How worried are you about the trajectory of the American republic? Edward Watts I’m extremely worried. But I still believe our decline is reversible. I trust that enough people recognize that it’s better to have a dysfunctional republic than to have nothing at all. And in Rome, you do have these moments of retrenchment, where people step back and say this is quite bad, this is too much, we have to pull back. But it’s up to Americans, just like it was up to voters in Rome, to defend our institutions and to punish people who are misusing the tools that are supposed to make it strong to instead undermine it. No one else will do it on their behalf. So I think it’s by no means a foregone conclusion. History doesn’t work that way. And there have been moments where the US looked to be in grave trouble and managed to bounce back. But we have to be really vigilant and defend the integrity of the republic, and defend the integrity of our system, and punish those who abuse our institutions and violate our norms. This article was originally published on January 1, 2019.
Sen. Ted Cruz: China sanctions me again – Communist Party is terrified and lashing out
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Harvey Weinstein's extradition hearing for sex crime charges in Los Angeles delayed
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Saturday Sessions: Kathleen Edwards performs “Who Rescued Who?”
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In HBO’s Lovecraft Country, cosmic horrors pale next to the reality of racism
Jonathan Majors, Courtney B. Vance, and Jurnee Smollett in HBO’s Lovecraft Country. | HBO The new horror series takes a bevy of fun pop culture tropes on a ride through Jim Crow America. In the second episode of Lovecraft Country, HBO’s engrossing new pulp horror series, one character, George (Courtney B. Vance), keeps thinking about a book. The book in question is the 1903 horror fantasy The House on the Borderland, and its plot is eerily similar to George’s present situation: He’s a Black man trapped in a strange mansion along with his friends, presented with various temptations and hallucinogenic visions — including dancing with a woman he knows to be a figment of his imagination. “Do the lovers stay together at the end?” his ghostly date asks of the story. “Yes,” he responds — but only because the giant house they're in collapses. There’s an obvious metaphor in the scene about the work Lovecraft Country is trying to do. The show’s story closely follows Matt Ruff’s 2016 novel of the same name, about a Black community in Chicago that becomes entangled with an ominous occult society, all while fighting Jim Crow racism on a scale both everyday and cosmic. Ruff’s novel was an attempt to grapple with the legacy of H.P. Lovecraft’s writing, which is both towering in its influence and teeming with racism. As crafted by showrunner Misha Green, the story, therefore, is both a homage and a repudiation. It’s a homage in that it gleefully plays with many of the horror tropes its namesake popularized: terrifying otherworldly monsters, esoteric cults, scary American mansions housing obscure spellbooks and dark secrets. And it’s a repudiation in that it also attempts to wrestle with those tropes and perhaps free them from Lovecraft’s territorial grasp as a loud, vehement, unabashed white supremacist. It’s helpful to think of Lovecraft Country, then, as akin to a game of Jenga: Its aim isn’t to collapse the house that genre built, but rather to slide a new layer of storytelling on top of century-old bones to find out if the entire structure can still hold. For the most part, it holds very well. Lovecraft Country’s characters are mythological tricksters. They have to be. HBO Tic waits for a ride he know won’t be coming for him. Our story opens as a troubled Korean war veteran named Atticus, a.k.a. Tic (Jonathan Majors), searches for his father Montrose (Michael K. Williams). Though there’s no love lost between Tic and his dad, after Montrose goes missing in the New England wilds that his family calls “Lovecraft country,” Atticus, his uncle George (Vance) and his pal Letitia (Jurnee Smollett) set out on a road trip to search for him. But their plans quickly spiral, and soon they’re confronting monsters in America’s backwoods and small towns. Only some of those monsters are inhuman. On another TV show, this basic plot might last for a full season, culminating in the group locating Montrose and a dramatic confrontation in a giant creepy mansion. But Lovecraft Country gives you the feeling it’s got no time to waste on such dramatics, so instead the story unfolds very rapidly, largely dealing with the aftermath of that road trip. The group’s brush with a white supremacist cult has left them entangled in the vague plots of a young witch, Christina (Abbey Lee, whose vibe is very Rory Gilmore meets The Craft), and her creepy pal William (Jordan Patrick Smith, whose vibe is very Draco Malfoy meets Skarsgård). Soon, George’s wifeHippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis), her daughter Diana (Jada Harris), and Lettie’s sister Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku) are all also becoming ensnared in the labyrinthine plots of the cult and its enemies — all while having to deal with much bigger immediate threats like racist neighbors, job discrimination, and violent cops. Lovecraft Country upfronts the realities of Jim Crow racism for its families. George actually edits a fictional version of a Green Book guide for Black travelers which Hippolyta hopes to join him in writing for one day, and they argue about how to tour the country safely while avoiding sundown towns and racist police. The series reminds us again and again that Black Americans have always had to rely on each other for information, help, and protection in a world that was built to ostracize them. These are depictions usually reserved for the segregated South in ’50s- and ’60s-era storytelling; though Lovecraft Country is set within that period, most of it takes place in Chicago and Massachusetts, where racist division was very much alive and well but much harder to navigate because it was so often unseen. It’s rare to see the North’s racism get such a harsh excavation, but it’s an effective use of literal racism as horror. Without the South’s more overt legalized racism, the story’s Black characters have to constantly feel their way through every situation: Any town could be a sundown town, any cop could be a white supremacist, and situations that feel stable could become unstable at any moment. It all adds to Lovecraft Country’s permeating layer of dread. Because Lovecraft Country is airing at a moment when its themes of police brutality and systemic injustice are unfortunately more relevant than they’ve been in years, the hype that has built up around it is the type usually reserved for prestige TV. But while its aims are similar to those of Watchmen, Lovecraft Country is deliberately pulpy. Through the five episodes that HBO has made available for review, the show gambols between various pulp genres like supernatural fantasy à la Lovecraft and Weird Tales, comic books with superpowered heroes and villains, and high tomb-raiding antics out of Edwardian adventure series (think Allan Quatermain or Prisoner of Zenda). Lovecraft Country isn’t just coming for Lovecraft; rather, it’s reclaiming a century of pop literature for Black geeks who never got to be the heroes of those narratives. The show is also repudiatingthe pompous dramatics of its silly cult full of white people trying to something something pure bloodlines, something something existential cosmic terror. Lovecraft, however, remains the central topic of deconstruction. If Lovecraft is obsessed with the omnipresent specters of other races, foreign tongues, and madness, then Lovecraft Country shifts those fears into the point of view of mid-century Black America. Lovecraft’s constant dread of The Other becomes the pervasive threat of whiteness. His terrifying, impenetrable languages become the changing rules and constant hurdles of systemic racism. The strain of avoiding madness becomes the stress of trusting one’s own judgment and experience when reality bends to fit the preferred narrative of white society. Perhaps most crucially, the characters themselves shift, too. Lovecraft’s heroes were always men, usually erudite and educated, who nevertheless stood in terror of confronting the vast cosmic indifference of the universe and realizing they weren’t at the center of it. The plots of his stories always revolved around their unfolding of the mysteries they found themselves in, and often being driven mad because of it. None of these concerns apply to our heroes. As Black men and women, they’re under no illusion that the universe was built for them. They’re much more concerned with basic survival. But their self-awareness also gives them an edge that few of Lovecraft’s characters traditionally possess: They know what kind of story they’re in. Lovecraft Country’s protagonists instantly adapt to the bizarre nature of the supernatural elements around them. Atticus and George are huge fans of weird fiction and horror; they know exactly who and what Lovecraft is and what his stories are about. George’s daughter Diana likewise is a budding superhero artist and writer of comic book sci-fi. They and their families, however reluctantly, know that to survive tropes, you have to subvert them. That allows them to one-up and outwit the dangers that lie in wait for them, whether those dangers come in the form of racist cults, Indiana Jones-style booby traps, or lying cops. They’re tricksters in the truest mythological sense: Their ability to turn the villains’ traps against those villains reveals the traps’ shaky construction. Lovecraft Country isn’t perfect, but it’s perfectly enjoyable The show finds its strongest moments when it layers realism atop metaphorical racism to induce a mounting, increasingly surreal two-fold horror. It’s weaker in terms of connecting those moments back to its overarching plot. But that weakness also feels intentional and refreshing — as if the show is also repudiatingthe pompous dramatics of its silly cult full of white people trying to something something pure bloodlines, something something sorcery, something something existential cosmic terror. Instead, Lovecraft Country allows itself to be more interested in small stuff, like filming an entire scene mostly underwater because it’s really cool, or devoting an entire episode to routing the racists next door because that’s vital to the main characters’ everyday realities. It’s not quite a pastiche or an anthology show, but it has a similar irreverence for the sanctity of an epic drama. And that irreverence is especially valuable in the way it helps the show present in-your-face, omnipresent racism as part of the real landscape of America. Lovecraft Country boasts clever, engaging storytelling, but it has less to do with the genres it’s playing with than one might hope. There are literal references galore to the weird fiction writers Lovecraft drew inspiration from and influenced in turn — but although I recognize there’s still plenty of room for supernatural expansion in future episodes, I found myself wishing the vision of the story was a bit broader. One of the biggest absurdities of Lovecraft is that for all he stood in dread of cosmic terror, the most frightening thing he could imagine emanating from that cosmos was basically a really big squid. By the same token, it’s more than a little disappointing that Lovecraft Country — at least so far — hasn’t done more to expand its imagination about what lurks in the beyond. In its early going, the story remains very faithful to Ruff’s novel, and the encroaching horrors scale up nicely from episode to episode. But the show seems wary of getting too lost in its fantasies, at the risk of downplaying the fact that everyday life for its characters is rarely a daydream. Particularly odd is Lovecraft Country’s squick about sex and sexuality, which is almost always shown as brutal and unpleasant, if not outright rape, a form of rough power play and violence. On a show where families and community are generally shown as the only safe and intimate harbor, however troubled, it’s a discordant note. For the most part, however, Lovecraft Country stays honest and engrossing, the kind of show you trust to iron out its own kinks. And it’s more important, ultimately, that the show never lets its indulgence in fantasy overbalance its keen look at racism in America. The show shrewdly leans into a blunt emphasis on the latter that might have felt over-the-top and hamfisted a decade ago. No matter what, Lovecraft Country’s opening episodes provide an overdue, much-needed perspective shift — a constant reminder that America was always Lovecraft’s country, and many of its citizens are just trying to survive it. Lovecraft Country debuts Sunday, August 16, at 9 pm on HBO. Will you become our 20,000th supporter? When the economy took a downturn in the spring and we started asking readers for financial contributions, we weren’t sure how it would go. Today, we’re humbled to say that nearly 20,000 people have chipped in. The reason is both lovely and surprising: Readers told us that they contribute both because they value explanation and because they value that other people can access it, too. We have always believed that explanatory journalism is vital for a functioning democracy. That’s never been more important than today, during a public health crisis, racial justice protests, a recession, and a presidential election. But our distinctive explanatory journalism is expensive, and advertising alone won’t let us keep creating it at the quality and volume this moment requires. Your financial contribution will not constitute a donation, but it will help keep Vox free for all. Contribute today from as little as $3.
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President Trump touts NYPD police union endorsement
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NY Post columnist: Kamala Harris is political 'chameleon' with eye on 'Biden's job'
Mainstream media coverage of Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., as a "moderate" is a "joke, obviously," NY Post columnist Miranda Devine said Saturday
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Man killed in early morning West Village street fight: cops
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Postal Service warns states of critical mail-in voting delays
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How make sure your 2020 mail-in vote is counted
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Kamala Harris' rise sends message of hope to young girls of color
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Large convention bounces are unlikely In 2020
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The future of the September issue was already uncertain. Then 2020 happened
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Cabinet roles, Senate seats: What could be next for the women Biden didn't choose
Ten of the women Joe Biden interviewed to be his running mate were not selected this week. But the former vice president is keeping their resumes on file.
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New coronavirus surges in Europe throw travelers into chaos
There are now more than 21 million confirmed coronavirus cases around the world, and more than 765,000 deaths. As COVID-19 cases climb in some of Europe's key holiday destinations, many travelers are now finding themselves caught in changing travel restrictions. Imtiaz Tyab reports.
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Eye Opener: Democrats ready for all-virtual convention
The Democratic National Convention is set to start next week with an all-virtual slate of speakers. Also, millions of Americans are likely to vote by mail this November, and officials are warning of possible delays. All that and all that matters in today's Eye Opener. Your world in 90 seconds.
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Prince Harry and wife Meghan move into new California home
Montecito real estate agenct Pippa Davis discusses the royal couple's choice of home. (Aug. 15)       
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How does USPS funding affect the 2020 election?
New York Magazine national correspondent Gabriel Debenedetti joins "CBS This Morning: Saturday" to discuss the politics of the week, including the presumptive democratic presidential ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and President Trump's criticisms of mail-in voting.
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Cop charged in George Floyd case says he "never used" maneuver Derek Chauvin performed on Floyd
Officer Tou Thao, who is being charged with aiding and abetting murder in the George Floyd case, spoke out about his involvement. Thao claims he was merely trying to control the crowd gathered at the scene. Errol Barnett reports.
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Facing Eviction, Residents Of Denmark's 'Ghettos' Are Suing The Government
A sweeping plan to rid the country of immigrant-heavy areas officially designated as "ghettos" is being challenged by residents, as Denmark also begins to grapple with broader questions about racism.
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