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** Fri 11/20 - Christmas TV listings - ALL CHANNELS **
all time are Eastern USA - check your local listings It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie Tomorrow, 12:00 AM / FAM-E 52 Kermit the Frog and the Muppets have to scramble to raise money to save the Muppet Theater when the bank owner who holds their mortgage wants to transform the building into a casino, and they receive assistance from an angel. Christmas Cookie Challenge- Mr. and Mrs. Claus Tomorrow, 12:00 AM / FOODTV 56 Five cookie makers try to imagine what Christmas Eve looks like for Mrs. Claus for the decorating challenge, then for the display challenge, they have to craft fireplace mantels out of cookies, using Brazil nuts, hazelnuts or macadamia nuts. Christmas at Pemberley Manor Tomorrow, 12:00 AM / HALMRK 68 When an event planner is sent to organize a small town's holiday festival, she meets a grumpy billionaire with the perfect estate to host her event, but when the two start planning the festivities, they suddenly find themselves falling in love. Once Upon a Christmas Miracle Tomorrow, 12:00 AM / HALLMV 84 After a young woman is told that she has less than a few months to live without a liver transplant, she meets a Marine, who is a perfect match and whose organ donation could save her life, and they soon develop a friendship which leads to romance. A Christmas Kiss Tomorrow, 12:00 AM / UP 145 Priscilla Hall's socialite boyfriend, Adam Hughes, causes quite the battle between Priscilla and her assistant, Wendy, as the battle for his attention while decorating his home for the holidays. The Mr. Peabody & Sherman Show- This is Your Life?; Robert Edwin Peary Tomorrow, 12:00 AM / SPROUTHD 1109 / HDTV Mr. Peabody and Sherman decide to help Hobson do all of the items on his life bucket list on live television; American explorer Robert Edwin Peary sets off on his trek to the North Pole but stops off at Santa Claus's workshop along the way. A Christmas Wish Tomorrow, 12:01 AM / LIF-E 38 After some encouragement from her sister, a young woman decides to write down her hearts greatest desire and place it in a wooden wishing box at the park, but she questions which man she is meant to love when her wish is granted. My Christmas Love Tomorrow, 2:00 AM / HALMRK 68 A woman's return to her small hometown takes a turn for the mysteriously romantic as she begins receiving gifts from an anonymous holiday admirer using the "12 Days of Christmas" as inspiration, giving her hope in finding true love. The Perfect Christmas Present Tomorrow, 2:00 AM / HALLMV 84 When a businessman's friend asks him to find the perfect Christmas gift for his girlfriend, he ends up gradually falling in love with her, while doing research on her, and feels guilty as his emotions are torn between his love and his friend. Will & Grace- A Little Christmas Queer Tomorrow, 2:00 AM / LOGO 147 The gang decides to head to Will's mother's house to join his family for a Christmas celebration, where Grace begins to warm up to Will's brother and an old flame; Jack stays busy helping to organize a special Christmas show. The Magical Christmas Shoes Tomorrow, 2:06 AM / LIF-E 38 A young woman rediscovers the wonders of Christmas and finds herself falling in love after she steps into a pair of magical shoes. Christmas Cookie Challenge- Center of the Season Tomorrow, 3:00 AM / FOODTV 56 Eddie Jackson presents a decorating challenge to the cookie makers where the design must be baked into the cookie itself as the judges decide which baker succeeded, then the competitors must make centerpieces made of cookies, using herbs and spices. The Town Christmas Forgot Tomorrow, 4:00 AM / HALLMV 84 Just days before Christmas, a family's car breaks down in a town where the economy is struggling and they have little money, so the town organizes a Christmas Eve Pageant, and enlist the family's help to arrange the event. Christmas at the Chateau Tomorrow, 5:15 AM / SHOFAM 248 A group of sisters attempt to save a historic mansion and beloved family home in their town from a corrupt bank that plans to foreclose on Christmas, but things get complicated when a sister falls in love with one of the bankers. My Christmas Dream Tomorrow, 6:00 AM / HALMRK 68 A department store manager who wants to get to run the store's new Paris location promises the owner the store's best holiday display ever and then runs out of ideas, going to a recently-fired employee with artistic talents for inspiration. Come Dance with Me Tomorrow, 6:00 AM / HALLMV 84 An investment expert enrolls in a waltz class to impress his fiance for Christmas, however he soon falls for his new teacher, and quickly becomes ensnared in a series of untruths when he discovers his business may ruin her dance studio. Family Matters- Fa La La La Laaugghh! Tomorrow, 6:00 AM / TVONE 146 Despite Carl's disapproval, Steve continues to put up Christmas decoration on the house, but when Carl learns of an upcoming contest, his attitude changes; Laura and Eddie's absence from the family's Christmas activities saddens Harriette. Annie Tomorrow, 6:03 AM / ENCORFM 378 A spunky girl who lives in an orphanage is chosen to spend the Christmas holidays with a billionaire who grows to love the child, and wants to adopt her, but her true happiness may be jeopardized by the scheming headmistress of her orphanage. A Golden Christmas Tomorrow, 8:00 AM / LIF-E 38 A recently widowed woman decides to return to her childhood home in hopes of making a new beginning for her and her son, but her plans are impeded when she realizes that the house she grew up in has already been purchased by someone else. A Christmas Detour Tomorrow, 8:00 AM / HALMRK 68 Two passengers with clashing personalities cross paths again in their airport hotel after their flight is forced to change course and must find a way to work together so that she can reach her destination in time for her wedding. Christmas Song Tomorrow, 8:00 AM / HALLMV 84 The holiday season increases the already-high tension when two choral groups who were formerly rivals but have now been merged into one school must compete in a televised Christmas song competition with their directors' jobs at stake. Transformers Rescue Bots- Christmas in July Tomorrow, 8:00 AM / D-KIDS 102 When a scorching summer hits Griffin Rock, a weather machine is built to counteract the heat, but when the contraption goes awry, it causes a colossal storm, so Cody, his family and the Rescue Bots must battle the blizzard. Christmas at the Chateau Tomorrow, 8:15 AM / SHOFMW 256 A group of sisters attempt to save a historic mansion and beloved family home in their town from a corrupt bank that plans to foreclose on Christmas, but things get complicated when a sister falls in love with one of the bankers. Annie Tomorrow, 9:03 AM / WAM-W 389 A spunky girl who lives in an orphanage is chosen to spend the Christmas holidays with a billionaire who grows to love the child, and wants to adopt her, but her true happiness may be jeopardized by the scheming headmistress of her orphanage. Finding Christmas Tomorrow, 10:00 AM / HALLMV 84 After men from New York and North Carolina decide to switch residences during the holiday season, each one encounters a woman from the other's life, and as romance ensues, the time for each person to return home approaches. Puppy Dog Pals- The Bird Beard; The Royal Egg Hunt Tomorrow, 10:00 AM / DIS-E 40 Santa and Mrs. Claus' summer vacation is threatened by a peculiar problem that the Keia and the pugs are ready to help them overcome; the pugs set off on a mission to retrieve a valuable jeweled egg that belongs to the queen of England. Prancer Returns Tomorrow, 10:30 AM / FAM-E 52 When an eight-year-old boy finds a baby reindeer, he believes that it is one of Santa Clau's reindeer, named Prancer, and he wants to return him to the North Pole in time for Christmas Eve, thus teaching his family the true meaning of Christmas. PAW Patrol- Pups Save a Bah Humdinger! Tomorrow, 12:00 PM / NIC-E 36 / New Mayor Humdinger is being very naughty on Christmas Eve and it's up to the Paw Patrol to help Santa and save Christmas. Christmas Crush Tomorrow, 12:00 PM / LIF-E 38 As the holidays approach, a woman is excited to attend her upcoming high school reunion and hopes to run into her former sweetheart, and while reminiscing her school days, she considers another person she knew that could be "the one that got away." A Christmas Miracle Tomorrow, 12:00 PM / HALLMV 84 When her boss steals her idea for their magazine's cover story, a magazine assistant goes in search of a Christmas miracle to write about with the help of her son and the staff photographer. The Incredible Dr. Pol- Santa Paws Tomorrow, 12:00 PM / NGEOWILD 148 During the Christmas season, Dr. Pol has to handle castrations under less-than-ideal conditions, while Dr. Brenda tries to heal a reindeer in time for mating season; Dr. and Mrs. Pol serve as Grand Marshalls and Charles plays Santa for the holidays. Annie Tomorrow, 12:23 PM / ENCORFM 378 A spunky girl who lives in an orphanage is chosen to spend the Christmas holidays with a billionaire who grows to love the child, and wants to adopt her, but her true happiness may be jeopardized by the scheming headmistress of her orphanage. Last Christmas Tomorrow, 12:35 PM / HBO 201 A young woman who appears to have an endless amount of bad luck decides to accept a job working as an elf in a year-round Christmas store, but after a man enters her life and her life starts to change, she wonders if it's all too good to be true. The King of Queens- Net Prophets Tomorrow, 1:00 PM / CMTV 45 Doug receives a sizeable bonus for Christmas, and Carrie refuses to entertain any option besides investment; Arthur gets into a heated competition with the neighbors over which of them can build the biggest yard ornament for the holidays. My Best Friend's Christmas Tomorrow, 1:30 PM / SHOWOM 244 When a woman returns home for the holidays hoping to reconnect with her high school sweetheart, she meets his new girlfriend, so to escape the embarrassment, she and her best friend fake their own holiday romance, but her fake feelings turn real. Christmas 9 to 5 Tomorrow, 2:00 PM / LIF-E 38 A crime beat reporter embarks on an undercover mission at a department store, where she pretends to be a sales clerk as she investigates the true meaning of Christmas and finds the love of her life during an unforgettable holiday season. Welcome to Christmas Tomorrow, 2:00 PM / HALMRK 68 When a resort developer is tasked with finding a location for a new property, she finds herself in a small town, whose mayor sets on a mission to convince her to pick the charming area as the setting for her new ski resort. Time for You to Come Home for Christmas Tomorrow, 2:00 PM / HALLMV 84 After her husband has passed away, a young woman returns to her hometown, where she meets a veteran who is on his own holiday journey, and as Christmas comes near, they learn of a bond that may be the Christmas miracle that they need. Malcolm in the Middle- Christmas Trees Tomorrow, 2:00 PM / FUSE 109 Hal and the boys come up with a scheme where they can sell Christmas trees for some extra holiday-spending cash, but encounter a problem when members of the local clergy take offense to what they are doing and pressure them to stop. The Top Ten Revealed- Rockin' Christmas Songs Tomorrow, 2:00 PM / HDNET 1303 Guests Dee Snider, Don Felder, Alan Parsons and Sebastian Bach reveal some of the best songs about Christmas to get one in the spirit of rocking. The Family Stone Tomorrow, 2:10 PM / HBO2 202 A successful businessman brings his straight-laced and uptight fiancée home to meet his free-thinking, high-spirited and rebellious family for Christmas, but he runs into problems after he tries to give her the heirloom wedding ring. Last Christmas Tomorrow, 2:25 PM / HBOL-W 214 Una joven que parece que la mala suerte la sigue a todos lados, decide aceptar un trabajo en una tienda en la época navideña, pero se tiene que disfrazar de elfo, así que cuando conoce a un apuesto joven, su vida cambia para siempre. Annie Tomorrow, 3:23 PM / WAM-W 389 A spunky girl who lives in an orphanage is chosen to spend the Christmas holidays with a billionaire who grows to love the child, and wants to adopt her, but her true happiness may be jeopardized by the scheming headmistress of her orphanage. In Living Color- Veracosa: Mistress of Destruction Tomorrow, 3:30 PM / ASPIRE 180 Comedy sketches include: "Vera DeMilo: Veracosa, Mistress of Destruction," "Cephus and Reesie: Christmas Album," and "Homey the Clown: Homey Clause." Last Christmas Tomorrow, 3:35 PM / HBOWAL 208 A young woman who appears to have an endless amount of bad luck decides to accept a job working as an elf in a year-round Christmas store, but after a man enters her life and her life starts to change, she wonders if it's all too good to be true. A Christmas in Tennessee Tomorrow, 4:00 PM / LIF-E 38 When a real estate developer comes to White Pines, Tennessee, three bakers and the townspeople must find a way to prevent the man from building a ski resort on top of their town, but an unexpected visitor with a sweet-tooth may have a solution. Scrooged Tomorrow, 4:00 PM / AMCALL 64 The executive of a major TV network nearly ruins a holiday after he fires a low-level aide, exploits his good-hearted secretary and trashes a holiday show on Christmas Eve, but visitations from various ghosts manage to show him the error of his ways. On the 12th Date of Christmas Tomorrow, 4:00 PM / HALMRK 68 Two game designers who hardly seem compatible with each other work together to organize a large scavenger hunt with a romantic "12 Days of Christmas" theme. Meet Me at Christmas Tomorrow, 4:00 PM / HALLMV 84 When her sons wedding planner unexpectedly quits, his mother must coordinate his Christmas Eve wedding with the help of the brides uncle, but as they work alongside each other, they discover that their fates and pasts are intertwined. My Best Friend's Christmas Tomorrow, 4:30 PM / SHOWMW 252 When a woman returns home for the holidays hoping to reconnect with her high school sweetheart, she meets his new girlfriend, so to escape the embarrassment, she and her best friend fake their own holiday romance, but her fake feelings turn real. The Family Stone Tomorrow, 5:10 PM / HBO2W 209 A successful businessman brings his straight-laced and uptight fiancée home to meet his free-thinking, high-spirited and rebellious family for Christmas, but he runs into problems after he tries to give her the heirloom wedding ring. It Happened on Fifth Avenue Tomorrow, 5:25 PM / WTVT-DT2 613 / MOVIES! When a family leaves their luxurious New York City mansion unattended for a vacation during the Christmas holiday season, a small group of homeless people decide to utilize the opportunity to make the residence their home for a few days. Christmas a La Mode Tomorrow, 6:00 PM / LIF-E 38 A dairy farmer is determined to keep her family's legacy alive in the midst of hard times by hosting an ice cream flavor contest during Christmas, but her sister intends to sell off her shares if she cannot raise enough money in time. Christmas Town Tomorrow, 6:00 PM / HALMRK 68 A woman decides to leave her old life behind in Boston and to set sail on a new chapter in her career and personal life, but a detour to a different town leads her to make new and unexpected discoveries about the heart and family. Looks Like Christmas Tomorrow, 6:00 PM / HALLMV 84 Two single parents battle for control of the Christmas holiday at the middle school their children attend and learn a lesson about the true meaning of Christmas, and they also wind up opening themselves to the possibility of a new romance. Family Matters- Fa La La La Laaugghh! Tomorrow, 6:00 PM / TVONE 146 Despite Carl's disapproval, Steve continues to put up Christmas decoration on the house, but when Carl learns of an upcoming contest, his attitude changes; Laura and Eddie's absence from the family's Christmas activities saddens Harriette. Annie Tomorrow, 6:27 PM / ENCORFM 378 A spunky girl who lives in an orphanage is chosen to spend the Christmas holidays with a billionaire who grows to love the child, and wants to adopt her, but her true happiness may be jeopardized by the scheming headmistress of her orphanage. Jingle All the Way Tomorrow, 8:00 PM / TNT 33 A mattress salesman with the habit of putting his work ahead of his family scrambles around the city fighting crowds and other overzealous parents in a desperate search for the prized toy of the year, a Turbo Man, for his attention-starved son. A Taste of Christmas Tomorrow, 8:00 PM / LIF-E 38 After learning her cousin has to cancel the Christmas Eve launch of her new restaurant, a woman tries to find a way to make the opening happen, but she must convince the restaurant chef they can pull it off with three days until Christmas. Christmas with the Darlings Tomorrow, 8:00 PM / HALMRK 68 After an assistant gives her final notice, she gets drawn into helping the younger brother of her wealthy boss as he looks after his orphaned nieces and nephew through the Christmas season. Top Elf- Tis the Season to be Top Elf Tomorrow, 8:30 PM / NIC-E 36 For the second time in history, Santa Claus transports seven extraordinary elf contestants to the North Pole to compete for the title of Top Elf, and social media star Addison Rae joins Santa and Ms. Jingles to judge life-sized advent calendar. Great Performances- Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn: The Broadway Musical Tomorrow, 9:00 PM / WEDU-DT 3 / PBS / HDTV The Broadway adaptation of the classic 1942 movie musical "Holiday Inn," showcases the score by Irving Berlin, with big dance numbers, comedy and a hit parade of some of the songwriter's famous songs, including the Oscar-winning "White Christmas." An Old Fashioned Christmas Tomorrow, 9:00 PM / HALLDRMHD 1124 / HDTV When an aspiring writer and her wealthy grandmother travel to Ireland to get her work published, they meet a family who are in desperate need of her fortune and try to make her fall in love, so they can inherit her wealth. Annie Tomorrow, 9:27 PM / WAM-W 389 A spunky girl who lives in an orphanage is chosen to spend the Christmas holidays with a billionaire who grows to love the child, and wants to adopt her, but her true happiness may be jeopardized by the scheming headmistress of her orphanage. Christmas at the Plaza Tomorrow, 10:00 PM / HALMRK 68 With the holiday season approaching, an archival historian in a declining relationship gets hired to create an exhibition to honor the history of an event, and she ends up working with a decorator and soon finds herself falling in love. A Very Charming Christmas Town Tomorrow, 10:05 PM / LIF-E 38 A travel and lifestyle blogger heads to a small Danish town in California to write about their extravagant Christmas celebration, but she clashes with the local community coordinator assigned to give her a tour of the village. Biggest Little Christmas Showdown Tomorrow, 11:01 PM / HGTV 57 / New A group of miniaturists, people who make and collect miniature objects, competes to create tiny holiday homes and villages that boast a Christmastime theme, and the winning exhibit is to be recreated as a full-size vacation home
TL;DR: A Cherokee tribe opened a casino and gave most of the profits directly to tribe members as a quasi-UBI. Kids showed big improvements after their parents started getting the money. My summary: In 1997, the Eastern Band Cherokee tribe in North Carolina won permission to open a casino resort. This casino was hugely successful, and a large portion of the income from it was distributed directly to members of the tribe as income. By happy coincidence, researchers were in the middle of conducting a large longitudinal study of youth outcomes in the region. The study, begun in 1993, included youth from many communities in the region, including those on the Cherokee reservation, whose households began to receive income from the casino. The study found significant effects when the families began to receive the money--particularly those who had started out the poorest to begin with. The kids had higher educational attainment and less criminality. Study abstract:
We examine the role that an exogenous increase in household income due to a government transfer unrelated to household characteristics plays in children's long run outcomes. Children in affected households have higher levels of education in their young adulthood and a lower incidence of criminality for minor offenses. Effects differ by initial household poverty status. An additional $4000 per year for the poorest households increases educational attainment by one year at age 21 and reduces having ever committed a minor crime by 22% at ages 16−17. Our evidence suggests that improved parental quality is a likely mechanism for the change.
In 1979, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow was losing more than 120 informants a year to Russian KGB. by 1981, that number had dropped to just 10. Now, a former intelligence agent is raising alarm that the wildly unorthodox methods once used to protect Russian sources could pose a devastating new threat
Myra Kindle is an independent investigative reporter. Her other reports:
In retirement, Kurt Wexler, 84, is like the rest of us. He likes nothing more than spending his days spoiling his four grandchildren, catching up on old hobbies he’s missed, and volunteering at Saint Stephen's Episcopal Church near his home in Richmond, Virginia. In his career, Kurt Wexler was nothing like the rest of us. He was one of just three men responsible for coordinating the complicated web of Russian informants in Moscow during the late 1970s and mid 1980s. He authorized bribes, covered up murders, and threatened women and children, all in the name of protecting vital sources of information necessary to the United States during the Cold War. “I laugh a bit at the whole waterboarding issue,” says Kurt. “It’s very serious, of course I know, but also, we didn’t have congressional oversight to deal with, so it’s just a bit funny to me. What stopped us from doing something we ought naught do was the thought it might provoke nuclear war. You know, that was our oversight.” Mr. Wexler is not the type of former government employee to speak to the press. During our five interviews, he on multiple occasions made comment that he was only speaking to me as a matter of last resort. But then, why speak at all? Kurt is worried. Since the April, 2018 expulsion of US government personnel all over Russia, he says the methods, procedures, and equipment used to protect informants during the Cold War is under virtually no supervision. “A great liability is sitting in in the middle of Moscow and I don’t think anyone is there to look over it,” says Kurt. “It absolutely terrifies me when I think about it.” Kurt adds that this is not political, saying, “the politicians don't even know.” Based on interviews with Mr. Wexler, former and current government officials, and supported with documentation provided by Mr. Wexler, independent investigative reporter Myra Kindle, for the first time, shares details of the highly unorthodox methods used to protect Russian informants during the Cold War, and presents what’s at stake if it goes unprotected.
The Soviets that Kept America Safe
Some did it for money, others for a chance at a life in America, and others still simply on moral grounds. But regardless of their motivations, informants have been a central pillar to US intelligence agencies for as long as those agencies have existed. “Informants are both how we get new information, but also how we confirm what we think we already know,” says Peter Mattis, a former CIA analyst. “We’d essentially be doing a lot more guesswork and would lack a lot of confirmation of details without informants. They’re essential to rigorous intelligence work.” Mr. Wexler declined to name any specific information that he collected through informants during his time in Moscow, but said: “It ranged on level of importance depending on how important the source was. It could be as mundane as how much sugar an officer likes in his coffee, or as serious as a planned assassination attempt on a US ally.” Opposite Kurt, and trying to root out his web of informants at every chance was the Soviet secret police, the Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti, or as they’re better known, the KGB. With more than 60 years of secret police programs under its belt, and with new powers granted to them in 1978, to say the KGB had absolute power on the streets of Moscow is still an understatement. “They could do, and did do, whatever they wanted,” says Kurt. “They had a city gripped in fear. More than just wiretaps, they had access to eight million people, nearly all of whom would rat on their neighbors, friends, family. To be an informant was just an incredible risk, but those that did it, did it regardless.”
An Incredible Risk
On October 4th, 1979, the body of 21 year old Natalia Kozlov was discovered near the Khruscheva apartment buildings in West Moscow. She had apparently fallen from her fifth story apartment. On October 12th of the same year, two men were found shot dead near the Brateyevo district. The gunshot wounds were so severe to their faces that they were never identified. One week later on October 19th, the body of a six year old girl was discovered floating in Moskva River. It would later be determined that the girl’s father had been shot and thrown off the Borodinsky bridge, and that the girl had died from hypothermia after going into the river to try and rescue him. While Kurt refuses to confirm any of these deaths were related to his informants, his eyes water as I read aloud about the young girl. “As soviet citizens, they were supposed to be my enemy,” Kurt says, “but I cared for them like my own brothers, sisters, nephews, and nieces. If you were my informant, I did everything I possibly could to protect you.” In 1979, Kurt’s options to do that were limited. “Secrecy was our best tool,” he says, “but in a city with eyes and ears everywhere, that can only get you so far. Sometimes, we had to resort to almost KGB type tactics. We would bribe, we would threaten. On one occasion to protect one of our highest valued informants, I authorized the murders of his cleaning lady and driver because I thought they had found something and might go to the police. I’m not proud of everything we did, but we did it to protect Americans and more immediately, the Soviets trying to protect America.” When reached for comment, the CIA denies that Mr. Wexler ever worked for the agency, however other sources were able to confirm he was an employee of the State Department from 1960 to 1997. Mr. Wexler also provided documentation to this effect. In regards to the methods used by Kurt, the CIA provided the following statement: “US intelligence agencies do not disclose intelligence gathering practices, however Mr. Wexler’s descriptions are not accurate.” Off the record, several former intelligence officials tell me Kurt’s description is wholly consistent with what they understand were tactics taken in Moscow around that time.
The Game Changer
It started with suspicion of betrayal. Mr. Wexler’s clandestine activities were just one of three prongs. He had two co-equal partners that ran their own informant rings, and for security reasons, Kurt was unaware of the informants working for his partners, as were they left in the dark about informants working for Kurt. They were a team, but a disjointed one, compartmentalized for security in case any one of them were compromised. In the summer of 1980, it began to look to Kurt that both his partners were betraying their mission. “We don't share information about informants,” says Kurt, “but we were supposed to be sharing safety methods and procedures. My two partners had lost zero informants in the first six months of 1980 and they refused to tell me why. Moscow has always been one of the most dangerous cities for informants, and yet they cracked the code to gather information safely and refused to discuss it.” Kurt saw a likely explanation -- they had been compromised. “I didn’t speculate as to why. It could have been blackmail, or money, or just plain ‘ol ideological defection,” says Kurt, “but something fishy was going on. I figured they had to be working with the USSR.” Kurt adds, “The stakes were enormous. They could have been feeding US intelligence bunk information for months.” Both the CIA and State Department refused comment on the subject of the number of informants lost in Moscow during this time period and whether or not it had changed. A representative at the State Department however wished to add: “The US State Department is not a spy apparatus of the United States.” Off the record, current and former intelligence officials tell me Moscow stands alone as the safest city for informants feeding information to the US. One official who agreed to speak anonymously said: “Around the early 80s there was a massive reduction in the number of informants being killed around the Moscow area. That trend continued all the way through the end of the Cold War, the 1990s, and even today.” He added, “It’s completely contradictory to how dangerous the city is for other enemies of the Kremlin.”
Spy vs Spy
By August of 1980, Kurt had had enough. Working with a small group of his closest confidants, he set up an elaborate string operation on his two partners that had refused to share on why their informants were no longer being targeted. The operation revealed that his two partners had been meeting at the same location every two weeks near the heart of Moscow. “There are more than 800 safe houses and cache deposits used by US intelligence all around Moscow,” says Kurt. “Once I figured out they weren’t going to any of them, it became much more likely in my mind that they had defected.” In late September, he made his move when he personally followed the two men. Accompanied by three confidants, and all armed, Kurt was mentally prepared to kill one or both of his partners. “We had staked out the apartment complex they were visiting for the better part of a month,” says Kurt. “We were certain that to the specific apartment they were going to, no one but them had ever come in or out. It was thought the apartment was used as a dead drop location, and that information, money, whatever, was being passed through one of the adjacent apartments. With just the two of them in there, we were pretty confident we could take them in, but if it came to it, we were ready to shoot too.” The night would end without an intentional murder, but one would be attempted. Before Kurt and his armed confidants got to the right floor, his partners were already standing at the top of the stairs outside the apartment. “They shouldn’t have known we were there,” says Kurt. “But as we were climbing the stairs, we saw they had their guns thrown on the ground and their arms raised above their heads.” Kurt’s eyes well as he takes a moment to describe the improbable fate of one of the three armed confidants he brought with him. “The man to the right of me,” says Kurt. “I don’t know, maybe he thought it was an ambush when he saw the partners give up so easily, but he tried to fire towards the top of the stairs. I swear I heard the trigger pull but there was no bullet. The man, the one that fired, instead he just disappeared, just faded, completely gone.” The inexplicable disappearance of the armed man could not be confirmed by any sources other than Mr. Wexler, however Kurt says it affected everyone that saw it. “It calmed a tense situation,” says Kurt. “My two partners still stood at the top of the steps, looking down now at us three men. They made clear they wanted to surrender, that they meant us no harm, and that they didn't make the other man disappear. We found trust then, I don't know how, but we found it.” Their surrender however, was conditional. “They wanted me to join them in the apartment,” says Kurt. “They asked I take their guns and send the two armed confidants that remained back to the embassy. I reluctantly agreed. I didn’t have proof beyond my suspicions they had defected, and with no weapons and no one else in the apartment, it seemed a low enough risk for me to take it. On top of that I had just lost a close buddy of mine to seemingly no cause whatsoever. I needed to know what was in that apartment.” Kurt’s says his curiosity and the risk he took would lead to the single biggest payoff in his career in spycraft.
The Omnipotent Source
The interview process for Mr. Wexler has been among the most difficult I’ve ever conducted. He omits names, he leaves absent details, and the information he does share, it is nearly impossible to verify. This is perhaps most exemplified in Mr. Wexler’s severe reluctance to discuss the apartment his two partners had been visiting during the first six months of 1980, and the scant evidence he is able to provide that it even exists. What Mr. Wexler will tell me is that inside the apartment they discovered a source that knew everything their informants did, but could relay that information safely. “The source,” Mr. Wexler says, “a very old man who knew our informants and everything they knew. We would meet every two weeks in that apartment for the next eight years, till he passed and a new man replaced him,” says Kurt. Asked if he ever confirmed the information with the informants themselves, Kurt says: “That would have been too dangerous at the time, but yes, I did. Years later in the late ‘90s after the USSR fell, I contacted all the informants the old man referenced - I spoke with all of them. They confirmed everything, contextualized it, and even shared more.” Confirmation of Mr. Wexler’s details have proved impossible. Both off an on the record US intelligence officials tell me that either such a room with such a source doesn’t exist, or that if it does, it is such a closely held secret that only on the ground intelligence in Moscow knows about it. One official questioned why such an incredible source would only be used to protect Moscow informants, saying: "What's the harm in using such a source for everything, and what's so special about Russian informants that they take priority?" The only documentation Mr. Wexler was able to provide for verification is a an old Polaroid of an old man, the one he claims was the source in the room. The photograph however is so faded that the man in the photo could be any older man. Mr. Wexler could pass for the man in the photograph, for example.
Fear of a Date
There are obvious security concerns about having a room with an omnipotent source in Moscow go unprotected, but this is not Mr. Wexler’s fear. He trusts the source is allied to US interests, or at a minimum, interested in protecting Russian sources that give information to the US. Kurt’s fear is much more specific, as he claims that if by January 3rd, 2020, the US State Department does not have adequate resources applied to that room, “armageddon will come for us all.” When asked for comment, both on and off the record officials tell me the January 3rd, 2020 date has no significance within the intelligence community, however Mr. Wexler is adamant. “There are two things I know,” says Kurt. “One, I die in 2028 at the ripe old age of 93. Two, the existence of everything won’t matter if we’re not using that room by January 3rd, 2020. Paradoxes kill. I’ve seen it.” Intrigued, I ask Mr. Wexler if he believes a ‘paradox’ killed his confidant on the stairs in 1980. He responds, “Yes”, and to which I ask: “Well, what caused that ‘paradox’ then?” Mr. Wexler has not been able to provide an answer. Myra Kindle is an independent investigative reporter. She covers tech, law, politics, and other stories that would be impossible to write about in more traditional outlets.
Foreigners are paying the Trumps A few days after the 2016 election, the government of Kuwait canceled a planned event at the Four Seasons Hotel. It instead held the event — a celebration of Kuwait’s National Day — at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Governments including Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Turkey, China, India, Afghanistan and Qatar have realized they can curry favor with Trump by spending money at his properties. The Constitution forbids federal officials from accepting gifts, known as emoluments, from foreign powers, unless they have received congressional approval. Congressiona Democrats have sued Trump for violating this clause, and the case is now in federal court. Americans are paying the Trumps American officials and business leaders have also spent money at Trump properties, sometimes in an apparent effort to please the president. Gov. Paul LePage of Maine last year stayed at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Other Republicans have held campaign fund-raisers and party events at the properties. So have corporate lobbyists. “National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association Dinner at the Trump Hotel where I am drinking Trump coffee,” Senator Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, posted on Instagram last year. Trump Inc. is expanding overseas During Trump’s presidency, his companies have pushed to expand overseas, with help from foreign governments. One example: In May, an Indonesian real-estate project that involves the Trump Organization reportedly received a $500 million loan from a company owned by the Chinese government. Two days later, Trump tweeted that he was working to lift sanctions on a Chinese telecommunications firm with close ties to the government — over the objections of both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. He ultimately did lift the sanctions. Trump’s businesses have also moved to expand in India, the Dominican Republic and Indonesia, using deals directly with foreign governments. Kushner Inc. is wooing foreign investment. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a top aide, has also reportedly been using his position to help his family business — Kushner Companies, also a real-estate company. Kushner’s sister, Nicole Meyer, has bragged about the company’s high-level ties when trying to attract Chinese investment in a New Jersey apartment complex. The Kushners have wooed Chinese investors despite warnings from American counterintelligence officials that China is using the investments to sway Trump administration policy. The Kushner company also successfully lobbied the Qatari government to invest in 666 Fifth Avenue, a financially troubled luxury building. The company’s dealings with Middle Eastern countries are especially problematic because Jared Kushner is one of the administration’s top policymakers for the region and has played a central role in policy toward Qatar. The presidency has become a branding opportunity The president has played golf at his properties dozens of times since taking office. He refers to his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, as the winter White House. Shortly after his election, he celebrated New Year’s along with 800 guests there, with tickets costing more than $500. And Kellyanne Conway, a top Trump adviser, once encouraged people to buy clothes from Ivanka Trump’s line — while Conway was giving a television interview from the White House. These moves are intended, at least partly, to bring attention and ultimately customers to Trump’s businesses. Of course, some of Trump’s critics have responded in kind, refusing to stay at or live in a Trump-branded property since he won the election. But in other ways, the presidency has clearly helped his bottom line. One example: The Mar-a-Lago club has doubled its membership rates. Taxpayers are subsidizing the Trumps Trump has visited or stayed at one of his properties almost one out of every three days that he has been president, according to both The Wall Street Journal and NBC News. Like previous presidents, Trump travels with a large group of staff and security personnel, and American taxpayers typically foot at least part of the bill for the trips. Unlike previous presidents, Trump is directing money to his own business on his trips. In one three-month period last year, the Secret Service spent about $63,000 at Mar-a-Lago and more than $137,000 on golf carts at Trump’s Florida and New Jersey clubs. Trump Inc. gets special protection The president personally intervened in a plan to relocate the F.B.I.’s Washington headquarters, apparently to protect Trump International Hotel, which is about a block away. If the F.B.I. had moved, its current site would most likely have been turned into a commercial development, and the long construction process — as well as potential for a new hotel on the site — could have hurt the Trump hotel. Trump stopped this plan, and the White House has instead decided to build a new F.B.I. headquarters on the current site. A report by the inspector general found that officials gave misleading answers to Congress about Trump’s role and the project’s cost.
Trump’s Cabinet, Aides and Allies
Friendly businesses also get special treatment The Education Department during the Obama administration aggressively regulated for-profit colleges — many of which have miserable records, often taking money from students without providing a useful education. Trump chose Betsy DeVos, a longtime advocate of these colleges and an investor in them, as his education secretary. She, not surprisingly, has gone easy on for-profit colleges. Among other moves, she has reassigned the members of an department team investigating potentially fraudulent activities at for-profit colleges. DeVos is the most blatant example of administration officials protecting companies where they once worked, but there are many others. More than 164 former lobbyists work in the administration, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, including several who regulate the industries that once paid their salaries. Geoff Burr, who pushed for more lax workplace safety laws when he was the chief lobbyist for a construction group, now works at the Department of Labor. Andrew Wheeler, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, was previously a lobbyist whose firm was paid millions of dollars by companies whose industries he now regulates. Family, friends and donors get perks. The president and his aides have repeatedly shown they are willing to use the government’s prestige and power to help their friends and relatives make money. Among the examples:
Trump suggested to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan during a meeting at Mar-a-Lago in February 2017 that Abe grant a coveted operating license to a casino company owned by Sheldon Adelson, who donated at least $20 million to Trump’s presidential campaign.
Ben Carson, the housing and urban development secretary, let his son help organize an official department event and invite people with whom the son had potential business dealings.
Scott Pruitt, the former E.P.A. head, asked his staff members to contact Republicans donors with the goal of helping his wife find a job. Pruitt also rented a condo on Capitol Hill for $50 a night, well below market value, from the wife of an energy lobbyist whose project the E.P.A. approved last March. Pruitt’s many scandals led to his resignation in July.
Elaine Chao, the transportation secretary, used interviews with Chinese and Chinese-American media to raise her father’s profile. He is a shipping magnate whose business transports goods between the United States and Asia, and he sat next to her during the interviews.
And although it doesn’t quite rise to the same level of the other examples here: White House staffers receive a discount of up to 70 percent on Trump-branded merchandise at the president’s Bedminster, N.J., golf club, reportedly at the president’s recommendation. Cabinet officials make unethical stock trades Several Trump officials — current and former — have traded stocks while serving in top government positions. In some cases, they appear to have made policy decisions benefiting the companies in which they owned a stake. Tom Price, Trump’s first secretary of health and human services, epitomized this form of corruption. Trump chose him despite his history of using his seat in Congress to make money. Price had a long record of putting the interests of drug companies above those of taxpayers and patients — and then investing in those drug companies on the side. Brenda Fitzgerald, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, committed a more mild version of this sin. She purchased shares in food, drug and tobacco companies after taking charge of an agency that regulates them — and that aims to reduce smoking. After her purchases became public, she resigned. Finally, Wilbur Ross, Trump’s commerce secretary, has mixed government business and his own business in multiple ways. He held on to investments — and then appears to have lied to government ethics officials about those investments. He shorted the stock of a company about which he appeared to have advance notice of bad news. He also met with the chief executive of Chevron, even though his wife owned a substantial investment — which, according to Forbes, “put himself at risk of violating a criminal conflict-of-interest law.” Trump’s orbit receives cash Michael Cohen — Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, who has since turned on him — received at least $1 million from AT&T, Novartis and Korea Aerospace Industries shortly after the 2016 election. They were supposedly paying for his insight into the Trump administration. Corey Lewandowski, the former manager of Trump’s campaign, is paid for work that looks very much like lobbying — such as participating in a lobbying firm’s phone calls with clients and doing work on behalf of T-Mobile, the telecommunications company firm. But Lewandowski has not registered as a lobbyist and says he does not need to do so. Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, reportedly used his position to offer private briefings to a Russian oligarch to whom he owed millions of dollars. Manafort saw the briefings as a way to “get whole.” Cabinet officials take junkets Trump officials have made a habit of billing American taxpayers for their personal travel. Ryan Zinke, Trump’s secretary of the interior, chartered a $12,000 flight to fly out of Las Vegas, where he had given a 12-minute speech to a hockey team owned by a businessman who donated to his congressional campaign. David Shulkin, secretary of veterans affairs, charged taxpayers for a trip to Europe that included stopovers at Wimbledon and Westminster Abbey, plus a river cruise for him and his wife. The resulting outcry appears to have played a role in his departure. Pruitt, former head of the E.P.A., chartered flights for questionable travel, among many other things. He also pushed to fly Delta rather than the government’s contract carrier, to accrue frequent flier miles. He flew first class and stayed in hotels that were more expensive than those allowed by government standards. And he let lobbyists help arrange foreign trips for him. Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, spent $151,000 on government vehicles without authorization, including to travel to his North Carolina home. He was ordered to repay the government. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, looked into whether he could use a military plane to fly him to Europe for his honeymoon. Later, he used military planes for several trips. The Treasury Department’s inspector general concluded that Mnuchin broke no laws by doing so, but criticized Mnuchin’s insufficient explanation for why he needed to spend $800,000 on the trips. And Price, former health secretary, spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on private planes. His history of unethical stock trading didn’t keep Trump from naming Price to the cabinet. But the private-plane scandal received enough attention that the White House eventually forced Price to resign. Trump’s team enjoys interior decorating. The pettiest kind of Trumpian corruption takes the form of interior decorating. Zinke, the interior secretary, spent $139,000 in taxpayer money on new doors for his office. Carson, the secretary of health and human services, picked out a dining set for his office that cost $31,000 — and then gave Congress contradictory explanations for the purchase and blamed it on his wife. Pruitt ordered a $43,000 soundproof phone booth installed in his office and appears to have violated federal law by failing to inform Congress about it.
What drives a person to cover themselves in gasoline and drop a match by their feet? That was the question that ran through the minds of many in a crowd outside the Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey on March 23rd, 2019. At approximately 7:45PM on that cold spring eve, a Mr. James Ferdini, age 47, covered himself in gasoline and was prepared to drop a match in the fuel. As the crowd shouted for him to stop and several witnesses called the police, Mr. Ferdini reportedly stood unfazed, simply grinning and appearing to revel in the crowd’s shock. “It was a suicidal action but it didn’t look like a suicidal person,” says Sam Kenset, an eyewitness to the incident. “I guess I don’t really know what a suicidal person looks like, but his movements and the way he was talking -- he just didn’t seem like a man down on his luck.” Ms. Kenset is quite astute in her observation -- Mr. Feredini was certainly not down on his luck. In fact only moments before covering himself in gasoline, Mr. Ferdini had cashed out more than $1.3 million in winnings from the Borgata Hotel and Casino, making his suicidal action all the more puzzling. However dangerous, Mr. Ferdini’s gasoline soaked stunt would not lead to his death on March 23rd, but his life was not long for this world either. Three days later on March 26th he would be found dead from an entirely different cause. In Mr. Ferdini’s incredible winnings and suicidal tendencies leading up to his unusual and grizzly death on March 26th, many questions remain. Who was James Ferdini? What happened to his more than million dollars in winnings? And what was the lead up of events that caused his demise? Based on interviews with management at the Borgata Hotel and Casino, local police and investigators, and corroborated with eyewitness accounts, independent investigative reporter Myra Kindle, for the first time, brings you a report on the man who nearly bankrupted a casino, and whose luck seemed to make him invincible until his highly improbable death.
What are the Odds?
As the match fell to James Ferdini’s feet outside the Borgata Hotel and Casino, the crowd stood agasp as they waited for the inevitable fire and horrible death of a gas soaked man. This moment would never come however, and the match reportedly landed in the puddle of gasoline meeting it as though it were water. “The crowd started to look away the moment he dropped the match,” says Matthew Gershowitz, a witness to the event. “I couldn’t though -- I needed to see what would happen. I mean we all thought we were witnessing a suicide or something, but the guy was jovial, happy, making jokes with the crowd before he lit the match. And then when it hit the gas, it just burned out, and the man started laughing. We were all amazed. It was like a miracle -- we thought he’d die for sure.” While it’s quite understandable that the crowd believed they had witnessed a miracle when James did not burst into flames, professor of organic chemistry at Villanova University, Marcy Li, says the odds of Mr. Ferdini’s death were far less than certain. “Gasoline is certainly flammable, but not like in the way shown in movies and TV,” says professor Li. “It’s the layer of vapor above that gasoline that is most likely to combust. There could be a number of factors like wind, humidity and temperature that improved Mr. Ferdini’s chance of avoiding being burned alive. I would certainly say he’s lucky, but I wouldn’t say it’s a miracle he didn’t burst into flames.” If Mr. Ferdini relied on luck that day to survive, it would appear to have been with him in spades for quite some time. Having just come from the Borgata casino floor, James was reportedly on a ‘hot-streak’, winning tens of thousands of dollars an hour over the preceding two days. “You have to imagine we were pretty happy when he left the casino,” says Richard Markelson, a floor manager at the Borgata. “Normally we want customers to stay as long as possible so the house can win our money back, but Mr. Ferdini never had a bad roll, spin, or lever pull the whole 40 consecutive hours he was gambling at the Borgata. I’ve never seen anything like it.” Mr. Markelson was able to confirm through cash-logs and casino surveillance that Mr. Ferdini had indeed won big at the Borgata, and records show his total winnings amounted to $1,348,427. Mr. Markelson said of the winnings: “It was enough of a loss over a short period of time that the owners of the casino were worried our insurance premiums were gonna jump. A casino in Atlantic City simply doesn’t lose that much money in such a short time, at least not to a nobody, and Mr. Ferdini was certainly a nobody.”
A Career Loser
While management at the Borgata Hotel and Casino did not know Mr. Ferdini prior to his 40 hour lucrative gambling binge, many on Atlantic City’s boardwalk have been acutely aware of James for years. For example after James’s stunt with the gasoline, he was arrested and taken to the Atlantic City jail and held on the possible charge of disorderly conduct, but was released after the charges were dropped. The reason? The police had a long record of interactions with Mr. Ferdini and thought of him only as a minor risk. “We were more worried about the guy’s mental health than him causing a scene on the boardwalk,” says Atlantic City officer Paul Stevenson. “We’ve known James for years -- I mean he’s a loser. Is it a shock to me that he would try and commit suicide like that? Absolutely not.” When asked why the police did not opt to commit Mr. Ferdini to a hospital on a psychological evaluation, officer Stevenson replied: “The plan was to have him committed, but some lawyer showed up and we didn’t want a legal fight, so we decided to release him instead. I felt a bit mixed about it. I mean the guy was clearly suicidal -- why else would you douse yourself in gasoline?” When told that Mr. Ferdini was reportedly jovial and happy during the gasoline incident, and that he had in fact won more than a million dollars immediately prior to the event, officer Stevenson struggled with the narrative: “That doesn’t sound like the James Ferdini I know. He’s always been a depressed gambler, and never won a game in his life as far as I know. He couldn’t win a hundred bucks, let alone a million. I can’t even believe they let him into the Borgata in the first place, but I guess the cash winnings explains the lawyer.” Officer Stevenson asked if I could confirm the details of the winnings and that Mr. Ferdini was in a jovial mood during the gasoline incident. When I showed documentation of Mr. Ferdini’s winnings provided by Mr. Markelson and relayed several eyewitness accounts as to his temperament, officer Stevenson replied: “I don’t get it. So, why’d he try to burn himself alive?”
Perhaps no individual has a better sense of who Mr. Ferdini is and what happened to him than the floor manager at the Borgata, Mr. Markelson. For 40 hours prior to the gasoline incident, Mr. Ferdini bet heavily at the Borgata casino, and Mr. Markelson was in close proximity for much of his hot-streak. “I was actually supposed to be on vacation that week,” says Mr. Markelson, “but I got called in because the other cooler was sick.” A ‘cooler’ as Mr. Markelson explained, is a relic of old casinos that today is rarely used, however some establishments still invest in what could be called ‘charms’ to bring bad luck to high rollers. “I got hired because I’m unlucky,” explains Mr. Markelson. “I can do the job of floor manager just fine -- don't get me wrong -- but it was my knack for bad luck that got me the job for sure.” A cooler operates by simply being present around those that are on a run of good luck. In Mr. Markelson’s account, he says that being around him will bring such bad luck to any gambler that their cards will go cold, their lever pulls result in no winnings, and their wheel spins doomed to lose money. “It’s a talent I’ve had since, well, forever,” says Mr. Markelson. “If I just stand near someone, they’ll start to have bad luck like me. I know it sounds crazy, and sometimes I don’t believe it myself, but it’s true. I mean, like I said, I think that’s why the casino hired me. They could count on me to go onto the casino floor and bring bad luck to anyone that’s winning a bit too much. Best part, since it’s based on superstition, it’s completely above board.” With James Ferdini, Richard Markelson found that his power did not work however. “I don’t know about before I showed up, but for when I was watching him, that man could not lose. The casino made me stay multiple shifts, I’m talking nearly 40 hours to watch him and were hoping I’d bring him bad luck, but it never happened. He just kept on winning no matter what game he played.”
An Escalation of Bets
In attempting to find James Ferdini’s state of mind prior to the gasoline incident, floor manager Richard Markelson provided unfettered access to video of the casino floor, even though he realized he could be breaking several state gambling commission laws by allowing a reporter to look at such surveillance. In fact, more than taking the risk, it was Mr. Markelson that called me and led me to this story in the first place. “The police didn’t send him to the hospital after the gas thing I’ve been told. I figured the truth has to be somewhere and when police won’t do their job, I guess it’s reporters that have to step in,” says Mr. Markelson. “The most important thing to be me personally is finding out why he died just a few days later in that horrible freak accident -- the one on March 26th.” When asked if Mr. Markelson had any interest in finding Mr. Ferdini’s still missing $1.3 million, he replied: “Of course, but that’s not my primary concern here. I just want to know what the fuck happened. How does a guy who should have felt on top of the world go to dousing himself in gasoline, and then ends up dead a few days later? I really want to know.” In the video access provided by Mr. Markelson, I managed to find new clues that might be able to explain Mr. Ferdini’s downward spiral. It could best be described as an escalation of bets that appeared to take place soon after Mr. Ferdini began his run of good luck. According to video of the casino floor, around the time manager Richard Markelson appeared, Mr. Ferdini started his miraculous winning streak. The video shows Mr. Ferdini starting with craps, moving to baccarat, then slot machines, and followed by a long run at twenty-one. He continues to gamble for 40 straight hours, much of it with Mr. Markelson in close proximity. “I was the only cooler around, so the higher ups at the Borgata made me stay the whole time. I got a lot of overtime that week,” says Mr. Markelson. Curiously, the video shows that at around the 25 hour mark Mr. Ferdini attracts something of a crowd. While the video offers no sound, it appears as though Mr. Ferdini is making several wagers with his new found groupies. At first a few in his new entourage gamble him directly in casino floor games like Texas Holdem, but it appears as though they make several bets outside of the casino games as well. In one instance Mr. Ferdini appears to bet that he can drink boiling hot water. The video shows him drinking a scalding hot cup and immediately receiving a small payout from several people he was talking to before beginning the stunt. It became clear to me after reviewing the video surveillance that for this story, I would need to speak to at least one of the people who witnessed Mr. Ferdini taking on these non-casino game bets. Thankfully, with Mr. Markelson’s help I was able to track down Maria Nowak, who in the video appears to spend several hours with Mr. Ferdini. A resident of Atlantic City, Ms. Nowak was able to confirm that Mr. Ferdini was taking part in what she describes as “extreme behavior”, and that he was seemingly willing to bet on anything and everything. Even games that were clearly not of chance, like drinking boiling hot water.
”For $500, Right?”
Why did Mr. Ferdini cover himself in gasoline and drop a match? It’s a question essential to understanding his mindset, and one for which the answer appears to be quite simple. After tracking down Ms. Nowak, a long time resident who often partakes in long gambling binges herself, she claims Mr. Ferdini covered himself in gasoline and dropped a match in the fuel simply because of a wager. “We had been doing side bets for hours,” says Ms. Nowak, who agreed to meet me at Hayday Cafe, a local coffee shop. “I was with a group of friends and we noticed that this guy [Mr. Ferdini] had not been losing any bets for hours. The guy was pretty much throwing money around and that type of attitude attracts the crowd I was with. So, we started making small talk and then made a few bets, dumb, small ones to start.” When asked what bets her group made with Mr. Ferdini, Ms. Nowak replies: “At first it was things like, how many casino chips he could fit into his mouth. But then it escalated pretty quickly, like soon we were betting on how much money he could win in an hour. Then a bit after that he did this really stupid boiling hot water challenge -- he simply bet he could drink boiling hot water without having to go to the hospital. The bet didn’t make any sense, but like everything else, he won.” “The gasoline challenge was the craziest though,” she continues. “It was clearly a joke when my friend suggested it, but James took him up on it right away. The challenge was, like, ‘can you cover yourself in gasoline, drop a match, and survive?’ James said he would do it for $500, and we just assumed he was kidding, but sure enough he was dead serious.” Ms. Nowak claims that she too was present in the crowd outside the Borgata when Mr. Ferdini made good on the gasoline bet, and that immediately prior to him dropping the match, he said to her and the rest of the gambling entourage, “This is for $500, right?” “He said it but I’m not too sure how many people heard it,” Ms. Nowak says. “I mean the whole crowd was screaming for him to stop. They all thought the guy wanted to kill himself. I guess one of us nodded our heads to James’s question, and then he dropped the match. I’ll be damned, but he won that bet too. We gave him $500 alright, not that he needed it after making all that money at the Borgata.” When asked if Ms. Nowak saw Mr. Ferdini after he was released from the police station, she responds: “Yea, we hung out for the next two or three days -- all of us -- the gambling group that had formed at the casino, James Ferdini, and then, oh yea, that guy Richard Makel-something. I think he worked at the Borgata but he hung around with us for a couple days while we partied at a different hotel. It was around the time Richard and the rest of us left that James was in that freak accident.”
The details of Ms. Nowak’s account have confirmed two things to this reporter. One, Mr. Ferdini’s suicidal gesture to cover himself in gasoline was nothing more than a bet to earn more money. Feeling high from his good luck at the casino, it would appear Mr. Ferdini thought himself invincible and was willing to take on any challenge, even if it put his life on the line. Two, Borgata floor manager and ‘cooler’ Richard Markelson has not been fully forthcoming in his account of what happened. For example, he never mentioned spending time with Mr. Ferdini after leaving the Borgata. Confronting Mr. Markelson, I ask him for a more accurate account of what happened after Mr. Ferdini’s gasoline soaked stunt. Mr. Markelson is nervous in his reply, realizing he’s been caught withholding valuable information. “You have to understand that James is not particularly good with money,” starts Mr. Markelson. “I know I’m saying that having really only met the guy at the Borgata casino, but you could just tell he was something of a loser. Maybe other people told you that too, I don’t know. My point is James was destined to spend that money on drugs and alcohol, and well, we all kind of just tagged along for the ride.” Mr. Markelson goes on to describe a drug fueled binge that lasted from Saturday March 23rd until sometime before Mr. Ferdini’s death on Tuesday, March 26th. “James and I had been awake for more than 40 hours when he left the casino, and I was going to go to bed, but somehow I got roped into his entourage he found at the Borgata when he was raking in cash. I would’ve gone home, but free cocaine is free cocaine. I’m not particularly proud of saying that, but it’s true -- I really like the drug.” Richard Markelson says that in addition to drugs, Mr. Ferdini hired prostitutes and strippers for the group’s amusement. “I’m not into all the seedy stuff, but we had been awake for a long long time and on so much shit. I mean we were taking meth rips and stuff. Yea, it’s weird now that I look back on it, but a binge can be like that sometimes.” The most important question to this reporter is what happened in the final hours of Mr. Ferdini’s life. In this respect, Mr. Markelson claims to know nothing. “I left before he died on Tuesday,” says Mr. Markelson. “It doesn’t surprise me that he died though. The gasoline bet was just the beginning of it. That girl, Maria Nowak, the one that told you I was hanging out with the impromptu entourage -- it was her boyfriend that really stepped things up in a pretty violent way in terms of betting.” When asked what he means by “violent”, Mr. Markelson responds: “I mean they were actually gambling on Russian roulette in the hotel room when I left.”
That Other Roulette
Once again reaching out to Ms. Nowak, I ask her about Mr. Markelson’s description of partying and gambling in a hotel with Mr. Ferdini. It was at this point that Ms. Nowak declined any further questions, only providing the statement: “I’ve said everything I’m going to say.” While this seemed like a certain dead end to discovering what happened in the final hours of Mr. Ferdini’s life and also possibly to tracking down what happened to his $1.3 million in winnings, I by luck received a phone call shortly before I was ready to call it quits on this investigation. The phone call was from one Mr. Samuel Howlser, boyfriend to Ms. Maria Nowak. Mr. Howlser said he wished to speak with me to clarify a few details that Ms. Nowak had shared with me and to dispute any “lies” stated by Mr. Markelson. “Me and Maria didn’t steal nobody’s money and we’re not gonna get in trouble for what Richard Markelson or anyone in that entourage might be telling you,” Mr. Howsler said to me in a phone interview. When asked about details of the drug fueled gambling binge shared by Mr. Markelson and Ms. Nowak, Mr. Howsler mostly confirms their accounts, however his description of floor manager Makelson is less favorable than what Mr. Markelson told me himself. “He was the craziest fucker of the bunch, definitely,” says Mr. Howlser. “He knew the hookups for the crystal and coke, got us ketamine too. But the nuttiest thing about him is what the fuck he’d bet on. Like if Ferdini thought he was invincible, doubly so for that manger from the Borgata. Markelson was the one that brought out a revolver for Russian roulette too, and they played like dozens of games.” Russian roulette, a lethal game of chance that has the player hold a loaded pistol to their head and fire, is an extremely dangerous game that has been popularized in media and fiction for decades. The game requires a loaded revolver to have at least one bullet chambered before firing, with the odds of death usually being one in six. “It was fucking crazy when Markelson said he’d play it, but the dude was having as good luck as Ferdini so he thought he could do it,” says Mr. Howlser. “So they load a pistol with a bullet and start playing each other cause they were the only two fuckers crazy enough to do it. They play one round, but no winner so they go again. Second round, no winner so a third. Eventually they play enough rounds where they figure they gotta up the odds. So instead of loading one bullet, they load two. They play round after round with two out of six chambers loaded with bullets, spinning the revolver cylinder each time before they pull the trigger. This goes on for a while right, and then they load another fucking bullet. Each round now these guys have a one-in-two chance of blowing their brains out, but they keep playing.” In Mr. Howlser’s recounting over the phone, I hear he is deeply disturbed by this story and ask why him and everyone in the gambling entourage continued to sit in the hotel room. In response he says, “We had been up for days smoking crystal and doing other shit. We were fuckng zombies. It’s only looking back now, sober, that I can see how crazy it was.” But the game of lethal roulette was not over yet. Mr. Howlser claims that Mr. Ferdini and Mr. Makelson continued to play round after round, occasionally loading another bullet until finally the revolver was fully loaded. “With six out of six chambers loaded, the odds of them dying on the next trigger pull was 100%,” says Mr. Howsler. “And I’ll damned, but they both went, and they both fucking lived. Somehow, they both got dud cartridges. After that, they both just had huge laugh for a while. A little bit later, Richard Markelson leaves and James Ferdini and the rest of us stay doing drugs for a bit until the rest of us guests leave too.” Before Mr. Howlser ends the phone call, he stresses again the reason for contacting me. “What happened is a messed up story, I know, but the point is that me and Maria don’t know anything about James Ferdini’s death or where his money is. Once we were sober enough to leave that seedy hotel outside Atlantic City, we left along with the rest of the people that were following James. And when we left, he was alive, and he had his money.”
While Mr. Markelson, Mr. Howlser, and Ms. Nowak all say they only know the most basic details of how James Ferdini died, his death has actually been well documented by investigators and the coroner's office for Atlantic City. Prior to this report, it was the mindset of Mr. Ferdini that was previously unknown. Sill up in the air is the whereabouts of his $1.3 million. But from what I've found, the report on his death is fully accurate, and even clears any of the entourage that was following him from being involved in any possible wrongdoing related to James Ferdini’s death. On Tuesday March 26th at approximately 4:30AM, it would appear Mr. Ferdini’s luck simply ran out. In that early morning hour, someone on Mr. Ferdini’s floor had ordered room service. As the porter was delivering the food, he slipped and fell outside of Mr. Ferdini’s room. The noise from the fall awoke Mr. Ferdini who opened his door to find the porter picking up a tray of food in the hallway. Upset at the disruption and the clanging of silverware outside his room, Mr. Ferdini proceeded to yell at the porter, pushing him against the wall in the hallway. The confrontation ended when Mr. Ferdini told the porter that he was so upset that he was going to go down to the lobby and speak to management about the disruption. Heading to the elevator, the porter told Mr. Ferdini that it was out of service. Frustrated, he turned to the stairwell and began walking downstairs. Mr. Ferdini would never make it to the lobby however. What Mr. Ferdini didn’t know was that the porter had also used the stairs to walk up to his floor, and that along the way he had spilled a small dish of ketchup. When Mr. Ferdini walked across the spot where the porter had dropped the ketchup, he slipped and fell, falling down the stairs and knocking himself unconscious on the ground floor. While in bad shape, investigators say that Mr. Ferdini was still alive at this moment, but what came next would be the fatal blow, or series of blows. With the elevator out, the stairwell was the only way up and down the hotel floors. While Mr. Ferdini was unconscious on the ground, he blocked the entryway to the stairwell from the ground floor. A guest a moment later would attempt to open the door to the stairwell, but found that it was blocked by some obstruction that he could not see. Bothered and wanting to get to his room, the guest then started slamming on the door, thrusting it open with all his energy. He did not realize it, but the door he was thrusting over and over was slamming into the left side of Mr. Ferdini’s temple. The heavy metal door banged away over and over again, causing Mr. Ferdini’s brain to hemorrhage, and eventually doing enough damage that it would kill him fully. The guest only stopped thrusting as the porter came back down the stairs to see Mr. Ferdini with his head being repeatedly bashed in by the door. The porter screamed and soon the guest was made aware that he had accidentally killed Mr. Ferdini. In this unusual and grizzly death, a confluence of bad luck came together to end Mr. Ferdini’s life. If the elevator had not been out. If a guest on Mr. Ferdini’s floor had not ordered room service. If the guest had not ordered a dish that came with ketchup. If the porter had not spilled ketchup in the stairwell or dropped plates outside Mr. Ferdini’s room. If Mr. Ferdini had not waken up. If he had not confronted the porter and decided to go down to the lobby. If he had not slipped in the stairwell. If a guest on the ground floor did not repeatedly try to enter the stairwell. If any of these things had gone slightly differently, Mr. Ferdini would still be alive. It could be said that Mr. Ferdini had finally found a run of bad luck, and incredible bad luck at that.
I cannot speak to Mr. Ferdini. He died long before I came to Atlantic City. For this story I’ve had to rely on the video surveillance from the Borgata casino and several eyewitness accounts of the drug fueled binge at the seedy hotel outside Atlantic City. In those accounts from Mr. Ferdini’s hotel room, I’m left with conflicting views and shattered narratives. It is clear to me that Ms. Nowak, Mr. Howlser, and Mr. Markelson cannot be trusted to give a full accounting of what happened. In my mind, the clearest liar of them is Mr. Markelson, who both omitted his story of seeing James after the gasoline incident, and also whose story is in direct conflict with Mr. Howsler and Ms. Nowak. While Mr. Markelson claims it was Mr. Howlser that had a revolver to play roulette, Mr. Howlser and Ms. Nowak both say it was Mr. Markelson. Embedded in these lies and less than full accounts is a still missing $1.3 million. Something I believe Mr. Markelson is desperate to try and find, and for which was his original impulse to contact this reporter. Now with an understanding of James Ferdini’s mindset leading up to his death, I am left with the unanswered question of what happened to Mr. Ferdini’s missing money. I head back to where this story started, the Borgata where the gambling binge took fold. I seek an interview with Bill Hornbuckle, President of MGM resorts and a majority stakeholder in the Borgata Hotel and Casino. He agrees to speak with me and provides a full record on floor manger Richard Markelson. I start the interview by asking if he’s aware if Richard Markelson owns a handgun, and in particular a revolver. In response, he says: “Our records indicate Mr. Markelson has a concealed carry license from the state of New Jersey for a Ruger LCR Six-Shot revolver. We have this in our records because Mr. Markelson is authorized to carry the weapon on the premises.” Mr. Hornbuckle asks if I believe Mr. Markelson was involved in Mr. Ferdini’s death, to which I tell him I do not believe he is. I give the accounts of Mr. Markelson, Mr. Howlser, and Ms. Nowak, and while Mr. Hornbuckle is disturbed by the story, he agrees that Mr. Markelson has done nothing strictly illegal outside of drug use. He does add however: “The story with Russian roulette, if true, would certainly make us reconsider allowing Mr. Markelson to carry a weapon in the casino.” Confirming that Mr. Markelson was the owner of the revolver has led me to believe Mr. Howlser and Ms. Nowak’s account over Markelson’s. It seems likely now that like Mr. Markelson did indeed play a dangerous game of Russian roulette with Mr. Ferdini, and that it was he who provided the gun to use. Before I leave the Borgata, I ask Mr. Hornbuckle about another detail Mr. Markelson told me that I am no longer sure is true. I ask if a ‘cooler’ is something casinos really use, and if specifically Mr. Markelson is designated as one at the Borgata. His response is to laugh at first, but he goes on to say: “Yes, a cooler is a real term. I actually believe in them myself. Luck is real. It’s a tangible thing that follows people around -- good luck and bad luck. I believe coolers have saved my casinos a lot of money over the years, and Mr. Markelson certainly fits that role at the Borgata. He's terribly unlucky, couldn't win a game of cards if his life depended on it. Still, he's invaluable at cutting the luck high rollers short." He pauses before continuing: “There is of course the problem of the double negative, or when two coolers are together. It happens when a cooler is around someone who has luck just as bad as him or her. Like two positive or negative charges on a magnet, they repel each other, and the cooler’s effect instead of bad luck is one of incredible good luck. I’ve never seen it myself, but I’ve heard that even the most unlikely people on earth can have incredible runs of good luck if someone as equally unlucky as them is near.” I propose the idea that maybe Mr. Ferdini was as unlucky as Mr. Markelson, and that together they achieved this ‘double negative,’ bringing them good luck while they were together. “Yes,” Mr. Hornbuckle says. “I suppose that’s possible. It’s a very dangerous situation though for an unlucky person to suddenly be met with non-stop good luck. It could make you think yourself invincible, unable to be defeated in any challenge. You might even start to take on bets on things that aren’t real games of chance, like harming yourself by drinking boiling water. There’s also the danger of what happens when the double negative effect is over. One cooler parts ways, then each would fall into their own run of terrible luck, not realizing that their hot-streak has ended.” As the interview concludes and I leave the Borgata, I think about the good luck Mr. Ferdini and Mr. Markelson had. I consider the incredible odds that both survived firing a loaded gun to their temples only for each to find a dud cartridge. I ponder the unfortunate series of events that would kill Mr. Ferdini after Mr. Markelson left his hotel room. Lastly, I think about Mr. Markelson’s own luck since March 26th. Maybe it hasn’t been as bad as Mr. Ferdini's, but I know he contacted a reporter and as a result management at his casino will be looking into his behavior. I consider and think, that is not too lucky.
What was meant to be a short report about an unusual death in Atlantic City has grown into something longer. This is now a meandering investigation with unreliable characters, newly discovered details, and a still missing $1.3 million. Before I leave New Jersey and return to New York, I go to the seedy hotel where Mr. Ferdini and his entourage consumed drugs and played Russian roulette, and where he would eventually die. It is my hope that I can speak to the porter -- the last person to ever see Mr. Ferdini alive. At the hotel I speak to the manager and ask her who was the porter in the early morning hours of March 26th. The manager tells me that the porter no longer works for the hotel, and that in fact he had quit the very same day Mr. Ferdini died. “After the police left, he flipped us all off,” the manager says. “That son of a bitch quit in style, telling us he didn’t need to work here no more. He said he was set and that we can kiss his ass goodbye.” I ask the manager if they knew where the porter could have gone, to which she replies: “No idea. After he was done talking to the police about the death in the stairwell, I think he was out of New Jersey for good. He used to live nearby so I saw him when he left. He was fully packed. Had all of his stuff with him and three really full duffel bags I’d never seen before. He really didn’t seem like he was coming back -- had everything with him.” Like the porter, I load my bags and finally prepare to leave New Jersey. As I do a thought pops into my mind: Could the porter that night have discovered Mr. Ferdini’s $1.3 million in three duffel bags in his room? I consider and think, maybe, and if he did, maybe this porter is the luckiest man in Atlantic City. Myra Kindle is an independent investigative reporter. She covers tech, law, politics, and other stories that would be impossible to write about in more traditional outlets.
Vegas VtM Campaign: Looking for DMV Area Players, Setting Advice
TL;DR: We have a storyteller and two players in Northern Virginia, but would love to link up with more in the area. We'll be meeting in the inner suburbs; likely Arlington/Rosslyn or possibly Tysons Corner. Tentative start date is early September. A brief campaign intro is as follows. This is our first time playing VtM v5--any advice will be greatly appreciated. ------ 2019: The Blood Wager The coterie assembles at Coronado’s Palace, an exclusive and historic “desert chateau”-styled resort overlooking the Colorado River downstream of Hoover Dam. The Coronado is quiet and unassuming—demure, even, catering to those Humans and Kindred who seek an escape from the ostentatious hedonism of the Las Vegas Strip, while still retaining an air of refined Old World opulence. Here: a brutalist lodge set low into the western bluffs of the Colorado, its sprawl concealed by yellowed ivory sandstone and thickets of sage. The weather is warm and dry, wind out from the city carrying redshifted sounds of heartbreak, pleasure, traffic. The detritus of short lives; the despondence of longer ones. What reaches the palace is winnowed off by an hour’s drive through suburbs, golf clubs and finally desert absolute. You have come for your own reasons, either individually or in pairs. A night’s retreat from a busy half-life. A week on the cliffs or the river. A month’s sabbatical, a year’s penance. The Coronado welcomes all and asks of you nothing but wealth in return. The ceaseless silent grace of the old palace has never been broken before tonight. Factions at Play:
Camarilla: The Kindred faction officially dominant in the region. Even Vegas compares little to the world of Los Angeles, and the City of Sin is thus reduced to second fiddle in the Southwest. Most Kindred here, and the Camarilla administration especially, are the spiritual second sons of their comrades in LA—prodigious pleasureseekers, hucksters, disgraced politicos, the half-mad. They remain, for one reason or another, within the establishment that broke their dignity. With the Second Inquisition in full swing, what official Camarilla presence remains in Vegas is more a thinblooded rump state than a healthy and hale province of the Council.
Independents: The conspicuous venality of Las Vegas affords the neutral clans a city to conduct commerce and hunts in relative peace, distant from the watchful eyes of Camarilla yet still affording all the amenities of the Modern Nights. Money is king on the Strip, and the authorities, Human and Kindred alike, rarely look askance at activities that might elsewhere be questionable.
Sabbat: The Gehenna Crusade has drawn hundreds of the Sabbat Kindred across the seas to the Old World, and those that remain in North America have mostly gone to ground. Vegas is a partial exception—the city’s unique character gives cover to those fanatics willing to brave the crowded neon streets.
Anarchs: Vegas presents a special case for the most temporally-relevant Kindred rival to the Camarilla in North America. On the one hand, this is a city of a million little vices. It is a libertine’s playground. On the other, the sum of those vices is the enrichment of the Camarilla and Clan Giovani establishments. Those seeking to restore freedom and balance to the Kindred have their work cut out for them.
The Inquisition: A collection of government security services, domestic and foreign, united under the direction of the Vatican to purge humanity of darkness. With Las Vegas being proximate to a number of military and intelligence facilities, the city has for some years been an open hunting ground for agents of the Inquisition. The Kindred that remain—and they do remain, in the dozens at least—are generally wise to local Inquisitional activities, only truly threatened by strike teams targeting the most infamous or imprudent vampires.
The Saints’ Crusade: The Latter Day Saints’ encouragement of church elders to join US government service has led to some unintended consequences in recent years. LDS recruitment into the CIA and FBI brought horrifying revelations to the attention of the Quorum of Apostles, and the Saints have since begun taking action against Kindred on their own initiative. The Crusade focuses its work on the heavily Mormon regions of the interior West, and coordinates its operations through the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the church rather than an independent militant body. The cross-pollination of Saints and state security service members has led to severe jurisdictional issues between LDS and Inquisition operatives.
The Kingfisher: Of new construction but old design, the Kingfisher is modelled after the plantation homes of North Carolina’s Albemarle Sound coast—only, to a scale more in tune with middle America’s gargantuan appetite for an imagined Southern grandeur and their own financial ruin. Not frequented by local kindred, more out of distaste for its Human clientele than anything.
o The Drink: A Mint Julip, or a Long Island Iced Tea
Heaven’s Gate: Lustrous white marble—apparently real! Heaven’s Gate is ever-clean, ever-lit, and never ceases to cater to affluent Left Coasters seeking an “alt” casino experience while retaining its industry’s necessary blend of luxury and fiscal impropriety. Though some corridors and rooms feature sunlamps for the many native flora deposited in recycled water-fed planters, the casino—“Heaven”, to its fans—is relatively popular among some Kindred. Total incongruity between one’s space and one’s nature has a draw for certain Cainites.
o The Drink: A non-alcoholic fruit cocktail. :/
The Solstice: An inversion of Heaven’s Gate, the Solstice draws on those who seek a darker, more subversive experience on the Las Vegas Strip. Curtained tables, ambient neofolk, and symbols of the European occult and Kabbalah characterize the establishment. Also characterizing the establishment was the recent back-page story in the Review-Journal regarding rumors of pagan blood rituals. Strange, huh? Funny, too, given that both the Solstice and Heaven’s Gate are majority-owned by something called Red Moon Properties in Nicosia, Cyprus. The Giovanni have something of a saying: you play both sides to win.
o The Drink: A Sazerac—brandy, of course. Rye is for heathens.
Sodom & Gomorrah: The close friendship between gambling and masochism has never been more apparent than at an S&G baccarat table in 2019. Black hair, black hats, black gloves. BSDM fetishists, less introspective Goths, and the morally adventurous all congregate here. It has its fans and its haters among the Kindred, but all appreciate S&M’s friendliness towards extravagant dress and unorthodox appearance.
o The Drink: Something dark and far too sweet.
Apotheosis: High rollers only--$10,000 buy-in for Texas Hold’em, and it only goes up from there. More fortunes are lost than won here, contrary to the name, but that’s the way Clan Ventrue likes it. Professional gamblers, sharks, and East Coast scions flock here each year to try their hand at all the classics. Beating the house in a normal casino is something to post to Facebook; winning in Apotheosis is something to put on your gravestone. Kindred don’t come here to gamble or relax—this is a clearinghouse for Ventrue business.
o The Drink: This isn’t the sort of place to be inebriated. Not at all.
The Union: You’re not sure if you’re in the Caledonian, the Ritz, or a stateroom aboard the Britannia. Chances are if you chose to come here, though, you like that about the Union. Though its clientele is utterly ordinary, the sheer throughput (and losses) of upper middle-class Boomers seeking a taste of stately Commonwealth majesty is such that the façade of old-school solidity is more than skin-deep. For this reason, most any among the Kindred can find easy hunting in the crowds of insurance salesmen, dealership owners, retired civil service members, and the like.
o The Drink: Single malts only. Straight. Man up.
The Tiger’s Cage: The Tiger’s Cage is utterly unlike any other establishment on the Strip. Run by a consortium of Chinese, Indian, and Chinese Malay financiers, the Cage leans into every orientalist trope about the Indo-Pacific, and makes a few original contributions of its own. Frequented by a range of clientele—most notably thrillseekers from Los Angeles and the Bay area—the Tiger’s Cage offers in-house escort services, guest suites purpose-built as drug dens, private cagefights, and animatronic elephant rides, among other features. The Cage is the newest establishment to grace Las Vegas, having opened its doors in late 2018.
o The Drink: An Ex-Girlfriend, Hibiscus Sour, or possibly something more exotic.
Name and Origin: "Nevada"; Spanish for "snow-covered", after the Sierra Nevada; "snow-covered mountain range". Flag: Flag of the State of Nevada Map: Nevada County Map Nickname(s): The Silver State, The Sagebrush State, The Battle Born State Demonym(s): Nevadan Abbreviation: NV Motto: "All for Our Country" Prior to Statehood: Nevada Territory Admission to the Union: October 31, 1864 (36th) Population: 2,890,845 (35th) Population Density: 24.8/sq mi (42nd) Electoral College Votes: 6 Area: 110,653 sq mi (17th) Sovereign States Similar in Size: Burkina Faso (105,878 sq mi), Ecuador (106,889 sq mi), Philippines (120,000 sq mi) State Capital: Carson City Largest Cities (by population in latest census)
While Nevada currently does not host any professional franchises, the NHL has announced that an expansion team will begin play during the 2017-18 NHL season. The NFL's Oakland Raiders have announced they are considering a move to Las Vegas in the near future. The city of Las Vegas has been a host to some of the most prominent professional boxing matches in recent years, including both fights between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. Las Vegas Motor Speedway currently hosts the third race of the NASCAR season, and has hosted Indycar races previously, including the disastrous 2011 race.
The ichthyosaur is Nevada's official state fossil.
Nevada's the seventh-largest state in size, and about 85% of its land is owned by the federal government.
Nevada is the largest gold-producing state in the nation, and is second in the world behind South Africa.
Construction worker hard hats were first invented specifically for workers on the Hoover Dam in 1933.
In March 1931 Governor Fred Balzar signed into law the bill legalizing gambling in the state; shortly thereafter, the Pair-O-Dice Club was the first casino to open on Highway 91, the future Las Vegas Strip. ____ List of Famous People
Francis Wartenburg: A West Virginia murder that is still unsolved
I don't want to give too much personal information, but I went to school with Francis. We ran in different crowds, but I was friends with some of her friends. Still kind of keep in touch with some of those girls. A friend of hers made a facebook page and invited me to it right when she first went missing. And then it was called, "Find Francis Wartenburg" but after they found her body it became a page of love and mourning and support for the family. It is very haunting for me that this is still unsolved. And I don't know if anybody in WV is even still working on it, but please if you are or you know someone and you have an update, people would really love to know. The story itself is just bizarre. When it first happened, Francis just up and disappeared. And left her phone behind which was not like her, according to close friends. I think it was winter and in St. Albans was when and where she first came up missing and nobody was able to find her. And her mother was distraught and her friends and her brother and her daughter. And then it became a week. And then a month. And finally they found the body in Ohio but nothing ever came of it, save her family and friends could finally mourn her properly. So here I am! Thinking about her in the dark of winter and wondering if anyone has any light to shine! **************************************************************
Though she struggled with her thoughts and the habits meant to ease them, friends and family will always miss their beloved mom, daughter, co-worker and companion. Wednesday marked two years since then 33-year-old Frances Wartenburg, of Winfield, disappeared from the town of Jefferson. Authorities found her body in early May 2015, stuck in a tree on the Ohio River in Gallia County, Ohio. The circumstances surrounding her death remain a mystery. nnn Heather Lovejoy, 35, met Wartenburg at Winfield Middle School where they were students. Lovejoy remembers joining her on a camping trip to Virginia Beach when they were teenagers. They walked down blocks of stores and tourist attractions, stopping to enjoy a haunted house or take pictures behind a cutout of bikini-clad figures. Lovejoy wanted to get an eyebrow piercing during the trip but knew her brother wouldn’t approve. Wartenburg got one anyway. Decades later, the friends worked together at a Carrabba’s Italian Grill in North Carolina. Whether it was a shift at the restaurant or a major life event, they always looked out for each other. When Lovejoy found out she was pregnant, Wartenburg was there. When her mom passed away in 2015, Wartenburg was there. Lovejoy not only lost a friend — she lost the friend who usually comforted her in times of uncertainty. “Then you start to think about your own mortality,” she said. “I can’t articulate into words how I felt.” Lovejoy no longer lived in West Virginia and, for the most part, she was consumed with her own life when Wartenburg first disappeared. She was a quiet woman and would probably reappear at some point, Lovejoy said. Still, she prayed as friends and family in West Virginia held a bake sale and distributed missing posters. The call came from Lovejoy’s brother: they found Wartenburg’s body. Lovejoy lost her best friend in the very state she calls home. As a mother of three daughters and a son, it shook her even more. “She’s Frances Ann Wartenburg. A lot of people loved her and they still do, and they haven’t forgot about her,” she said. nnn Jennifer Short met Wartenburg and Lovejoy at the same middle school in 1994. Much like Wartenburg’s other loved ones, Short described her friend as sweet and good-natured. She was also “painfully shy.” Short said her last words to Wartenburg were likely not kind. They worked together as cocktail waitresses in Nitro at the Tri-State Racetrack and Gaming Center, now called Mardi Gras Casino and Resort. After work they retired to their home atop a big hill. The problem, Short said, was Wartenburg had a drug habit that pushed a wedge between them. The habit even lost Wartenburg a career in the U.S. Army, Short said. “It was very difficult for me to know that she died thinking nobody cared about her,” she said. The thing to remember, she said, is Wartenburg never hurt anyone but herself. Her closest friends and family could see through the substance abuse and into her loving, bubbly character. That’s why on March 18, 2015, Short made the Facebook group “Find Frances Wartenburg,” where members could share updates and collaborate. Loved ones still use the page for support and to wish Wartenburg well each birthday and holiday. Though their friendship was strained, Wartenburg’s disappearance took hold of Short’s very sanity. The mystery affected everything: her online classes with West Virginia University, a nursing job in Los Angeles and even her marriage. “My entire point of being was finding Frances,” Short said. Several charity events resulted in the creation of a missing-person billboard, Short said. The advertising company returned the money after Wartenburg’s body was found days later, she said. Detective Ana Pile of the Kanawha County Sheriff’s office said the investigation is not considered a “cold case” because it’s not yet clear how she died. Details are largely still kept from the public so the case is not harmed if it becomes a criminal investigation, she said. Lovejoy and Short are convinced someone killed their friend. Anyone with information about Wartenburg or other unsolved cases can contact the sheriff’s office’s tip line at 304-357-4693 or on the office’s website. nnn There is always hope a dead case will find new life. Lt. Danny Swiger, who worked on unsolved cases from 2001 to 2009 for the West Virginia State Police, once solved an investigation that was nearly 20 years old. Swiger had an interest in cases that had no perpetrator, and he took it upon himself to investigate. The case began Feb. 7, 1991, when a father left his home in the Bruceton Mills-Brandonville community, according to Gazette-Mail archives. A man entered the home and raped the father’s 12-year-old daughter in her own bed. Swiger used DNA stored since 1991 to clear five suspects and arrest a sixth man named Marshall Wolfe, according to the archives. A judge sentenced him to at least 10 years in prison. “It’s a very touchy subject at times, but when we can resolve something, man it’s a good feeling,” Swiger said. He was later reassigned to investigate the sexual exploitation of children, and Swiger now serves State Police as the director of its Crimes Against Children Unit. Evolving technology allowed Swiger to solve the case, and novel tools remain one of the greatest sources of hope in unsolved cases, he said. New information is another constant possibility. Swiger said people may reveal more about a case if they mature or feel guilty years later. Changed dynamics in a relationship may also increase someone’s willingness to speak up. The greatest obstacle to solving a case, he said, is the shortage of staff at many agencies. And with piles of evidence and a high rate of turnover in the forensic laboratory, unsolved cases can often take a back seat to recent crimes. Swiger said there is no database of how many unsolved cases exist in West Virginia, so it’s hard to know how many exist at each agency. When they have time, Swiger encourages troopers at his agency to take on a case of their own. It’s a project with many dead ends and moments of disappointment, but there is always hope. “One of the hardest things I always had and struggled with is you feel like, at times, you gave some of the families undue hope. You had to be very careful as an investigator that you didn’t make promises you couldn’t keep,” Swiger said. “I try to be mindful of that. But you know, you become attached to some of these folks.”
Flag: Flag of the State of Mississippi Map: Mississippi County Map Nickname: The Magnolia State, The Hospitality State Demonym: Mississippian Abbreviation: MS Territory (prior to statehood): Mississippi Territory Admission to the Union: December 10, 1817 (20th) Population: 2,992,333 (32nd) Electoral College Votes: 6 Area: 48,430 mi2 (32nd) Population Density: 63.8/mi2 (32nd) Countries Similar in Size: North Korea (46,540 mi2), Nicaragua (50,337 mi2), Greece (50,960 mi2) State Capital: Jackson Largest Cities (by population)
Jimmy Carter had won the state in 1976, the last Democrat to do so. This election began Mississippi's shift to a safe Republican stronghold
59.5% non-Hispanic White
3.1% Hispanic/Latino (of any race)
1.2% Mixed race, multicultural or biracial
0.7% Native American, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander
African American (28.3%)
German (4.5%) 1:AmericanoftenreferstothoseofEnglishdescentwhosefamilyhasresidedintheAmericassincethecolonialperiod.
Second Languages – Most Non-English Languages Spoken at Home
Spanish (incl. Spanish Creole)
French (incl. Patois, Cajun, Creole)
Other Native North American languages
Evangelical Protestant (41%)
Black Protestant (24%)
Mainline Protestant (12%)
Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, or Orthodox (2.5%)
Unaffiliated, Atheist or Refused to Answer (14%)
Jewish, Buddhist, Islamic or Hindu (2%)
Mississippi's Constitution, which was drafted after a convention in 1868 by a biracial committee, provided free public education for all people between the ages of 5 and 21 years. The state had little tax money to fund the school system, however, due to a heavily agricultural economy. Many black communities matched money raised by Julius Rosenwald to build schools and develop the educational systems in their communities. Public schools were heavily segregated until the late 1960's (despite the 1954 Brown v Board of Education ruling which declared "separate but equal" schools to be unconstitutional). While a small minority of white students were withdrawn from public schooling following integration, 91% of the state's students remain publicly educated. Mississippi has the ignoble distinction of ranking last or near-last in many measures of educational achievement, including in spending per student (45th), math scores (50th), science scores (50th) and in ACT scores (50th); it ranks well-above average in SAT scores. However, only 3% of students take the SAT. Colleges and Universities in Mississippi include (shown are four-year schools with enrollment over 9,500):
With no professional franchises in the state, Mississippi's sports scene is dominated by college and minor-league athletics. Southern Miss, Ole Miss and Mississippi State all have successful NCAA programs and have significant following throughout the state. Several developmental baseball franchises, soccer and hockey teams call Mississippi home, including franchises for the Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers.
Washington Nationals relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon pitched for Mississippi State University. This is widely regarded as the worst thing to come from Mississippi in the last 25 years.
The Teddy bear can trace its origins to a hunting trip Teddy Roosevelt took to Mississippi in 1902, when he refused to shoot a bear that had been captured and tied to a tree.
The international Checkers Hall of Fame is in Petal, Mississippi. If you are standing next to another patron at an exhibit, you may only move by attempting to jump over that person.
The world's first lung and heart transplants were performed in Mississippi in 1963 and 1964, respectively.
Free slaves from many states, including Mississippi, would go on to found the nation of Liberia, which became an independent nation in 1862.
Jackson (along with Moscow, Helsinki and Varna) is one of only four cities of the world sanctioned by The International Theater-Dance Committee to host the International Ballet Competition.
Coca Cola was first bottled in 1894 in Vicksburg (it was previously only available as a fountain drink). Barq's Root Beer was invented in the state four years later in 1898.
10 reasons Donald Trump is bad for America. (None of which is "Because he's literally Hitler.") Pt. 1
One of the chief complaints I see when I accidentally stumble into /The_Donald is that all the criticism of Donald Trump boils down to one simple sentiment: Donald Trump is literally Hitler. Now the cynical among us might point out that anyone who says anything negative, or neutral, about God Emperor Trump is unceremoniously /BannedFromTheDonald, thus inhibiting any kind of genuine intellectual discussion regarding any sort of shortcomings that their candidate may suffer from, but that would be victim blaming, and I wouldn't want to trigger any of them. No, despite all evidence to the contrary, /The_Donald is neither a safe space nor a hug box, /The_Donald is simply an internet forum where people who praise Donald Trump can praise Donald Trump, and praise others who praise Donald Trump, and ban individuals who don't praise Donald Trump. The proof is quite clear: Suggest that /The_Donald is a safe space or a hug box and you'll be banned, which is not something that would ever happen in a safe space or a hug box. Now that that's put to bed, we can move forward. I take the contributors of /The_Donald at their word that they would like to see genuine criticism of their candidate, criticism made without resorting to the lowest common denominator argument that "Donald Trump is literally Hitler." It is in this spirit of fairness that I present 10 Reasons to Vote Against Donald Trump. (None of which is that he's literally Hitler.) Before I begin, though, a word on how to use this post: In an effort to further appease the requests of our friends over at /The_Donald you should know how to copy sections pertinent to your discussion. First you'll need the excellent "Reddit Enhancement Suite". After you've installed RES and restarted your browser, you'll find a new link to "Source" at the bottom of this post. If you click the "Source" link you'll be provided with an unformatted copy of everything here. You can copy any section of the unformatted text and paste it into a Reddit comment box, which will return it to the formatting you see below. I didn't explain that well, so hopefully someone in the comments can do a better job.
#10: Donald Trump supports NSA surveillance on the American People.
“I support legislation which allows the NSA to hold the bulk meta-data. For oversight, I propose that a court, which is available any time on any day, is created to issue individual rulings on when this meta-data can be accessed.” [Google Cache Source]
Donald Trump suggests that we repeal the one step toward privacy rights that we have made since the passage of the Patriot Act in 2001, and that the NSA should have the ability to collect, maintain, and access the phone records of law abiding American citizens at "any time on any day." On December 7th, 2015, Donald Trump further clarified:
“Well, I tend to err on the side of security, I must tell you, and I’ve been there for longer than you would think. But, you know, when you have people that are beheading if you’re a Christian and frankly for lots of other reasons, when you have the world looking at us and would like to destroy us as quickly as possible, I err on the side of security, and so that’s the way it is, that’s the way I’ve been, and some people like that, frankly, and some people don’t like that. And I’m not just saying that since Paris, I’m saying for quite some time. I assume when I pick up my telephone people are listening to my conversations anyway, if you want to know the truth. It’s pretty sad commentary, but I err on the side of security,” [Source]
Seeming to imply that the American people should expect, and accept, that when "they pick up their telephone people are listening to their conversations anyway." Donald Trump went on to add that:
“I think that [restoring the USA Patriot Act] would be fine. As far as I’m concerned, that would be fine,” [Source]
As President, Donald Trump would support the re-authorization of the USA Patriot Act, the re-authorization of NSA bulk data collection, and the ability of the American government to spy on law abiding American citizens, regardless of the protections afforded us by the 4th Amendment to the Constitution. As he stated himself, Donald Trump "tends to err on the side of security" rather than freedom. So what's the worst that could happen? Worst case scenario: NSA surveillance could be used to target not just terrorists, but law abiding American citizens who are perceived to be agitators or political dissidents. In theory the NSA could be utilized to stymie, if not stop entirely, any individual or group who the President feels is a "threat to national security." This is not a problem limited to Donald Trump, but extends to any President who may feel the need to use, or abuse, the USA Patriot Act.
#9: He's opposed to Net Neutrality.
Net Neutrality is a policy which requires internet service providers, or ISPs, to treat all information on the internet equally. Under Net Neutrality if you pay for 50mbps internet, you get 50mbps internet for every site your visit, regardless of content. YouTube, Netflix, Facebook, and even Reddit, are all subject to the same speed limit: Whatever you're paying for. In the absence of Net Neutrality, ISPs could constrict speeds on certain sites, and charge extra fees to bring those sites up to speed. So say you're a Xfinity subscriber and want to access YouTube, under the Net Neutrality policy a YouTube video would stream in at the full 50mbps that you're paying for, were the policy of Net Neutrality overturned, Comcast could slow down effective speed to YouTube to 50kbps, and require that you pay an extra $4.99 per month to access YouTube at full speed. Content creators and content hosts generally support Net Neutrality, as it puts all sites and hosts on a relatively even playing field. Industry giants like Netflix don't have to worry about Xfinity artificially hobbling their site, or increasing the actual subscription fee for their users, and smaller startups don't have to worry about their service being killed in the cradle by ISPs who fear the competition. Net Neutrality is a win-win scenario for content creators, content hosts, and consumers alike. The only opponents of Net Neutrality are those who stand to profit from the ability to throttle, and in some cases functionally censor, competitive content. Among the biggest opponents of Net Neutrality are internet giants such as Comcast Xfinity, COX, Time Warner, and Donald Trump. On November 12th, 2014, Donald Trump tweeted the following:
"Obama’s attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media." [Source]
This is interesting for a couple reasons. First, nothing about Net Neutrality would allow the United States government in general, nor President Obama in specific, to censor the internet. In fact, Net Neutrality stands as a bulwark against ISPs functionally censoring content by means of severely restricting bandwidth. Imagine there was a website called https://www.ComcastSucks.com, in the absence of Net Neutrality Comcast could theoretically limit the bandwidth available to users trying to access this site to .5bps, functionally preventing any of their users from accessing https://www.ComcastSucks.com. Under the policy of Net Neutrality this sort of practical censorship would be illegal. Secondly, the Fairness Doctrine was a policy implemented in an effort to ensure that opposing viewpoints were presented during news broadcasts. To give an example: If a news program were hosting an individual claiming that climate change was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to undermine American manufacturing, the program would be required to also present the opposing view point that climate change is a real phenomenon with a genuine scientific basis. Wikipedia offers a brief description of the policy:
"The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was—in the Commission's view—honest, equitable, and balanced. The FCC eliminated the Doctrine in 1987, and in August 2011 the FCC formally removed the language that implemented the Doctrine." [Source]
It may be confusing how one could arrive at the conclusion that Net Neutrality, a policy which acts as a strong defense against censorship, could be used to censor conservative media; or in what way Net Neutrality and the Fairness Doctrine is related. Your confusion is justified, but also inconsequential: In this case the "why" is less important than the "what." What matters is that, for whatever reason, Donald Trump is opposed to the policy of Net Neutrality. If he is elected President he could overturn that policy, paving the way for increased consumer fees, decreased competition, and corporate censorship. So what's the worst that could happen? Worst case scenario: Internet Service Providers would be legally allowed to gouge their customers based upon the internet content that they browse, functionally censor competing or critical websites, and offer preferential treatment to sites that they support or agree with.
#8: Donald Trump wants to make it easier to sue media outlets for libel.
In an effort to stem the tides of frivolous libel suits, the United States Supreme Court decided on March 29th, 1960 in "New York Times Company vs Sullivan" that a plaintiff has to show "actual malice" before press reports can be considered to be defamation and libel. Simply put, actual malice can be defined as "knowledge that the information [in the press report] was false" or that it was published "with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not." In short, in order to sue for libel or defamation, a plaintiff must show that a press organization knowingly or willfully published false information, an intentionally high burden of proof to bear. This burden of proof was implemented to prevent individuals from suing for misprints, unintentional errors, or other frivolous reasons. Consider the case for which this verdict was written:
On March 29, 1960, The New York Times carried a full-page advertisement titled "Heed Their Rising Voices", which solicited funds to defend Martin Luther King, Jr. against an Alabama perjury indictment. The advertisement described actions against civil rights protesters, some of them inaccurately, some of which involved the police force of Montgomery, Alabama. Discrepancies were generally minor. Referring to the Alabama State Police, the advertisement stated: "They have arrested [King] seven times..." However, at that point he had been arrested four times. Although African-American students staged a demonstration on the State Capitol steps, they sang the National Anthem and not My Country, 'Tis of Thee. Although the Montgomery Public Safety commissioner, L. B. Sullivan, was not named in the advertisement, the inaccurate criticism of actions by the police was considered defamatory to Sullivan as well, due to his duty to supervise the police department. [Source]
Although Commissioner Sullivan was not named in the advertisement, and the mistakes outlined above were minor, Sullivan was within his rights to sue the New York Times for libel, and won $500,000 in damages from an Alabama court. Feeling that this decision was unfair, The New York Times Company appealed, and the case ended up before the Supreme Court of the United States, which found in their favor and overturned the verdict. In their decision the Court stated that:
"The First Amendment protects the publication of all statements, even false ones, about the conduct of public officials except when statements are made with actual malice (with knowledge that they are false or in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity)." [Source] [Emphasis mine, ed.]
That's the necessary background. So what are Donald Trump's opinions on the matter? On February 26th, 2016 Donald Trump had this to say:
“One of the things I’m going to do if I win—and I hope we do, and we’re certainly leading—I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money, so when the New York Times writes a hit piece, which is a total disgrace, or when the Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.” [Source]
Now, it should be noted that Donald Trump already has the right to sue any news organization that writes "purposely ... false articles." So long as Mr. Trump can prove that the publication knowingly or willfully published false information he can sue, he doesn't need to change the libel laws in order to do that. Unfortunately Mr. Trump hasn't explained exactly what he plans to do to make suing news publications easier. The Washington Post attempted to pin down the specifics during a recent interview, but Donald Trump was unable to provide any actual policy proposals. Listen Here: The Post asked Donald Trump about the First Amendment. Repeatedly. So what could Donald Trump do to open up libel laws? For one thing, as President, he could appoint Supreme Court Justices that would be willing to overturn New York Times Co. vs Sullivan, thus ending the requirement that the plaintiff proves actual malice. This could open a litigious Pandora's Box of sorts, allowing individuals to sue news organizations for the most benign of mistakes, even if the plaintiffs themselves aren't specifically mentioned. Another question worth pondering is "Why would Donald Trump want to make it easier to sue news publications, especially considering how much free advertising they've provided him since the beginning of his campaign?" I can't pretend to know what is in a person's heart, but if his actions are any indication, his feelings on libel suits might have something to do with how many of them he's filed, and threatened to file, himself:
In the 1980s, when Trump he sued another businessman who had the same last name as him. Julius and Edmond Trump were trying to buy a chain of drug stores, and their business was called "The Trump Group." When Donald Trump found out he went on the offensive: Donald Trump’s lawyer, Roy Cohn, demanded that the Trump Group change its name by the following day or they would face consequences. A little while later, Donald Trump sued Julius and Edmond Trump in New York state court, alleging they were nothing but a pair of late-arriving immigrants trying to piggyback on his good name. “Plaintiffs have used the Trump family name for 40 to 50 years in the New York area. More recently, the Trump Organization has come to stand for respectability and success across the United States,” the complaint read. “The defendants are South Africans whose recent entrance in the New York area utilizing the name 'the Trump Group' can only be viewed as a poorly veiled attempt at trading on the goodwill, reputation and financial credibility of the plaintiff.” [Source]
In 1984, Trump sued the Chicago Tribune for $500 million after the publication’s architecture critic, Paul Gapp, wrote an item suggesting Chicago’s Sears Tower, then the world’s tallest building, would remain as such, despite Trump’s plan to build a taller structure in downtown Manhattan. Trump claimed the story “virtually torpedoed” his dreams, according to the Associated Press, by depicting his would-be tower as “an atrocious, ugly monstrosity” even though, Trump said, he hadn’t even yet hired an architect or drawn a plan. [Quote source]
Trump purchased Eastern Air Lines’s shuttle service in 1988 for $365 million and planned to relaunch it as “Trump Shuttle.” But a problem arose—a different company, Trading and Finance Corp. Ltd., was already using the name. In 1989, Trump sued for the rights to the name. [Quote source]
In January 2006, Trump filed a $5 billion lawsuit against author Timothy O'Brien and his publisher for understating Trump's wealth. In his book Trump Nation, O'Brien reported that Trump had estimated his worth at between $150 and $250 million. Trump, who said he had told O'Brien that he was worth between $4 billion and $6 billion, claimed that O'Brien's low estimate had hurt his reputation and cost him specific business deals. Trump's suit was dismissed in July 2009, and his subsequent appeal failed in September 2011. [Quote source] [Original article]
Also in 2006, Trump threatened to sue Rosie O’Donnell, then a co-host on The View, after she said he was bankrupt. Trump retaliated in an interview with The Insider, by labeling O’Donnell “disgusting, both inside and out.” He told People “Rosie will rue the words she said. I’ll most likely sue her for making those false statements—and it’ll be fun. Rosie’s a loser. A real loser. I look forward to taking lots of money from my nice fat little Rosie.” [Quote source][Interview source]
In 2011, [MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnel] provoked the mogul's wrath when he accused him of being worth less than $1 billion. "I heard, because his show is unwatchable, that @Lawrence has made many false statements last night about me," Trump tweeted. "Maybe I should sue him?" [Quote source]
In February [of 2013], Trump sued comedian Bill Maher who offered, on The Tonight Show, to give Trump $5 million if he could prove that his father was not an orangutan. (The comment was a spoof of Trump's offer to give $5 million to charity if President Obama would release his records and applications for colleges and passports.) Trump dutifully sent Maher a copy of his birth certificate, but the comedian never paid up. "He has not responded, and the reason he hasn't responded is his lawyers probably tell him, 'You've got yourself a problem,' " Trump told Atlantic author William Cohan. Maher later said, on his show, "Donald Trump must learn two things--what a joke is, and what a contract is." [Quote source]
In 2014, Trump sued Trump Entertainment Resorts, which he holds a 10 percent stake in, to remove his name from the Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Plaza casinos in Atlantic City, which he said did not live up to his standard of quality. [Quote source]
#7: Donald Trump has advocated for what are legally considered war-crimes.
I know what you're thinking: "I thought this guy was going to give me 10 good reasons not to vote for Donald Trump without saying that 'He's literally Hitler.'" I'm keeping my promise on that. On December 3rd, 2015 Donald Trump said in a Fox News Interview:
"We're fighting a very politically correct war. The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don't kid yourself. When they say they don't care about their lives, you have to take out their families," [Source] [Video link]
People who are taking no active part in the hostilities "shall in all circumstances be treated humanely… To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever … violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture." [[Source]((http://www.cfr.org/human-rights/geneva-conventions/p8778)]
"The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited." [Source]
The United States signed the Geneva Conventions in 1955. Donald Trump also advocates for the use of torture, as he explained at a rally on February 17th, 2016:
“Don’t tell me it doesn’t work — torture works, half these guys [say]: ‘Torture doesn’t work.’ Believe me, it works.”
Vowing at the same event to:
“...bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding. Some people say it’s not actually torture — let’s assume it is, but they asked me the question: ‘What are you going to do on waterboarding?’ Absolutely fine, but we should go much stronger than waterboarding. That’s the way I feel.”
And if torture doesn't work? As Mr. Trump stated in November of 2015:
“If it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing.”
[Source for the above three quotes.] Torture in general, including waterboarding, is prohibited by the Geneva Convention, as well as the United Nations Convention Against Torture, and has precedent as being prosecuted as a war crime. So what's the worst that could happen? Worst case scenario: We make a problem that already exists in the Middle East even worse. On September 11th, 2001, 3,000 innocent American men, women, and children were killed in order to send a political message, Donald Trump is proposing that we do the same thing. How did the United States respond? All out warfare for over a decade. Killing innocent civilians would only serve to strengthen the notion that the United States is an enemy that must be destroyed at all costs, and would act as one of the best possible recruiting tools for extremists and terrorists all over the globe. Think of it this way: The worst way to prevent getting stung is to throw rocks at a bee hive.
#6: Donald Trump doesn't believe in climate change, and thinks that "what they [the EPA] do is a disgrace."
On November 6th, 2012, Donald Trump posted the following tweet to his twitter account:
"The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive." [Source]
January 29th, 2014:
"Snowing in Texas and Louisiana, record setting freezing temperatures throughout the country and beyond. Global warming is an expensive hoax!" [Source]
Also on January 29th, 2014:
"Give me clean, beautiful and healthy air - not the same old climate change (global warming) bullshit! I am tired of hearing this nonsense." [Source]
During an interview with Hugh Hewitt on September 21st, 2015, Donald Trump explained:
"I mean, Obama thinks it’s the number one problem of the world today. And I think it’s very low on the list. So I am not a believer, and I will, unless somebody can prove something to me, I believe there’s weather. I believe there’s change, and I believe it goes up and it goes down, and it goes up again. And it changes depending on years and centuries, but I am not a believer, and we have much bigger problems." [Source]
In an interview on September 24th, 2015, Trump said simply:
And on December 30th, 2015, he explained to a crowd in South Carolina that:
"Obama's talking about all of this with the global warming and … a lot of it's a hoax. It's a hoax. I mean, it's a money-making industry, OK? It's a hoax, a lot of it." [Source]
Though, to be fair, on a January 18th 2016 episode of "Fox & Friends," Donald Trump did go on to explain that:
"I often joke that this is done for the benefit of China. Obviously, I joke." [Source]
This is not an exhaustive list. Business Insider and PolitiFact both did excellent write-ups on Donald Trump's various stances on climate change. Whether Donald Trump meant what he said about climate change being a hoax, or whether he was just joking about it, is up for debate. Many people who have voted for Donald Trump believe that he is a climate denier, others think that he believes in climate change but that it isn't a problem worth addressing. On the EPA, Donald Trump has vowed that he would deeply cut spending:
“No, I’m not cutting services, but I’m cutting spending. But I may cut Department of Education. I believe Common Core is a very bad thing. I believe that we should be — you know, educating our children from Iowa, from New Hampshire, from South Carolina, from California, from New York. I think that it should be local education, so the Department of Education is one, Environmental Protection, what they do is a disgrace. Every week they come out with new regulations. They — we'll be fine with the environment, we can leave a little bit, but you can't destroy businesses.” [Source]
Mr. Trump hasn't revealed what specific programs he would cut, but it bears mentioning that beyond action against climate change, the EPA is also responsible for: Enforcing policies such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Act, preventing and litigating the dumping of toxic waste, sponsoring research into environmental threats, educating the public on ways to reduce their environmental impact, and much more. Also of note is the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency was created by Republican President Richard Nixon, not important to the discussion, but an interesting bit of trivia. So what's the worst that could happen? Worst case scenario: EPA funding is cut so deeply that the agency is unable to fulfill their responsibilities, potentially impacting the health of American citizens who breath air or drink water. Cuts could also result in staff reduction at the EPA, hindering their ability to enforce federal laws and regulations, and offering more opportunity for companies and individuals seeking to pollute or dump regulated toxic waste. Ultimately, however, any susscationn in the fight against climate change could have disastrous effects on not just the United States, but the planet as a whole. To echo the findings of a Department of Defense report:
Climate change is a security risk because it degrades living conditions, human security and the ability of governments to meet the basic needs of their populations. Communities and states that already are fragile and have limited resources are significantly more vulnerable to disruption and far less likely to respond effectively and be resilient to new challenges, they added. [Source]
Not only is climate change a risk to our planet, it also poses a direct risk to our national security. Failing to take action against climate change could have disastrous and far reaching consequences.
5: Donald Trump is a threat to gay rights.
This may come as a surprise to some, considering Trump's personal opinion on homosexuality is rather moderate, but what he's promised to do as President isn't moderate at all. Donald Trump is a supporter of "traditional" marriage, which is to say a marriage between one man and one woman (Previous two wives notwithstanding.) In regards to the recent Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriage bans were discriminatory, and therefore unconstitutional, Mr. Trump had this to say:
“Frankly it should have been state – I was very much in favor of having the court rule that it goes to states, and let the states decide. It was a shocking decision for you and for me and for a lot of people. I was in favor of letting the states decide and that’s the way it looked like it was going, and then all of a sudden out of nowhere came this very massive decision and they took it away. I was always in favor of states rights, states deciding – on many issues, not just this.” [Source]
While that sounds very fair on paper, it certainly wouldn't be fair to the homosexual residents of many states. Rather than having a clear national policy on whether homosexuals could get married, we'd have a pock marked map of legality, where gays could get married in some states, and that marriage not be recognized, or legal, in others. Based on current polling data, if states were given the right to define marriage, homosexuals in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming could see one of their basic civil rights disappear. This is without consideration to states on the fringes of the issue, where the vote could easily swing one way or the other. As President, Donald Trump would have the responsibility of appointing Supreme Court Justices, meaning that he may have the ability during his four or eight year term to nominate a Judge that would be willing to overturn the ruling on marriage equality. This is something that Mr. Trump is already considering:
Trump: “It has been ruled upon. It has been there. If I’m elected I would be very strong in putting certain judges on the bench that maybe could change things, but they have a long way to go. At some point we have to get back down to business. But there is no question about it. And most people feel this way. They have ruled on it. I wish it had done by the states. I don’t like the way they ruled. I disagree with the Supreme Court in that it should be a states’ rights issue.”
Wallace: “Are you saying that if you become President you might try to appoint justices to overrule the decision on same-sex marriage?”
Trump: “I would strongly consider that, yes.” [Source]
Donald Trump has also signaled support for the "First Amendment Defense Act," more commonly known as FADA, which would protect individuals like Kim Davis from federal prosecution for denying gay marriage licenses based upon personal religious beliefs. Passing FADA would mean that many counties with a limited number of clerks and judges could, in effect, prevent any gay marriages from occurring
“If Congress considers the First Amendment Defense Act a priority, then I will do all I can to make sure it comes to my desk for signatures and enactment,” [Source]
But Mr. Trump is okay with transgendered individuals using their respective bathrooms, so he's got that going for him, which is nice. So what's the worst that could happen? Worst case scenario: Donald Trump nominates Supreme Court Justices that would be willing to overturn the recent ruling on gay marriage, and return the right to discriminate against individuals based upon their sexual identity to the States. He could also sign the First Amendment Defense Act into law, allowing state and federal employees to discriminate against individuals based upon their sexual identity without fear of legal repercussions. Rolling back the Supreme Court decision would put the United States back in the place it had been in 2015, effectively reenacting the gay marriage ban present in 13 states, and the passage of FADA could threaten gay marriage rights in the remaining 37 states.
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