Julia Harte

Writings & wanderings.

Stricter building rules, rejected by Trump, helped Harvey-hit communities

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September 1, 2017, Reuters

downloadAs Hurricane Harvey pummeled the Gulf coast in Texas, the city of Seabrook had an edge over flood-swamped nearby towns and the devastation in Houston, just a half-hour drive away.

Years ago, the city imposed higher elevation standards for buildings that were stricter than existing federal guidelines on construction in flood-prone areas. Before leaving office, President Barack Obama sought to toughen those national rules, to bring them more in line with those in communities like Seabrook. President Donald Trump, however, revoked Obama’s executive order last month.

Harvey, which has displaced around a million people and flooded swaths of Houston, has proven an early test of that decision. Floodplain experts wrote to Trump this week, urging him to rethink his reversal of Obama’s order.

”As we come to the conclusion of Harvey, we have suffered some damage to our community, but not to the extent that some of our neighboring communities have. That is partly because of our (elevation) requirement,” said Seabrook deputy city manager, Sean Landis.

Although Obama’s order had not yet come into effect when Trump rescinded it, some communities had been concerned about the cost of elevating existing buildings to comply with the new rules. But Landis said more stringent rules have paid off in Seabrook. “We feel more resilient,” he said.

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Written by juliaharte

September 1, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Campaign urges U.S. public pension funds to divest from owner of Trump hotel

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July 19, 2017, Reuters

FILE PHOTO: CalPERS headquarters in SacramentoAdvocacy groups launched petitions and sent letters on Wednesday urging two of the biggest U.S. public pension funds to divest from an investment fund unless it stops paying one of President Donald Trump’s companies to run a New York hotel.

Reuters reported on April 26 that public pension funds in at least seven U.S. states periodically send millions of dollars to an investment fund that owns the upscale Trump SoHo Hotel and Condominium in New York City and pays a Trump company to run it, according to a Reuters review of public records.

Two legal advocacy groups sent petitions to half a million of their members and letters urging state officials who oversee the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the New York State Common Retirement Fund to reconsider their investments in CIM Fund III, which owns the Trump SoHo.

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Written by juliaharte

July 19, 2017 at 4:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Turkish envoy urges U.S. to search cleric Gulen’s communications

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July 14, 2017, Reuters

U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in SaylorsburgU.S. authorities should search through any intercepted communications of Fethullah Gulen to seek evidence backing Turkey’s accusation that the U.S.-based Muslim cleric orchestrated last year’s failed coup, Turkey’s envoy to Washington said on Friday.

In an interview with Reuters almost a year after the coup attempt, Ambassador Serdar Kilic expressed frustration over the halting U.S. response to its request for Gulen’s extradition and urged Washington to use its data-collection capabilities to help prove Ankara’s accusations against him.

“They should help us in this regard. We don’t have national intelligence authority in the United States,” he said at the Turkish embassy.

President Donald Trump’s administration is taking Turkey’s extradition request “more seriously” than Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, Kilic told a news conference later on Friday, but he did not elaborate.

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Written by juliaharte

July 14, 2017 at 4:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Cleric Gulen says he would not flee U.S. to avoid extradition to Turkey

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July 11, 2017, Reuters

File photo of U.S. based cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in SaylorsburgFethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based Muslim cleric accused by Turkey of instigating last year’s failed coup, says he has no plans to flee the United States and would accept extradition if Washington agrees to a request by Ankara to hand him over.

In an interview in his gated compound in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, Gulen, 79, denied a Turkish government allegation from February that he was preparing to leave for Canada to avoid extradition.

“The rumors aren’t true at all,” he told Reuters.

“If the United States sees it appropriate to extradite me, I would leave (for Turkey),” he said, sitting in an ornate meeting room, its walls lined with Islamic scripture.

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Written by juliaharte

July 11, 2017 at 4:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

U.S. senator asks ethics office to review Trump hotel payments

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May 22, 2017, Reuters

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) speaks to reporters on following a policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in WashingtonThe top Democrat on the U.S. Senate committee overseeing pensions on Monday asked the U.S. Office of Government Ethics to assess whether President Donald Trump is violating the Constitution and federal bans on conflicts of interest.

Reuters reported on April 26 that public pension funds in at least seven U.S. states periodically send millions of dollars to an investment fund that owns the upscale Trump SoHo Hotel and Condominium in New York City and pays a Trump company to run it, according to a Reuters review of public records.

“Trump may be profiting from the retirement plans of millions of our nation’s public servants,” Senator Patty Murray of Washington state wrote in a letter to Walter Shaub, the director of the Office of Government Ethics, citing the Reuters report.

The Office of Government Ethics is the U.S. agency that oversees conduct within the executive branch and supervises ethics officials to ensure they are preventing conflicts of interest and other violations.

“This looks like exactly the type of monetary flow prohibited by the Constitution,” said the senator.

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Written by juliaharte

May 22, 2017 at 4:18 pm

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Public investments in Trump-operated hotel set dangerous precedent: U.S. senators

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May 1, 2017, Reuters

FILE PHOTO: The Trump Soho Hotel is seen in New YorkU.S. President Donald Trump is flirting with unparalleled violations of the Constitution by not divesting himself from a hotel management company that benefits financially from public pension fund investments, according to two Democratic U.S. senators.

Reuters exclusively reported on April 26 that public pension funds in at least seven U.S. states periodically send millions of dollars to an investment fund that owns the Trump SoHo Hotel and Condominium in New York City and pays one of Trump’s companies to run it, according to a Reuters review of public records.

The investments could put Trump at risk of violating an obscure constitutional clause that prohibits the president from receiving additional payments beyond his salary from state governments, say several constitutional lawyers. A separate constitutional clause bars the president from receiving payments from foreign governments.

Trump is “setting an extremely dangerous precedent,” said Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Friday. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut expressed similar concerns.

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Written by juliaharte

May 1, 2017 at 4:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

A New York hotel deal shows how some public pension funds help to enrich Trump

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April 26, 2017, Reuters

FILE PHOTO: The Trump Soho Hotel is seen in New YorkPublic pension funds in at least seven U.S. states have invested millions of dollars in an investment fund that owns a New York hotel and pays one of President Donald Trump’s companies to run it, according to a Reuters review of public records. That arrangement could put Trump at risk of violating an obscure constitutional clause, some legal experts say.

The Trump SoHo Hotel and Condominium in Manhattan is an upscale 46-story property owned by a Los Angeles investment group, the CIM Group, through one of its real estate funds. (Read the most recent amendment to the Trump SoHo’s offering plan: tmsnrt.rs/2q3HJH8)

The possible problem for Trump lies in the fact that state- and city-run pension funds have invested in the CIM fund and pay it a few million dollars in quarterly fees to manage their investments in its portfolio, which includes the Trump SoHo, according to state investment records.

In return for marketing and managing the hotel-condo, CIM pays Trump International Hotels Management LLC 5.75 percent of the SoHo’s operating revenues annually.

That payment chain merits closer scrutiny because it could put Trump at risk of falling foul of a little-known constitutional rule prohibiting the flow of money from states to the pockets of a sitting president, five ethics and constitutional law experts interviewed by Reuters said.

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Written by juliaharte

April 26, 2017 at 11:05 am

Posted in Uncategorized