New Evidence Emerges of Possible Wrongdoing by Trump Inaugural Committee
Federal prosecutors in New York are circling Donald Trump’s inaugural committee as part of a wide-ranging investigation into possible money laundering, illegal contributions and cash-for-access schemes. Now, WNYC and ProPublica have identified evidence of potential tax law violations by the committee. 
 
A spokesman confirmed that the nonprofit 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee paid the Trump International Hotel a rate of $175,000 per day for event space — in spite of internal objections at the time that the rate was far too high. If the committee is deemed by auditors or prosecutors to have paid an above-market rate, that could violate tax laws prohibiting self-dealing, according to experts. 
 
Tax law prohibits nonprofits from paying inflated prices to entities that are owned by people who also control or influence the nonprofit’s activities. 
 
“Every legitimate nonprofit is very concerned with this,” said Doug White, a veteran adviser to tax exempt organizations, speaking generally. “You’re benefiting a private person, and you’re using the nonprofit to do it.” 
The inaugural committee also spent at least $1.5 million at a hotel in which the investment firm of the committee’s chairman, Tom Barrack, held a small stake. 
 
In addition, the inaugural nonprofit appears not to have disclosed multiple gifts to the committee on its tax return, as required by law. 
 
Trump’s inaugural committee spent more than $100 million, almost twice the amount spent on the next-most expensive inaugural party, that of Barack Obama in 2009. In addition to probing how the nonprofit spent its money, investigators are examining whether the inaugural received improper donations from foreigners. Inaugural nonprofits are prohibited from receiving donations from people who are not U.S. citizens. 
 
The committee paid a total of $700,000 to the Trump International Hotel for event spaces for four days in January 2017. At the time, a consultant working for the inaugural committee expressed her concern over email that the price quoted by the Trump hotel — $175,000 per day for several event spaces — was too high, as ProPublica and WNYC reported in December
 
“Please take into consideration that when this is audited it will become public knowledge,” wrote Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, an experienced New York-based event planner, suggesting a fair rate for the event spaces would be at most $85,000 per day, less than half of what was ultimately paid. That fee did not cover catering. 
 
Ari Krupkin, an event planner at the Markham Group in Washington, said event space rentals typically come as part of a package that includes catering and audio-visual. Without those services included in the price, he said, “$175,000 a day seems more than egregious.” Continue Reading
 
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The FBI Says Its Photo Analysis Is Scientific Evidence. Scientists Disagree
At the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, a team of about a half-dozen technicians analyzes pictures down to their pixels, trying to determine if the faces, hands, clothes or cars of suspects match images collected by investigators from cameras at crime scenes. 
 
The unit specializes in visual evidence and facial identification, and its examiners can aid investigations by making images sharper, revealing key details in a crime or ruling out potential suspects. 
 
But the work of image examiners has never had a strong scientific foundation, and the FBI’s endorsement of the unit’s findings as trial evidence troubles many experts and raises anew questions about the role of the FBI Laboratory as a standard-setter in forensic science. 
 
FBI examiners have tied defendants to crime pictures in thousands of cases over the past half-century using unproven techniques, at times giving jurors baseless statistics to say the risk of error was vanishingly small. Much of the legal foundation for the unit’s work is rooted in a 22-year-old comparison of bluejeans. Studies on several photo comparison techniques, conducted over the last decade by the FBI and outside scientists, have found they are not reliable. 
 
 
Since those studies were published, there’s no indication that lab officials have checked past casework for errors or inaccurate testimony. Image examiners continue to use disputed methods in an array of cases to bolster prosecutions against people accused of robberies, murder, sex crimes and terrorism. 
 
The work of image examiners is a type of pattern analysis, a category of forensic science that has repeatedly led to misidentifications at the FBI and other crime laboratories. Before the discovery of DNA identification methods in the 1980s, most of the bureau’s lab worked in pattern matching, which involves comparing features from items of evidence to the suspect’s body and belongings. 
 
Examiners had long testified in court that they could determine what fingertip left a print, what gun fired a bullet, which scalp grew a hair “to the exclusion of all others.” Research and exonerations by DNA analysis have repeatedly disproved these claims, and the U.S. Department of Justice no longer allows technicians and scientists from the FBI and other agencies to make such unequivocal statements, according to new testimony guidelines released last year. 
 
Though image examiners rely on similarly flawed methods, they have continued to testify to and defend their exactitude, according to a review of court records and examiners’ written reports and published articles. 
 
ProPublica asked leading statisticians and forensic science experts to review methods image examiners have detailed in court transcripts, published articles and presentations. The experts identified numerous instances of examiners overstating the techniques’ scientific precision and said some of their assertions defy logic. 
 
The FBI declined repeated requests for interviews with members of the image group, which is formally known as the Forensic Audio, Video and Image Analysis Unit. Continue Reading
 
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John Bogle (1929-2019): St. Jack of the Financial Services Industry
John C Bogle, legendary investor and businessman, who brought the most impact to millions of American investors through low-cost index funds, passed away on Wednesday. Bogle was in frail health for years, had survived at least six heart attacks and also received a heart transplant in 1996. 
 
Bogle was born on 8 May, 1929 in Montclair, New Jersey in the United States of America. In 1947, he was accepted at Princeton University where he studied economics and investment, and showed keen interest in the mutual fund industry. After graduating from Princeton, he was hired at Wellington Fund where he was later promoted to assistant manager due to his great talent. Climbing through the ranks, in 1970, he replaced Walter L Morgan as the chairman of Wellington. However, he was later fired for an unwise and poor investment decision he made. 
 
Four years later, he founded the Vanguard Company and, in 1976, announced the first index mutual fund to the general public. He believed that mutual funds should be managed in a manner that serves the interests of the investing public. Until then, actively run equity funds ruled the mutual funds industry; charging high expense and underperforming the index they were paid to outperform.  In the long term, investors earned low returns and ended up paying high expenses.
 
Index funds solved this by eliminating active management through mimicking the benchmark, than outperforming it. Under Under this new concept, investors gained by paying lower expenses and earning high returns than they previously did. Today, Vanguard is the largest fund company, managing $4.40 trillion, and is the only true mutual structure among mutual funds. 
 
This stupendous achievement is known. What is not known is that in1960, when Bogle was 31 years old, he was diagnosed with an incurable heart disease. He got himself a pacemaker but as Dr Bernard Lown, his heart specialist, described later, Bogle was “afflicted with a bizarre electrical derangement of the heartbeat, threatening catastrophic cardiac arrest—a guillotine about to drop. I gave him the brutal verdict and he was undaunted. He lives his life intently and with exuberant energy. A sense of humor lightened the morbid reality, and he joked that playing squash with a portable defibrillator close by unnerved every opponent.” 
 
“But the inevitable downward spiral of my heart disease continued,” Bogle writes in his new book. “Cardiac arrests and paddles on my chest. Physical activity fades away. The right side of the heart no longer pumps. Death’s shadow draws near.” This continued for some 36 years after the first diagnosis of his heart trouble. In 1996, Bogle was eligible for a heart transplant. Some 15 years later, his acquired heart “thumps away minute after minute, like the beat of a jungle drum.” 
 
This personal anecdote comes on page 583 of a 600-page book titled Don’t Count On It. And he narrates this story not to recount his life but to pay homage to four of his heroes and mentors—Walter Morgan, a pioneer of finance, economist Paul Samuelson, Peter Bernstein, a financial economist and, of course, his heart specialist Dr Lown. It is astounding what John Bogle has achieved in one lifetime with such a serious heart ailment.
 
Bogle hated the idea of trading the market. This is why his index fund only provided net asset value of the funds after the markets closed. However, the rise of exchange-traded funds, low-cost index funds but tradable in the stock market during the trading hours, received a bad rap by Bogle. Even though he despised it, his company Vanguard eventually succumbed to the market craze of ETFs and joined in. Yet, Bogle continued to promote the idea of long-term investing through ETFs and not trade in them.
 
Bogle’s approach to investing is defined by simplicity and common sense. Below are his eight basic rules for investors- 
 
1. Select low-cost funds
2. Consider carefully the added costs of advice
3. Do not overrate past fund performance
4. Use past performance to determine consistency and risk
5. Beware of stars (as in, star mutual fund managers)
6. Beware of asset size
7. Don't own too many funds
8. Buy your fund portfolio – and hold it
 
But business success is not why Bogle stands out. He is known as ‘Saint Jack’ of the financial services industry, the conscience-keeper of Wall Street. John Bogle has spent an entire career fighting for individual investors against the dark forces of Wall Street. John Bogle is an institution in the US financial market. He is a true pioneer, having created index funds and having led a lifelong battle for the small investor by advocating low-cost funds. He has also been a powerful writer; his books are now being re-issued as investment classics. 
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COMMENTS

V ganesan

3 months ago

Can we see a person like him in India

REPLY

Rajesh Karthikeyan

In Reply to V ganesan 3 months ago

Don\'t think so. sad but true

Ankur Bamne

3 months ago

RIP Mr. Bogle. huge respect. he has saved millions of dollars of money for avg investors.

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