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Health secretary candidate Becerra vows to ‘find a common cause’ as Republicans seek to paint him as extreme.

President Biden’s candidate for health secretary Xavier Becerra pledged Tuesday morning to work to “restore confidence in public health institutions” and “seek to find a common cause” with his critics, as Republicans sought to portray him as an unqualified liberal extremist. For the job.

Appearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Work and Pensions, Mr. Becerra, the Attorney General of California, was toasted by Republicans who complained that they had no experience in the profession of health and targeted its support for the Affordable Care Act. and for abortion rights.

“Basically, you spoke out against pro-life,” Indiana Republican Senator Mike Braun told Becerra. He asked if Mr Becerra would pledge not to use taxpayer money for abortions, which is currently prohibited by federal law, except in cases where the mother’s life is at stake, or in the ‘incest or rape.

“I will commit to obeying the law,” replied Becerra, leaving himself some leeway should the law change.

Tuesday’s appearance was the first of two Senate confirmation hearings for Mr. Becerra; he is due to appear before the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. Despite the tough questions, Mr Becerra appears to be heading for confirmation in a Senate equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, but with Vice President Kamala Harris on hand to break the tie.

If confirmed, Mr Becerra will immediately face the daunting task of leading the department at a critical time, during a pandemic that has claimed half a million lives and has taken particularly devastating havoc on people from color. He would be the first Latino to serve as secretary of the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

Although Mr. Becerra, a former congressman, did not have direct experience as a medical professional, he took a keen interest in health policy in Washington and helped draft the Law on Health Care. affordable care. He has most recently been at the forefront of legal efforts to defend it, leading 20 states and the District of Columbia in a campaign to protect the law from dismantling Republicans.

Republicans and their allies in the conservative and anti-abortion movements have taken hold of the ACA’s defense of Becerra as well as his support for abortion rights.

The Conservative Action Project, an advocacy group, on Monday released a statement signed by dozens of Conservative leaders, including several former members of Congress, complaining that Mr Becerra had a “troubling record” on ” policies relating to the sanctity of life, human dignity and religious freedom. “

They specifically cited his vote against banning “late abortion” and accused him of using his role as attorney general “to tip the scales in favor of Planned Parenthood,” a group that advocates the law. to abortion. Asked by Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney about the late abortion vote, Becerra noted his wife is an obstetrician-gynecologist and said he would “work to find common ground ” On the question. Mr. Romney was not impressed. “It looks like we’re not going to find common ground there,” he replied.

Democrats point to Mr Becerra’s experience as the head of one of the country’s largest justice departments through a particularly trying time, and his up-from-the-bootstraps biography. The son of Mexican immigrants, he studied at Stanford University both undergraduate and in law. He served 12 terms in Congress, representing Los Angeles, before becoming attorney general of his home state in 2017.

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Impacting Travel

Airlines seek WHO support for post-vaccination travel without quarantine

Aviation and travel industry groups are calling on the World Health Organization (WHO), a United Nations agency, to back the idea that it is safe for those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. fly without quarantine.

On January 27, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said that WHO’s support of this principle is vital to the development and acceptance of its Travel Pass digital application for smartphones, the purpose of which is to help people resume their travels as soon as epidemiological conditions permit.

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“We can say what we want, what we do need is for the WHO to come out and say the same thing, so that it becomes a universal acceptance that once you are vaccinated you should not have to go through any of these hoops,” Vice President IATA’s senior passenger affairs officer, Nick Careen, said at a briefing.

Another crucial component of the IATA Travel Pass application is the adoption of shared global standards for vaccine certificates, an action that needs to happen much faster than current efforts are underway.

“We have been suggesting this for months,” he said. “WHO needs a fire underneath to do this sooner rather than later. Even then, there is no guarantee that all governments will adopt the standard immediately. “

The Travel Pass app is essentially ready to go and is scheduled to launch in March. Paper certificates are more susceptible to fraud than digital documentation, and there have already been several known cases of false vaccination credentials.

The WHO Emergency Committee on COVID-19 stated on January 15 that it is still unknown whether immunization also prevents the inoculated person from transmitting the virus to other people, according to Bloomberg. The agency does not recommend that countries require proof of vaccination from arriving travelers, but should instead rely on coordinated and evidence-based measures to ensure safe travel.

Since the early days of the pandemic, the travel industry and airlines have pleaded with governments and global institutions to work together to develop common standards that facilitate cross-border travel. Throughout the crisis, nations have made many abrupt changes to their travel policy, which, coupled with inconsistent protocols from one country to another, has deterred most people from traveling, which has left many companies with bleak prospects.

Careen said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recognized that those who are fully vaccinated should be able to travel freely; and that those who have already recovered from COVID-19 should be exempted from quarantine and testing requirements, based on the premise that it made them immune to reinfection and unable to transmit the virus.

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Biden’s Treasury will seek to put Harriet Tubman on the $ 20 bill, an effort the Trump administration has halted.

President Biden’s Treasury Department is exploring ways to speed up process of adding Harriet Tubman’s portrait to the foreground of the $ 20 bill after the Trump administration cleared the Obama-era initiative to lapse White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday.

The decision to replace Andrew Jackson with Ms Tubman as the face of the $ 20 bill was made in 2016 by then-Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. President Donald J. Trump opposed the idea, and his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has stopped working on this part of the currency overhaul, arguing that adding new security features to the money was a more urgent priority. Mr Mnuchin said the notes with the new images could not be put into circulation until 2028 and that a future Treasury Secretary would make the call if Jackson was to be replaced.

The Treasury Department, which Biden has appointed as head of Janet L. Yellen, plans to accelerate that timeline.

“The Treasury Department is taking action to resume efforts to put Harriet Tubman on the front of the new $ 20 bills,” Ms. Psaki said. “It is important that our money reflects the history and diversity of our country.”

Mr. Trump claimed to be an Andrew Jackson fan, a populist colleague, and was a staunch opponent of altering historical images and statues.

Mr Mnuchin’s decision to slow down change sparked a reaction from some Democrats in Congress and sparked an investigation by the Treasury Inspector General into whether the process faced inappropriate political interference. The investigation did not reveal any wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Mnuchin.

According to Lew’s plan, the new design was supposed to be unveiled in 2020 to mark the centenary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

Preliminary designs for the memo obtained by the New York Times revealed that – before Mr. Trump took office – concept work on a Tubman bill on the front and a Jackson statue on the back was already in production. Classes.

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Citing a “ partisan deadlock, ” Republican Senator Rob Portman has said he will not seek re-election in 2022.

Ohio Senator Rob Portman, a Republican deeply connected with the former party, announced Monday that he would not stand for re-election in 2022, expressing frustration at the deep polarization and partisanship in Washington.

“It has become increasingly difficult to break the partisan deadlock and make progress on substantive politics, and this has contributed to my decision,” Portman said in a statement revealing what was considered a surprise announcement so soon after the last election.

Mr. Portman, former senior trade and budget official in the George W. Bush administration, was once considered a conservative mainstay, but as his party has shifted to the right in recent years, it has become one of the few centrist Republican senators interested in making bipartisan deals. He was one of the lawmakers tasked with pushing through the new North American trade deal in 2019 and was part of a bipartisan coalition that pushed House and Senate leaders late last year to pass a emergency measure in the event of a pandemic after months of delay.

His decision to step down illustrates how difficult it has become for more mainstream Republicans to navigate the current political environment, with hard-right allies of former President Donald J. Trump insisting that Republican members Congress either on their side or face primary competitions.

Mr. Portman called it “a difficult time to be in public service.”

“We live in an increasingly polarized country where members of both parties are pushed further to the right and further to the left, and that means that too few people are actively seeking to find common ground,” he said. he declares.

Mr. Portman, who also served for 12 years in the House, is said to have sought his third term in the Senate. He said he has made his decision public now to give others time to prepare for a statewide race.

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Protesters who fled Hong Kong arrive in US and seek asylum

Last July, five young men boarded a pleasure boat in a remote port in Hong Kong. They crossed waters patrolled by Chinese authorities and headed east, across the South China Sea.

When they approached Taiwan, they cut their engine, hoping to be rescued by the Taiwanese Coast Guard. They were lucky.

Now, after months in Taiwan, they plan to seek asylum in the United States, where they arrived at Kennedy International Airport in New York on Wednesday.

They are part of a net of political activists who have fled Hong Kong since the Chinese central government imposed a tough national security law on the city in June, stifling many forms of political dissent, including pro protests. -democracy in which the five men had participated.

The account of their escape from Hong Kong, their stay in Taiwan, and their arrival in the United States was provided by Samuel Chu, founder of the Hong Kong Democracy Council, a Washington-based advocacy group that organized the trip and l accommodation for men. help them apply for asylum. None of the five men wanted to be identified for fear it could endanger their loved ones in Hong Kong. One of them spoke on condition of anonymity.

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While in Taiwan, they were held at a military base and were not allowed to communicate with family and friends, although the man who agreed to be interviewed said he was treated well. They believed the United States was giving them the best chance to start their lives over, he said.

After weeks of negotiations, the men were allowed to enter the United States on humanitarian grounds, Chu said.

Their arrival in the United States could create new tensions between China and the United States, posing an early challenge for the new Biden administration, as relations between the two countries are at their lowest point in decades.

China has called pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters criminals, while the United States and other democracies have challenged China over its crackdown on the city’s freedoms. The involvement of Taiwan, an autonomous island democracy claimed by China, only adds to the sensitivity.

Spokesmen for the State Department and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services declined to comment on the case, citing confidentiality concerns. A press secretary for the American Institute in Taiwan, which serves as the de facto US embassy there, would also not comment, nor would a spokesperson for the Mainland Taiwan Council.

The five protesters, aged 18 to 26, fled Hong Kong fearing jail time soon, and at least one had already been arrested in connection with his role in the protests, Chu said.

The Trump administration’s decision in its final days to grant entry to men on humanitarian grounds contrasts with its dramatic reduction in refugee quotas over the past four years. In December, legislation in Congress that would have made it easier for residents of Hong Kong to obtain refugee status was blocked by Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas.

A few years ago, the idea of ​​political dissidents fleeing Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997, would have seemed unimaginable. Hong Kong’s more than 7 million people have one of the highest per capita incomes in the world and enjoy political freedoms unknown in mainland China.

But after Xi Jinping became China’s first ruler at the end of 2012, Beijing began to rule Hong Kong with an increasingly heavy hand. The National Security Law, imposed after massive and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests sweeping the city in 2019, prompted some activists to leave. Most left in a much less dramatic fashion, boarding a plane for Europe or North America; others, fearing to be arrested at the airport, took to sea.

In August, weeks after the five men traveled to Taiwan, 12 other Hong Kong activists were arrested by the Chinese Coast Guard as they attempted to reach the island. Most of them had been arrested in Hong Kong and were leaving to avoid trial. They were held for months in mainland China without charge; in December, 10 of the activists were sentenced to prison terms ranging from seven months to three years, including two for organizing the escape attempt and the rest for illegally crossing a border. Two other activists, both minors, were returned to Hong Kong.

Other countries have also hosted activists from Hong Kong. Canada has granted asylum to 14 people from Hong Kong since the end of December, according to a statement from the New Hong Kong Cultural Club Canada, a group of volunteers helping political refugees in the city. In October, the Hong Kong government protested Germany’s granting asylum to a protest leader who was facing riot charges.

Britain is offering a new visa to Hong Kong residents which could allow millions of them who were born before the 1997 transfer to become UK citizens.

Amy Qin and Amy Chang Chien contributed reporting.

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Shortage warning, researchers seek to stretch vaccine supply

Some states, such as Texas and Florida, have already started offering vaccines to people 65 years of age and older who do not reside in nursing homes, and those of any age with health conditions that increase their risk of die if they contract Covid-19. This has led to a desperate rush among people wanting to get vaccinated.

“People want to know: when is my turn? Does this happen? Where am I going? ”Mrs. Murray said.

Even as distribution wears off, a vaccine shortage looms in the coming months as only two products to date – one developed by Moderna and the other by Pfizer-BioNTech – have been cleared for emergency use. . The two vaccine makers have committed all their doses until mid-year. That still leaves roughly 60 million adult Americans eligible for vaccination.

Officials also have high hopes for a third single-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. The company ends its clinical trial this month and its vaccine could be cleared for emergency use in February. But even if he passes these tests, it is unclear how many more doses will be ready for distribution and when.

With the proper syringes, federal officials hope to extract an additional dose from the Pfizer vials that originally contained only five doses, further stretching Pfizer’s vaccine. But the government has yet to sign contracts to provide enough of these syringes, according to two experts familiar with the vaccine distribution system.

This made the prospect of doubling the supply of Moderna doses even more enticing. Dr Moncef Slaoui, responsible for Operation Warp Speed, told the CBS ‘Face the Nation’ program on Sunday that data from Moderna’s clinical trials showed that people aged 18 to 55 who received two doses of 50 micrograms exhibited an “identical immune response”. at the norm of two doses of 100 micrograms.

Both Dr Mascola and Dr Fauci have confirmed this research.

But Dr Slaoui went further, saying that the FDA and Moderna are already discussing this possibility. The FDA on Monday issued a statement calling the proposal “premature and not firmly anchored in the available science,” although worthy of clinical research.

The discovery cited by Dr Slaoui came from an early Phase 2 clinical trial, which involved 600 people and aimed to test only the immune response, not the vaccine’s effectiveness, according to Dr Fauci and others. He compared the immune response in people given 50 micrograms with those given 100 micrograms.

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Congress leaders meet to seek spending offers and incentives

Even if the four leaders were to come to an agreement, it would most likely run up against some roadblocks among some grassroots lawmakers, as Republicans resent spending billions of dollars in public funds and Democrats support that a deal for less than a trillion dollars would be insufficient.

Some lawmakers are also mounting a lobbying campaign to include out-of-pocket payments for all American workers in the stimulus deal. Two Senators, Josh Hawley, Republican from Missouri, and Bernie Sanders, Independent from Vermont, threatened to delay the government’s broader fundraising bill if Congress did not ensure that Americans received payments of $ 1,200 per adult and $ 500 per child as part of the stimulus.

In a letter to leaders, liberal lawmakers, led by Reps Pramila Jayapal from Washington and Ro Khanna and Katie Porter, both from California, argued that these payments “are a critical part of any Covid relief program” . They demanded at least $ 2,000 in direct payments and at least six months of unemployment benefits, including enhanced supplemental benefits that expired earlier this year.

“We have had this issue of direct payments on the table for months now, and we are prepared to look at different amounts,” Ms. Jayapal said. “There is absolutely no reason why we cannot place direct payments and dare the Senate to withdraw them.

The White House has expressed support for another round of direct payments, and Mr Mnuchin included a $ 600 stimulus check in his latest offer to Ms Pelosi. But Democrats criticized the $ 916 billion proposal for failing to reinstate additional unemployment benefits that expired over the summer.

“I’m not going to say whether it’s a red line or not,” said Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, when asked if President Trump would approve a stimulus package without direct payments . “We hope that there is an agreement there that the president can then review and support.”

Catie Edmondson has contributed reporting from Washington and Ben Casselman from New York.

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Under Biden, Justice Department lawyers seek shield from partisan battles

WASHINGTON – Since President Trump took office, the Justice Department has come under sustained attack as it questioned whether the lawyers and investigators serving the country were loyalists who supported his personal agenda or traitors who should be rooted out and fired.

But under President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., former and current ministry employees are hoping his choice for attorney general will shield the agency from partisan battles and political concerns.

More than 40 current and former ministry employees shared with the New York Times that they believe they should lead the Justice Department. They all wanted someone who would stand up for employees and protect them from undue political influence, which they say Mr. Trump’s attorneys general have been largely unable or unwilling to do.

They said restoring the department’s independence from the White House, restoring morale, and involving racial justice advocates and law enforcement officials on race and criminal justice issues were key issues. bigger issues facing the new ruler.

More than a dozen people have said they hope Mr Biden will appoint Sally Q. Yates, the former deputy attorney general in the Obama administration who was fired by President Trump for refusing to defend his executive order banning the entry into the United States A country with a Muslim majority.

Because she had so recently served as the department’s senior official, current and former employees of the department have said they believe Ms. Yates will be ready from the start to tackle the broad national security threats the department faces. country is facing. As a staunch civil rights advocate under President Barack Obama, she would be able to revitalize the racial justice work that had languished under the Trump administration, they said.

They bristled with widespread reports that Mr Biden would disqualify her because he feared the prospect of a difficult confirmation hearing. Focusing on a two-day steak before Congress, they said, would give a brief glimpse of the seriousness of the job at hand.

Two people pleaded for Doug Jones, the outgoing senator from Alabama who, as an American lawyer during the Clinton administration, sued members of the Ku Klux Klan who bombed 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963, killing four black girls. Mr Jones shares the quality that seems, more than any other, essential to securing a nomination from Mr Biden – he is a close friend of the new president.

One person said he thought District of Columbia Circuit Appeals Judge Merrick Garland, whose Supreme Court Republicans were stranded in 2016, would be ideal, citing his reputation equity.

Mr Biden’s choice of attorney general was complicated by the fact that his son, Hunter Biden, is under federal investigation for possible tax crimes, which puts some of the math above the bank. choice. Among the questions that the selection now raises is whether it is an asset or a liability for the Attorney General to be known as a close friend when that person needs to handle such a sensitive case, and whether Mr. Biden is will turn away from someone known as strict adherence to the rule of law.

The choice took on some urgency on Saturday after Mr. Trump again attacked Attorney General William P. Barr, this time for not publicly disclosing the investigation. Doing so, he argued, could have helped sway the elections in his favor, and public excoriation sparked a new wave of speculation that he would fire Mr Barr and replace him with a loyalist who the government claims. Ministry employees, could inflict untold damage on the institution.

“Why did Bill Barr not reveal the truth to the public, ahead of the election, about Hunter Biden,” Trump said on Twitter, referring to the federal inquiry. Department of Justice policies prohibit public discussion of matters that may influence the outcome of elections.

Some of those interviewed for this article said that the new attorney general should have extensive national security experience and expertise in domestic terrorism issues and the challenges of foreign adversaries like China and Iran.

While Democratic administrations often prioritize the work of the civil rights division, protests sparked over George Floyd’s death this spring have made that work an urgent priority, regardless of which party is in power, most said. of the people interviewed. To that end, they hoped for an attorney general who would enjoy the strong support of civil rights groups. But many agreed that for this to be correlative, on complex issues like policing, that person should be able to work with groups like the Fraternal Order of Police.

People were deeply divided over how the department should handle the prospect of investigating Mr. Trump or his entourage. Some have argued that Mr Biden himself has no desire to investigate and prosecute the past and that the attorney general should take a similar approach. Others, mostly prosecutors, said the department should pursue criminal cases without fear or favor.

But interviewees agreed on one thing: The merits of a case should determine whether the ministry chose to seek an indictment, and only someone considered non-partisan could credibly render and explain this. kind of tricky decision.

Almost everyone has said the new attorney general should reinstate the idea that the prosecution will be free from political pressure from the president.

“The reputation and credibility of the department has been severely damaged by the way it has been used for political ends,” said Jonathan M. Smith, former attorney in the Civil Rights Division who is now executive director of Washington Lawyers. “Commission for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

He said Mr Barr had made a significant contribution to this process by intervening in high-profile cases involving the president’s allies, such as the ministry’s withdrawal from the prosecution of the president’s first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, and the presentation of the special advocate. report Russian interference in the 2016 election as less overwhelming for the president than it really was. But he said the problem of politicization had spread throughout the agency, preventing career prosecutors from effectively investigating police misconduct.

Some current and former employees have argued that management’s decision to largely eliminate career people from decision-making has contributed to politicization. Others argued that this was not entirely unusual and was done because of the large amount of information that found its way into the hands of reporters during the Trump era. Regardless, everyone agreed that it hurt morale.

The new attorney general should seek the opinions of career leaders before speaking out on important issues, a long-time former ministry employee said. Moreover, this leader, the former employee said, should trust MPs to bring important matters to senior leaders when necessary.

An attorney general who took “a more inclusive, trust-based and less hierarchical approach to management” could help restore the culture of the ministry, said Julie Saltman, a former lawyer in the Civil Division. “I would like to see a very good manager.”

Many employees have said they want an attorney general who will support their desire for accountability in the wake of the Trump era, even if no member of the current administration is prosecuted.

In a survey of more than 600 Justice Department alumni conducted by the legal group Protect Democracy, 77% said the attorney general should work to identify all the ways the outgoing administration has eroded standards and ministry policies and put in place new procedures to restore its integrity. Only 5% said a change of administration alone would restore credibility and morale.

“For the government to rebuild the standards around the independence of the Justice Department, there has to be an account of what happened and who was involved,” said Rachel Homer, a former lawyer for the division. civil.

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Christmas tree sales are booming as pandemic-weary Americans seek solace.

Before this year, Wesley Yang had never celebrated with a real Christmas tree. Growing up, her family felt this was a disadvantage. But stuck at home this season, Mr. Yang and his roommate decided to do something different to mark the end of a tragic year, spending $ 90 on a tree and lugging it three floors to their apartment in Los Angeles.

“We’re just trying to hold the spirit, even though we’re locked in these days,” he said.

While many people are staying home for the holiday season, planning small celebrations as they seek joy during the coronavirus pandemic, Americans like Mr. Yang appear to be increasing demand for Christmas trees.

Families try to make the most of any experiences that stay safe during the holiday season, like going out to choose a tree together and decorate it, said Jennifer Greene, executive director of the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association, which represents a state that harvests over 4.1 million trees a year.

“We didn’t know the Christmas spirit was going to help people with what we heard called the ‘Covid blues’,” said Doug Hundley, a spokesperson for the National Christmas Tree Association.

National sales data is hard to come by, but across the country, Christmas tree growers associations say retailers are quickly stocking up on tree supplies and growers are reporting a sharp increase in sales. In Michigan, farmers have seen a 50% increase, said Amy Start, executive director of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association.

George Nash travels from Vermont to New York each year to sell more than 15,000 trees in locations in Upper Manhattan. “The demand is crazy right now,” he says. “We’re almost twice ahead of what we were last year at this point in terms of sales. If the trend continues, it will be the best year we have ever had.

Even artificial tree companies like Balsam Hill say they are having a banner year. Mac Harman, founder and CEO of the company, said its Christmas sale in July foreshadowed this year’s voracious holiday market.

“It hasn’t slowed down at all,” he said.

A survey of more than 2,000 adults conducted over the summer by TRUE Global Intelligence found that more than half of those polled said the pandemic had heightened their desire to spend money on experiences rather than experiences. gifts this year. Three-quarters of respondents saw real Christmas trees as an experience rather than a product.

With such demand for Christmas trees, some fear that it will be more difficult for some Americans to find trees later in the month. The industry is still reeling from the economic recession of 2008, when customers bought fewer items. Growers then felled fewer trees, leaving less space for seedlings, which would have made the market more plentiful about a decade later.

“We are having difficulty meeting additional orders from the United States,” said Shirley Brennan, executive director of the Canadian Association of Christmas Tree Growers, whose office responds to calls south of the border daily. “This request, we cannot follow.”

That doesn’t mean Americans who waited to get a tree will end up without a tree, said Marsha Gray, executive director of the Christmas Tree Promotion Board, a grower-funded tree research and promotion program.

“Some sites may close early, some sites may not have trees to sell,” she says. “But overall, there are enough trees and there are no communities that do without them.”

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Tenants seek Trump for project that raised rents

President Trump will face a series of potential legal challenges when he leaves office – from the Manhattan District Attorney, the New York Attorney General, and possibly the Justice Department, among others. United States.

Now add to that Leonie Green of the Westminster Apartments in Brooklyn.

Ms Green is among a group of rent-regulated apartment tenants formerly owned by Mr Trump’s father who have taken legal action against the president and his siblings, accusing the Trumps of a ten-year fraud to achieve artificially high rent increases through a bill filling system.

The scheme, first revealed in a 2018 New York Times investigation, involved receiving at least 20% of the cost of materials purchased for the apartments, with Mr. Trump, his siblings, and a cousin sharing the additional proceeds. . The maneuver generated millions of dollars for each brother, without any work. While the siblings were still subject to income tax, the maneuver allowed them to escape much higher gift and inheritance taxes on some of the wealth they received from their father.

But tenants have paid a price. New York’s rent-regulated apartment laws allow landlords to increase rents based on the costs of major capital improvements. The Assets based their rent increase demands on artificially increased bills, so that a boiler that actually costs $ 50,000 would generate a rent increase as if it cost $ 60,000.

The new lawsuit, filed in the Brooklyn State Supreme Court, targets the additional rent paid, plus interest and triple the damages, for current and former tenants in more than 30 apartment complexes that belonged to the father of the president, Fred C. Trump. The mostly austere red brick buildings – with names like Beach Haven, Shore Haven, and Park Briar – are spread across Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. The bill-filling system worked from 1992 until the Trumps sold their father’s buildings in 2004, but the artificially increased rents remained in place.

The lawsuit could pose a significant financial threat to Mr. Trump and his family. If the plaintiffs’ attorneys get approval for class action status, any potential judgment would include everyone who has paid rent on more than 14,000 rent-regulated apartments since 1992.

Ms Green, 54, said she moved into Westminster Flats in the Ditmas Park area 22 years ago. Paying the rent out of her salary as an executive assistant was a struggle, she said, and she fought several eviction actions after falling behind schedule. She was shocked to learn that her difficulties could have been made worse by a wealthy family “stealing from me”.

“You try so hard, and to hear something like that, it breaks my heart, because I believe they are just taking advantage of the poor,” Ms. Green said.

The lawsuit was filed just before midnight on October 2, moments before the expiration of the two-year statute of limitations for any fraud discovered in the Times’ 2018 investigation. An amended complaint was filed Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for the Trump family called the trial “completely frivolous.”

“Not only are the allegations completely unsubstantiated by evidence, but they relate to events that date back almost 30 years – but which have never been raised once by anyone at any time to be conveniently filed just a month away. ahead of the 2020 presidential election, “spokeswoman Kimberly Benza said in a statement.

Mr. Trump is already facing two investigations in New York City into his business operations and related tax matters – a criminal investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., and a civil investigation by the state attorney general, Letitia James.

At least two important civil lawsuits also remain active. Writer E. Jean Carroll claims Mr. Trump defamed her by denying he raped her. And a class action lawsuit claims that Mr. Trump’s promotion of a company that promised people to get rich by selling video conferencing phones caused them to lose money selling an obsolete product.

Mr Trump could also face charges in cases that were not fully resolved during his presidency, including whether he obstructed justice in the Russia probe or violated funding laws. campaign by ordering his lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, to make discreet payments to two women who threatened to go public with their claims about past affairs with Mr. Trump.

Jerrold S. Parker, founding partner of Parker Waichman, a national law firm based in Port Washington, NY, said his firm began considering legal recourse for tenants after the Times article. The company searched for tenants this year through television and Internet commercials. The amended complaint lists 20 complainants.

“A massive fraud spanning 28 years, of which several hundred thousand tenants in Trump-regulated apartments have fallen victim,” Parker said.

The tenants, he said, “must be reinstated with money illegally and unknowingly taken from them by the Trump family for their own benefit.”

Besides the president, the defendants in the trial are his sister Maryanne Trump Barry, a former federal judge, the estate of their brother Robert, who died this year, and the estate of John Walter, a favorite nephew and long-time employee of Fred Trump. . Mr. Walter died in 2018.

The ploy began in 1992, after the Trumps realized the family’s aging patriarch was sitting on mountains of cash that could face a 55% estate tax. Part of the solution came with setting up a company they called All County Building Supply & Maintenance, which had no offices or employees and listed its address at Mr. Walter’s home on Long Island. .

Not much has changed in the way goods were purchased for buildings. Fred Trump, who died in 1999, or one of his officers continued to negotiate prices, but for each purchase, Mr. Walter generated an invoice indicating that All County had purchased the items, and a second invoice marked 20 to 50 % showing what All County billed Fred Trump’s properties. The siblings and Mr. Walter pocketed the difference.

Former prosecutors told The Times that filing padded bills with state rent regulators could have resulted in criminal charges at the time, but the statute of limitations had long expired.

Mr. Trump’s federal tax records for some of those years, which came to light in an investigation published by The Times in September, show that he received $ 1.38 million from All County in the four years ending in 2003. Through losses on his own efforts, he paid federal taxes in just one of those years, totaling $ 39,117 in 2003.

Ms Barry filed a financial disclosure form for 1998 stating that she raised over $ 1 million that year from All County. She retired as a federal appellate judge last year, ending an investigation into the complaints, spurred by the Times investigation, that she violated rules of judicial conduct by participating in maneuvers tax fraud, including the invoice filling system.

The amended complaint filed this week notes that while Fred Trump’s empire was sold almost two decades ago, the Trumps did not disband All County until shortly after the Times article was published in 2018.

All County salesman Leon Eastmond once told The Times that he was surprised when, after selling 60 boilers to Fred Trump, he opened his mail to find a check for $ 100,000 from All County.

“I didn’t recognize the company,” Mr. Eastmond said. “I didn’t know who they were.”