Abbas apologizes to ‘Jewish people’ for offensive comments, condemning Holocaust and anti-Semitism

Palestinian president suggested historical persecution of Jews in Europe was caused by involvement in money-lending, sparking protest from everyone from EU to Yad Vashem

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Seattle council member accuses Amazon of “blackmail” over class-warfare tax proposal

Seattle’s high-tech aspirations may run afoul of their high-tax aspirations. The city council wants to impose an employment tax on the city’s biggest businesses in order to raise $75 million to solve their homeless problem. That came as news to Amazon, which had previously committed to adding a skyscraper to the city, along with 7,000 new office jobs to an already massive employment profile in the city. Amazon called a halt to those plans and told the Seattle city council exactly why:

Amazon.com Inc said it has halted planning for a new office building in Seattle and might sub-lease rather than occupy another future tower downtown, pending a city council vote on a proposed tax on top businesses.

Amazon’s decision puts a question mark on more than 7,000 new jobs at those buildings that council members might be loathe to cost the city. Construction work and other businesses that would have catered to the world’s largest online retailer could be at risk too.

“Pending the outcome of the head tax vote by City Council, Amazon has paused all construction planning on our Block 18 project in downtown Seattle and is evaluating options to sub-lease all space in our recently leased Rainer Square building,” Amazon’s Vice President Drew Herdener said in a statement.

That didn’t sit well at all with some of the council members, who apparently expected Amazon to ignore business costs in choosing expansion locations. One called it “blackmail”:

Mayor Jenny Durkan vowed to seek common ground, while council members pushing the measure gave no indication they intend to back down. Councilmember Kshama Sawant accused Amazon of attempting “blackmail.”

“I’m deeply concerned about the impact this could have on a whole range of issues,” Durkan said in an interview about Amazon’s play, declining to say whether the company gave her advance notice. “Everyone should be.”

Another lamented that Amazon didn’t want to pony up and be a team player:

“It’s obviously a little disconcerting when a major business says, ‘We’re rethinking our strategy here,’” Councilmember Mike O’Brien, a sponsor of the tax measure, said Wednesday before a meeting on the proposal at City Hall.

“If Amazon generally wants to engage about how they can be part of the solution, we welcome that conversation. But we need companies that are profitable and making billions of dollars every year to help with the folks that are being forced out of housing and ending up on the street.”

Well, just how much will it cost Amazon to be a team player? According to the local Chamber of Commerce, the extra tax will cost Amazon over $20 million per year, thanks to their head count of 45,000 employees in the city. That’s only through 2020, though, because after that the city will impose a 0.7% payroll tax on companies grossing $20 million or more annually in the city. That new rate is expected to drive Amazon’s costs even higher.

That could well prompt Amazon to rethink even its current presence in the city, let alone any additions. As the Seattle Times notes, its presence in the city occupies ten million square feet of office space, which comes to 10% of the city’s capacity. They own four buildings and are developing the two others that are being “paused” as the issue unfolds, but they lease or plan to occupy much more space in the city. It wouldn’t be difficult for Amazon to relocate a large number of existing jobs to less costly locations, either in the area or somewhere else entirely. That kind of exodus could completely wreck the city’s economy, which the city council seems determined to do anyway with their track record of very bad business mandates. Remember this?

When Seattle officials voted three years ago to incrementally boost the city’s minimum wage up to $15 an hour, they’d hoped to improve the lives of low-income workers. Yet according to a major new study that could force economists to reassess past research on the issue, the hike has had the opposite effect.

The city is gradually increasing the hourly minimum to $15 over several years. Already, though, some employers have not been able to afford the increased minimums. They’ve cut their payrolls, putting off new hiring, reducing hours or letting their workers go, the study found.

The costs to low-wage workers in Seattle outweighed the benefits by a ratio of three to one, according to the study, conducted by a group of economists at the University of Washington who were commissioned by the city. The study, published as a working paper Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research, has not yet been peer reviewed.

On the whole, the study estimates, the average low-wage worker in the city lost $125 a month because of the hike in the minimum.

It’s been easy to slam Amazon as it has pitted cities against each other to get tax breaks based on the size of their business. They’ve hardly been innocent of the kind of crony capitalism that undermines competition and unfairly penalizes start-ups. This, however, is a different kettle of fish. Amazon has invested heavily in Seattle even with its nutty politics on the basis of cost-to-benefit ratio decisions made previously to this new proposal. Seattle’s city council is about to dramatically change those calculations in a greedy bid to grab Amazon’s money — and in doing so is making it very attractive for Amazon to write off those investments. They’d be insane not to react to the changing incentives, even more insane than the city council has been in proposing them.

If Seattle wants to cut its own economic throat, then Amazon is under no obligation to offer up its own neck as well. Maybe Seattle residents should ask themselves why that $15 minimum didn’t have much impact on homelessness, and whether massive amounts of empty office space might make that situation even worse as other businesses follow Amazon out of Seattle’s jurisdiction.

The post Seattle council member accuses Amazon of “blackmail” over class-warfare tax proposal appeared first on Hot Air.

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Maryland man to receive largest settlement in state’s history for wrongful conviction

A Maryland man will soon receive millions from the city of Baltimore for his wrongful conviction for murder in 1987, WBM-TV reported.

James Owens, 57, spent more than two decades in prison for the gruesome rape and murder of a 24-year-old college student, Colleen Williar, which he didn’t commit.

The city is expected to send a $9 million check to Owens next month. It’s the largest settlement of its kind in the state’s history.

DNA evidence finally cleared Owens more than 30 years after investigators botched the case that landed him in prison for 21 years.

“The mind starts to boggle as to what it must have been like to wake up in maximum security facilities for 21 years,” attorney Joshua Treem told WBM. “Facing life, wondering if you would survive the day, let alone the week or year, for something you know you did not do.”

Owens, who hangs gutters for a living, was released from prison in 2008.

How did the case get botched?

Owens’ attorneys said investigators based their case on an unreliable source and buried key evidence.

“That was the fundamental error that set in motion the 21 years that Mr. Owens wrongly spent in jail,” attorney Andy Freeman told the news outlet.

Where will the $9 million come from?

The city is responsible for the payment. But Baltimore City Council President Jack Young wants the police union to pitch in on the payment.

“Some of that money should come out of their funds,” Young said. “I’m just tired of all these funds coming from the taxpayers of Baltimore City.”

What did Owens say?

“No amount of money can give me back the time I lost,” Owens said, according to his lawyer.

Did they find the real killer?

Police have not arrested any other suspects in the case. An innocent man paid the price for a killer who walked free.

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Starbucks showdown: Young entrepreneurs in Philly the big winner

“They said they were going to take a bad situation,” attorney Stewart Cohen says of his clients, “and they did.” The two men arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks outlet reached settlements with both the coffee-house chain and the city over their arrest, which touched off protests in the city and debate nationwide. The terms of the settlement with Starbucks remains confidential, but the two men settled for just a dollar each from the city — and a pledge of $200,000 for a fund to help young entrepreneurs.

ABC’s Robin Roberts interviewed all three this morning, and the two men at the center of the controversy do offer some hints about what they expect from Starbucks as well — a seat at the table, which is all they wanted before their arrest:

Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson will now “have a seat at the table,” they said alongside their attorney, Stewart Cohen, in an exclusive interview today on ABC News’ “Good Morning America.”

“The CEO of Starbucks is going to personally mentor these two young men going forward. After they met, he was so impressed and they were so impressed with one another that they’re going to have a continuing relationship,” Cohen told “GMA” co-anchor Robin Roberts. “So not only do they have a seat at the table and not only do we have this settlement, but we have the beginning of a relationship.” …

As part of their agreement with the city, the two men have decided not to pursue a lawsuit against Philadelphia and released the city from all claims for a payment of $1 each, the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office told ABC News. The dollar amount that Starbucks settled for was not disclosed.

Additionally, the city will fund a $200,000 grant to a nonprofit for a pilot program for public high school students who aspire to be entrepreneurs, according to the mayor’s office. Robinson and Nelson will not receive any money from that grant.

These settlements are a testament to the character of the two men. They could have turned themselves into angry activists (and with no small amount of justification), or held out for money and media gigs. It seems almost unbelievable that they would settle so quickly and, in the case of the city, for no direct benefit at all. From the conversation with Roberts, Starbucks has apparently agreed to fund their education so they can graduate from college, but it doesn’t look like either of them will get rich off of the coffee chain either. They seem intent on helping others more than themselves, and to move past this quickly to more positive work.

It’s an impressive show of grace. And perhaps one from which we all can take some lessons. And it sure beats this as a model of engagement:

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Kevin Hart Extortion: Man Charged With Threatening to Release Video

A man was charged Wednesday with trying to extort money from Kevin Hart by threatening to release video he secretly shot of the actor and comedian with a woman in Las Vegas.

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Russian Citizen Mikerin, Sentenced in US For Money Laundering, Freed From Jail

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – Russian national and former TENAM Corp. President Vadim Mikerin, sentenced in the United States for money laundering in uranium deals, has been released from prison, the Federal Bureau of Prisons press office told Sputnik.

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Missouri Is Getting in on Cryptocurrency

Missouri is among the hotspots for cryptocurrency infrastructure … And hey, did you hear about the Missouri political candidate who received the largest Bitcoin donation in U.S. history? Yep, we don’t just do dark money here; we also do decentralized …

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