Cohen, a porn star and ‘Individual 1’


Staff & Wire Reports



President Donald Trump steps off Air Force One as he arrives Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Donald Trump steps off Air Force One as he arrives Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)


Inside catch and kill: Cohen, a porn star and ‘Individual 1’

By ERIC TUCKER

Associated Press

Wednesday, August 22

WASHINGTON (AP) — His name is Donald John Trump, but federal prosecutors have a simpler moniker for the 45th president: Individual 1.

Dry legalese and generic aliases could do nothing to tone down the tale of the scheme to protect Trump outlined in court documents Tuesday. The criminal campaign finance case against the president’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, revealed a complex, illegal operation to stifle sex stories and distribute hush money. The documents also lay out new details about the involvement of Trump’s real estate company.

Cohen’s plea agreement and the details it revealed now pose a direct threat to the president, perhaps one even more damaging than the separate special counsel investigation examining whether the president’s campaign coordinated with Russia to sway the 2016 election.

The colorful cast of characters depicted in documents includes a Playboy model and a porn actress who reported having sex years earlier with the married Trump; a tabloid executive who relished juicy scandals but also his own friendship with the candidate; and a lawyer eager at all costs to protect the interests of his star client. At the center of the intrigue is Trump himself, referenced obliquely but unmistakably as “Individual 1” — a man who prosecutors note, in formulaic but wry phrasing, began his bid for office “on or about June 16, 2015.”

Just two months later, as Trump stunned the political world with his rise, the chairman of a tabloid media company offered the campaign some assistance, the documents said.

The company agreed to flag for Cohen and the campaign unflattering, unpublished stories about Trump’s relationships with women “so they could be purchased and their publication avoided,” prosecutors said.

The company eventually did exactly that, allowing for Cohen throughout the campaign to arrange for stories to be bought and suppressed with the express purpose of “influencing the election.” The strategy is known in tabloid circles as “catch and kill.”

The company is not named in the court filings and neither are the women, but the description matches that of American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer, and its chairman, David Pecker, a longtime Trump friend and ally.

The timing and amount of the payments line up with those paid to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal to buy their silence in the weeks and months leading up to the election.

Although the plan was in place nearly a year earlier, the first arrangement began in June 2016, weeks after Trump had clinched the Republican nomination.

McDougal, prosecutors allege, began attempting to sell a story of a sexual relationship with Trump in 2006 and 2007.

As promised, it didn’t take long for Cohen to be notified — and to take action, promising to reimburse his tabloid friends for the purchase of her tale. That August, prosecutors allege, AMI struck a $150,000 deal with McDougal to buy her story, feature her on two magazine stories and publish more than 100 magazine articles she authored.

“Despite the cover and article features to the agreement, its principal purpose, as understood by those involved, including Michael Cohen, the defendant, was to suppress Woman-1’s story so as to prevent it from influencing the election,” prosecutors wrote.

The pattern repeated that October, this time with Daniels, who had her own story of a sexual relationship with Trump she was eager to tell.

In that case, Cohen and a lawyer for Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, negotiated a $130,000 payment to buy her silence.

According to the government, the deal nearly fell apart just weeks before the election.

Cohen was slow in finalizing the payment and was warned that Daniels was close to completing a separate deal with another outlet to make her story public. An unidentified editor texted Cohen to say it “could look awfully bad for everyone” if a deal was not struck.

The lawyer then received an encrypted telephone message from someone matching Pecker’s description and from another top editor at the publication before agreeing to make the payment and calling Daniels’ lawyer to finalize the arrangement, prosecutors said.

On Oct. 26, 2016, just weeks before the election, Cohen drew down $131,000 from a home equity line of credit he obtained by lying about his debt and cash flow. He wired funds to a lawyer for Daniels, falsely saying that it was for a “retainer,” and exactly one week before the election, received copies of a signed confidential agreement with the actress.

Prosecutors allege that Trump Organization executives ultimately reimbursed Cohen for both the $130,000 hush money payment to Daniels and another $50,000 for “tech services” that Cohen solicited on the Trump campaign’s behalf.

Prosecutors cited an email in which one unnamed Trump Organization executive told another to pay Cohen $420,000 out of “the trust,” the indictment says, disguising the money as payment owed to Cohen under a legal retainer agreement.

“In truth and in fact, there was no such retainer agreement,” prosecutors wrote.

For federal prosecutors who have spent months investigating the president’s lawyer, the timing of the payments was no accident.

They don’t say specifically that Trump directed Cohen to make the payments, an allegation Cohen made in court, but the documents do note Cohen “coordinated with one or more members of the campaign.”

The money, the government says, was intended “to influence the 2016 presidential election.”

The intent is essential to the case. Corporations are not permitted to contribute to campaigns and money intended to influence an election must be reported as a contribution. The money to Daniels and McDougal was not.

All told, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight crimes, including a campaign finance violation, tax evasion and making false statements to a bank. He could get about four to five years in prison at sentencing Dec. 12.

As for Trump, his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said there “is no allegation of any wrongdoing against the president in the government’s charges against Mr. Cohen.”

It’s true the Justice Department did not go as far as Cohen did in pointing the finger at Trump, but legal experts say the allegations bring the president closer into his associates’ criminal conduct, especially if it can be established that he conspired with Cohen to knowingly violate campaign finance law.

“The president has certain protections while a sitting president, but if it were true, and he was aware and tried to influence an election, that could be a federal felony offense,” said former Justice Department prosecutor Daniel Petalas. “This strikes close to home.”

____

Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire and Jeff Horwitz contributed to this report.

The Conversation

Coffee farmers struggle to adapt to Colombia’s changing climate

August 22, 2018

Jessica Eise

Ross Fellow in the Brian Lamb School of Communication Doctoral Program, Purdue University

Natalie White

Assistant Professor of Communication, Purdue University

Disclosure statement

The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

In Colombia’s coffee-producing region of Risaralda, small trees run along the sharp incline of the Andes Mountains, carefully tended in tidy rows. Thousands of green coffee berries turn brilliant red as they ripen, ready to be harvested by hand. The steep hills here prevent mechanized techniques.

Its unique geography makes Colombia one of the world’s greatest coffee-producing nations, selling US$2.64 billion of mild, high-altitude Arabica beans to countries around the world each year. Only Brazil and Vietnam export more coffee.

Despite their global reach, coffee farms in Colombia are generally family-owned and modest in size – perhaps 5 to 12 acres.

These fertile mountains already face weather-related risks, such as mudslides and erosion. Now, the country’s coffee region is increasingly vulnerable to climate change-induced disasters like flooding, drought and invasive pests.

For the country’s 300,000 coffee producers, these extreme weather threats – coupled with the increasingly unpredictable seasons, crop disease and invasive insects associated with climate change – endanger their livelihoods.

Farmers see the changes around them

Our research team went to Colombia in early 2018 to talk with the coffee farmers of Risaralda about how they are adapting to climate change.

We asked 45 farmers questions that tapped into the farmers’ own conceptualization of climate change, such as “What is climate change?” and “How, if at all, has climate change affected you as a farmer?”

The results were stark.

Over 90 percent of the coffee farmers reported changes in average temperature. Seventy-four percent said droughts had gotten longer and worse, and 61 percent reported an increase in mountainside erosion and landslides because of more rain.

The farmers also perceived impacts of these environmental changes on their crops. Ninety-one percent reported changes in the flowering and fruiting cycles of the coffee plants. Seventy-five percent had noticed an increase in pests, and 59 percent reported an increase in crop disease.

These changes have created uncertainty about previously routine farming decisions.

Because the planting and harvesting seasons are no longer regular or predictable, for example, many farmers cannot rely on traditional seasonal indicators to guide them about the right time to plant, harvest or tend to their coffee crops.

Organizing labor to pick the coffee beans has also become a struggle because the trees often do not flower at the same time due to unstable seasonal conditions. New Colombian labor laws meant to decrease child labor make finding farmhands difficult, compounding the problem.

In short, the farmers saw climate change as nothing less than an existential threat.

“Our ability to counteract the effects of climate change is minimal,” one farmer told us. “It is a threat capable of greatly incapacitating us. So we must be very attentive to the little we can do to mitigate.”

Growing coffee in today’s climate

From 2008 to 2013, Colombia’s coffee production dropped approximately 33 percent due to the El Niño and La Niña inclement weather patterns, when rains, clouds and hot spells all increased.

The country has worked to increase its production since then, and this year Colombian coffee farmers are expected to produce 13.3 million bags of coffee beans – roughly 1.8 billion pounds – up about 23 percent from 2013 levels.

But they’re still short of the national production goals of 14.7 million bags, a shortfall the Colombian National Coffee Federation has attributed to excessive rain and cloudiness.

Even before climate change endangered their crop, Colombian coffee farmers were already operating on a very slim profit margin.

Most producers sell their coffee to the Colombian National Coffee Federation, a nonprofit cooperative founded in 1927 to represent Colombia’s coffee farmers nationally and internationally. It values Colombia’s coffee exports using a price scale tied to the New York Stock Exchange.

Since that price fluctuates daily, it is difficult to calculate an individual farmer’s exact income or losses, but most small farmers in Colombia barely break even.

Under such circumstances, even one crop failure can devastate the family farm.

Farmers struggle to adapt

To adapt to Colombia’s changing climate, some farmers have begun experimenting with new farming techniques they think might help offset its impacts.

Roughly one-third of the farmers we interviewed had planted trees on their farms to shade coffee plants during hot spells and to prevent soil erosion during big storms. Others were building water tanks to collect rainwater during droughts.

Some coffee farmers had also diversified their crops, adding banana and avocados trees to their farms to reduce the risks of any one crop’s failed harvest.

Risaralda has a unique geography that is perfect for coffee production but vulnerable to climate change. Natalie White

But fully one-third of all the coffee producers we spoke with – 14 of our interviewees – are still farming as their families have for centuries.

They’re not unconcerned about the environmental changes affecting their farms. Yet time pressures and lack of resources give them little choice but to focus on short-term demands like making payroll, paying debts and keeping food on the table.

Keeping Colombia’s coffee industry alive

Climate-related production challenges are a concern not just for the farmers we interviewed but also for Colombia’s economy.

Coffee is the South American country’s most important agricultural export, representing 31 percent of all agricultural trade. The industry is worth around $1.97 billion a year and employs an estimated 800,000 people.

Other developing countries where the coffee industry is being hit hard by climate change, such as Brazil and Tanzania, have tried some successful adaptation strategies. These include introducing new varieties of coffee beans, improving soil and water management and increasing access to loans and other financial services to help farmers weather failed crops or invest in new technologies.

Research shows that teaching people to farm in a new and unpredictable environment requires a detailed understanding of how a given population is vulnerable to climate change now and in the future. That means asking farmers what they think and feel about what’s happening to design contingency plans that will actually work for them.

That was the work we began to do in Risaralda. We hope our findings can help the Colombian government work with farmers to help them adapt their farming practices for a future of more extreme, unpredictable weather.

Farming in the face of climate change involves grappling with many complicated economic, informational, labor and business problems. Colombian coffee farmers want to succeed, but they’ll need help in all of these areas just to survive.

Many native animals and birds thrive in burned forests, research shows

August 22, 201

Derek E. Lee

Associate Research Professor of Biology, Pennsylvania State University

Disclosure statement

Derek E. Lee does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Partners

Pennsylvania State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is blaming this summer’s large-scale wildfires on environmentalists, who he contends oppose “active management” in forests.

But the idea that wildfires should be suppressed by logging the forest is far too simplistic. Most scientists agree that large hot wildfires produce many benefits for North American forests. Notably, they create essential habitat for many native species.

Fifteen years of research on Spotted Owls – a species that has played an oversized role in shaping U.S. forest management policies and practices for the past several decades – directly contradicts the argument that logging is needed to protect wildlife from fires. Wildlife biologists, including me, have shown in a string of peer-reviewed studies, that wildfires have little to no effect on Spotted Owls’ occupancy, reproduction or foraging, and even provide benefits to the owls.

Nonetheless, despite this steadily accumulating evidence, the U.S. Forest Service advocates logging in old-growth forest reserves and Spotted Owl critical habitat in the name of protecting Spotted Owls from forest fires. Zinke’s recent statements are just the latest and broadest iteration of the false viewpoint that logging benefits wildlife and their forest habitats.

Protecting Spotted Owl habitat

Spotted Owls are birds of prey that range from the Pacific Northwest to central Mexico. Because they nest in large old-growth trees and are sensitive to logging, in the 1980s they became symbols of the exceptional biodiversity found in old-growth forests.

The Northern Spotted Owl in the Pacific Northwest was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1990. At that point, about 90 percent of U.S. old-growth forest had already been lost to logging. Every year in the 1980s the U.S. Forest Service sold about 7 to 12 billion board feet of public lands timber.

Listing the owl drew attention to the dramatic decline of old-growth forest ecosystems due to 50 years of unsustainable logging practices. In response the U.S. Forest Service adopted new regulations that included fewer clearcuts, less cutting of trees over 30 inches in diameter and fewer cuts that opened up too much of the forest canopy. These policies, along with vast depletion of old-growth forests, reduced logging on Forest Service lands to about 2 billion board feet per year.

During the 1990s, national forest management policy for the Northern Spotted Owl included creating old-growth reserves and designating critical habitat where logging was restricted – mostly within half a mile of a Spotted Owl nest. In spite of these protections, populations of Northern Spotted Owls, as well as California and Mexican Spotted Owls, continued to decline on forest lands outside national parks. This was most likely due to ongoing logging outside of their protected nesting areas in the owls’ much larger year-round home ranges.

Historical range (burgundy) of the Northern Spotted Owl, which also extended north into British Columbia. One hundred fifty years of logging, agriculture and urbanization have reduced the amount of old growth forest (potential Spotted Owl habitat) in this zone by 85-90 percent. NASA Earth Observatory

Fire and owls

Over the years the Forest Service shifted away from treating Spotted Owls as symbols of old-growth forest biodiversity, and instead started to cite them as an excuse for more logging. The idea that forest fires were a threat to Spotted Owls was first proposed in 1992 by agency biologists and contract researchers. In a status assessment of the California Spotted Owl, these scientists speculated that fires might be as damaging as clearcuts to the owls.

This perspective gained popularity within the Forest Service over the next 10 years and led to increased logging on public lands that degraded old-growth habitat for Spotted Owls.

Academic scientists, including some with Forest Service funding, published peer-reviewed studies of Spotted Owls and fire in 2002, 2009, 2011 and 2012. All four studies showed either no effects from fire or positive benefits from fire for Spotted Owls. Subsequent research on Spotted Owls in fire-affected forests has showed repeatedly that the owls can persist and thrive in burned landscapes.

The U.S. Forest Service says wildfires harm wildlife habitat, but wildfires actually create rare and important habitat.

Many wild species thrive in burned landscapes

I recently conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis that summarized all available scientific research on the effects of wildfires on Spotted Owl ecology. It found that Spotted Owls are usually not significantly affected by mixed-severity forest fire. Mixed-severity forest fire, which includes large patches with 100 percent tree mortality, is how wildfires in western forests naturally burn. The preponderance of evidence indicated that mixed-severity wildfire has more benefits than costs for Spotted Owls.

In 2017 I submitted an early version of this analysis with the same conclusions to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during the agency’s peer-review process for its Conservation Objectives Report for the California Spotted Owl. My conclusions were not included in the final report.

Decades of science have shown that forest fires – including large hot fires – are an essential part of western U.S. forest ecosystems and create highly biodiverse wildlife habitat. Many native animals thrive in the years and decades after large intense fires, including deer, bats, woodpeckers and songbirds as well as Spotted Owls. Additionally, many native species are only found in the snag forest habitat of dead and dying trees created by high-severity wildfire.

Pileated woodpeckers excavate nests within snags, bringing life to charred forests in Oregon. NASA/S. Russell, CC BY-ND

Wildfires threaten homes, but wildlife and water supplies benefit

Studies have shown that that wildfires are strongly influenced by a warming climate, and that logging to reduce fuels doesn’t stop the biggest, hottest fires. In my view, federal and state agencies that manage wildfires should devote significant resources towards making structures ignition-resistant and creating defensible space around homes to protect communities, rather than promoting ecologically damaging logging.

It is also time to reform Forest Service management goals to emphasize carbon capture, biodiversity, outdoor recreation and water supply as the most important ecosystem services provided by national forest lands. These services are enhanced by wildfires, not by logging.

President Donald Trump steps off Air Force One as he arrives Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2018/08/web1_121202468-4c63097641f8486cafb7bcf544dcfb2b.jpgPresident Donald Trump steps off Air Force One as he arrives Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Staff & Wire Reports