Miss America contestant: Trump ‘caused a lot of division’
By WAYNE PARRY
Saturday, September 8
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A contestant in the Miss America pageant says President Trump “has caused a lot of division” in the nation.
Madeline Collins, Miss West Virginia, was asked an onstage question Friday night about what she feels is the most serious issue facing the nation.
She replied “Donald Trump is the biggest issue our country faces. Unfortunately he has caused a lot of division in our country.”
The interview responses were limited to 20 seconds and Collins did not go into additional detail. The Miss America Organization rejected a request from The Associated Press to make Collins available for an interview after Friday night’s competition had ended.
She did not win the interview contest. That honor went to Miss Massachusetts Gabriela Taveras, whose question dealt with how Americans traveling abroad should interact with people in other countries.
She said it is important to let people in other nations know that, “We as Americans are supporting them and that we are there to help them.”
The onstage interview has replaced the swimsuit competition in this year’s pageant, a change that has created controversy among those who feel the pageant needed to be modernized, and those who feel an integral part of the pageant is being sacrificed.
Friday marked the third and final night of preliminary competition in the Miss America competition.
Also on Friday night, Miss Indiana Lydia Tremaine won the talent portion for singing Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life.” She said she likes the lyrics about getting knocked down, picking yourself up and getting back in the race.
“I was told I could never be Miss America because of my size,” she said, adding she is comfortable with who she is.
Taveras said she has traveled to many countries and enjoys getting to know people of other cultures.
The next Miss America will be crowned Sunday night in the nationally televised finale from Atlantic City.
During the first two nights of competition, some of the onstage interview questions have touched on hot button issues, including NFL national anthem protests.
A question on the propriety of those protests helped propel Miss Virginia Emili McPhail to a preliminary win Thursday night.
She told judges players have the right to protest by kneeling, noting that the real issue is police brutality.
In the talent competition, Miss Louisiana Holli’ Conway won for a vocal performance, singing Fantasia’s “I Believe.”
On Wednesday , Miss Florida Taylor Tyson won the talent competition for a piano performance, and Miss Wisconsin Tianna Vanderhei won the interview competition for her comments on education.
Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC
Today’s College Students Are Paying More for Less
By Lawrence Wittner
Despite the soaring costs of attending American colleges and universities, their students are receiving an education that falls far short of the one experienced by earlier generations.
The sharp increase in costs is clear enough. Between 1978 and 2013, American college tuition rose by 1,120 percent, and became the major source of revenue for higher education. Traditionally, most public colleges and universities had no tuition or very low tuition. But, faced with severe cutbacks in government funding from conservative state legislatures, these public schools adopted a tuition system or dramatically raised tuition. Today, at the University of California/Berkeley (which, like the rest of the University of California system, was tuition-freeuntil the 1980s), the total yearly costfor tuition, room, board, books, and related items is $36,015 for an in-state student and $64,029 for an out-of-state student. At the State University of New York/Albany (which, like the rest of the SUNY system, was tuition-freeuntil 1963), the total annual costfor an in-state student is $26,490 and for out-of-state student is roughly $43,000.
The costs at private colleges are even higher. Today, Harvard College estimates the total annual expenses for its students at $67,580. At Columbia College, the estimated annual expenses for students have climbed to $74,173.
This huge spike in the cost of a college education has had a devastating effectupon educational opportunity. Unable to afford college, many young people never attend it or drop out at some point. Studies have found that the primary reason young people cite for not attending college is its enormous cost. Many other young people can afford to attend college only by working simultaneously at paying jobs (which pulls them away from their studies) or by running up enormous debt. It is estimated that three out of four recent college graduates have borrowed to cover their college costs, incurring a debt averaging nearly $40,000 each. As a result, American student loan debt now totals $1.5 trillion. Coping with this enormous debt, plus substantial interest, constitutes a very heavy burden for the 44 million Americans who bear it. All too many of them either default on it or give up on their dreams for post-college careers and, to pay it off, settle, reluctantly, for working at jobs they dislike.
Meanwhile, on campus, education is deteriorating. Those young people who can still afford to attend a college or university are increasingly being deprived of a broad liberal arts education (in which they have the opportunity to consider what life is all about and what it might be) and channeled, instead, into narrow vocational training programs. This June, the American Association of University Professors issued an appealcalling for the protection of the liberal arts in higher education. Why? Politicians like Governor Rick Scottof Florida have proposed singling out liberal arts majors―students he apparently considers particularly unworthy of public education―and charging them higher tuition at state universities. Governor Scott Walkerof Wisconsin has proposed dropping the goals of “search for truth” and “improve the human condition” from the University of Wisconsin’s mission statement and substituting: “meet the state’s workforce needs.”
Also, many students are taught in vast lecture halls and have little or no access to faculty members with whom they can discuss their coursework, interesting books or ideas, or the possibilities of attending graduate or professional school. Thanks to administrative efforts to dispose of tenured and tenure-line faculty, adjunct and other contingent faculty now constitute 76 percentof the nation’s college teachers. As these underpaid, rootless individuals are often little more than evanescent ghosts flitting by on campus, there are few opportunities to meet with them―if there is even a placeto meet with them. And student contact with human beings will be further reduced in the future, as MOOCS(massive online open courses) are substituted for courses taught in classrooms―classrooms that once gave students the opportunity for a face-to-face discussion with their teachers and other students.
The mistreatment of students is most advanced at America’s for-profit colleges and universities. These private enterprise institutions, often owned by giant banks and investment firms, underwent a surge of growth that started in the 1970s and probably reached its peak from 2007 to 2009, when they numbered nearly 1,000 and could boast about 2.4 million students. Enrolling large numbers of first generation, low-income college students, they became notoriousfor deceptive student recruitment practices, misleading claims about program credentials, high student debt and default rates, and inferior educational and employment outcomes.
The largest for-profit school, the University of Phoenix, which claimed an enrollment of 600,000 in 2010, incurred numerous government fines and payments to students who sued it for shady admissions and educational practices. By 2017, its enrollment (like that of its for-profit counterparts) had declined substantially. Nevertheless, it continues operations today, with 95 percent of its faculty teaching part-time, adjuncts receiving approximately $1,000 to $2,000 per course, and student debt totaling $35 billion―the highest in the United States.
Corporate investors in the for-profit university system can take heart at the election of Donald Trump, who himself founded a for-profit educational entity, Trump University, an operation that ultimately cost him $25 million to settle lawsuits for fraudulent practices. Betsy DeVos, his choice for U.S. Secretary of Education, scrapped two Obama-era government regulations for the industry during her first months in office. The first of the regulations she eliminated cut off U.S. government funding to programs that performed poorly, and the second made it easier for students defrauded by for-profit schools to wipe out their loan debt. DeVos also appointed a former administrator at a for-profit university―DeVry University, previously heavily-fined by the federal government for fraudulent operations―to police fraud in higher education.
Surely America can do a better job of providing educational opportunity for its people.
Dr. Lawrence Wittner, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany.
Ex-Trump campaign adviser sentenced to 14 days in prison
By CHAD DAY
Saturday, September 8
WASHINGTON (AP) — George Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign adviser who triggered the Russia investigation, was sentenced to 14 days in prison Friday after he told a judge he was “deeply embarrassed and ashamed” for lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian intermediaries.
Papadopoulos, the first campaign aide sentenced in special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation, acknowledged that his actions hindered an investigation of national importance, a move that the judge in his case said resulted in the 31-year-old putting his own self-interest above that of his country.
“I made a dreadful mistake, but I am a good man who is eager for redemption,” Papadopoulos said.
The punishment was far less than the maximum six-month sentence sought by the government but more than the probation that Papadopoulos and his lawyers had asked for.
Papadopoulos, who served as a foreign policy adviser to President Donald Trump’s campaign, has been a central figure in the Russia investigation dating back before Mueller’s May 2017 appointment. He was the first to plead guilty in Mueller’s probe and is now the first Trump campaign adviser to be sentenced. His case was also the first to detail a member of the Trump campaign having knowledge of Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election while it was ongoing.
U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss said Papadopoulos’ deception was “not a noble lie” and said he had lied because he wanted a job in the Trump administration and didn’t want to jeopardize that possibility by being tied to the Russia investigation.
“In some ways it constitutes a calculated exercise of self-interest over the national interest,” the judge said.
Moss noted that many similar cases resulted in probation but said he imposed a sentence of incarceration partly to send a message to the public that they can’t lie to the FBI.
The sentence drew a quick response from Trump on Twitter, as he scoffed at the two weeks of prison time by comparing it to an unverified cost figure for the Mueller probe.
“14 days for $28 MILLION – $2 MILLION a day, No Collusion. A great day for America!” the president tweeted.
Memos authored by House Republicans and Democrats , now declassified, show that information about Papadopoulos’ contacts with Russian intermediaries triggered the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation in July 2016 into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. That probe was later taken over by Mueller.
According to a sweeping indictment handed up this summer, Russian intelligence had stolen emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and other Democratic groups by April 2016, the same month Papadopoulos was told by a professor that Russian officials had told him they had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.”
Papadopoulos later used his connections with the Maltese professor, Joseph Mifsud, and other Russian nationals in an attempt to broker a meeting between then-candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He admitted last year to lying to the FBI about those contacts with Russians and Russian intermediaries, false statements that prosecutors say caused irreparable harm to the investigation during its early months.
Prosecutors say those false statements, made during a January 2017 interview with federal investigators, led the FBI to miss an opportunity to interview Mifsud while he was in the United States in early 2017.
In court Friday, prosecutor Andrew Goldstein said Papadopoulos’ cooperation “didn’t come close to the standard of substantial assistance.”
“It was at best begrudging efforts to cooperate and we don’t think they were substantial or significant in any regard,” he said.
He said Papadopoulos’ deception required investigators to scour more than 100,000 emails and gigabytes of data to reconstruct the timeline of his contacts with Russians and Russian intermediaries.
Even after his arrest and plea agreement last year, Goldstein said, Papadopoulos continued to be difficult, only providing information after being confronted with documents such as emails and text messages.
In response, defense lawyer Thomas Breen said his client was “remorseful” that his lies impeded the investigation.
Papadopoulos lied because he was torn between wanting to cooperate and wanting to remain loyal to a president whose administration he hoped to join, Breen said. His client was also affected by Trump’s cries of “fake news” and his casting of the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt” just days before his FBI interview.
“The president of the United States hindered this investigation more than George Papadopoulos ever could,” Breen said.
Breen described his client as a “patriot,” who wasn’t trying to help Russia. But he acknowledged that Papadopoulos was unsophisticated, naive and even a “fool” for having made contacts with Russia intermediaries during the campaign.
Breen said his client’s primary interest was brokering a meeting between Trump and Putin, a move he believed the campaign supported. In court papers, Breen wrote that during a March 2016 meeting attended by Papadopoulos, Trump nodded with approval at the idea, and then-Senator Jeff Sessions “appeared to like” it and said the campaign “should look into it.”
That clashes with what Sessions, a key campaign aide and now Trump’s attorney general, told the House Judiciary Committee last November. In that testimony, Sessions said he resisted the idea of any Russia meeting proposed by Papadopoulos.
Outside the courthouse Friday, Breen said Papadopoulos didn’t recall ever telling anyone in the campaign about the fact that Russia had dirt on Clinton in the form of emails.
Breen also rejected the idea that Papadopoulos was the victim of a witch hunt or prosecutorial misconduct.
“We have seen no such thing. We have seen no entrapment. We have seen no set up by U.S. intelligence people,” he said, noting that he also had no reason to believe that Papadopoulos was the subject of a warrant obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Asked if Papadopoulos still remained loyal to Trump, Breen smiled wryly and paused for a beat.
“We don’t talk politics,” he said.
Follow Chad Day on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChadSDay
Read Papadopoulos’ sentencing memo: http://apne.ws/CY7Ul9Q
Read prosecutors’ recommendation: http://apne.ws/YkyZTfC
If Trump were a CEO, his board would have fired him by now
September 10, 2018
Associate Professor of International Business and Strategy at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, Northeastern University
Bert Spector 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.
The Trump White House has endured a lot of bad publicity in its short lifespan, but recent disclosures may be among the worst.
On Sept. 4, an early account of Bob Woodward’s new book revealed the “nervous breakdown” unfolding within the Trump administration. Then, the next afternoon, a “senior official” went public – albeit anonymously – with an op-ed piece in The New York Times.
What we’ve learned is that many of the president’s top aides “are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations,” such as by stealing a document from his desk. A “quiet resistance” is trying to prevent Trump from taking actions “detrimental to the health of our republic.”
As a business professor, I find myself wondering how this might play out in the highest ranks of a public corporation if they were anywhere near this chaotic. In my view, its board, faced with similar behaviors, would say to its CEO: “You’re fired!”
Off the rails?
The latest insights into this apparently “off-the-rails” administration are entirely consistent with revelations offered from other less credible sources.
While they are certainly shocking and cause for intense concern, no one should be surprised given Trump’s background.
In the first month of Trump’s term, I wrote an article for The Conversation noting how Trump’s experience as the head of a private, family-owned business ill-prepared him for the demands of the presidency.
That’s because leaders of privately held companies do not face the governance constraints that impose limits on the behaviors of CEOs who run public corporations. Private company CEOs have no independent board of directors to answer to, no requirements of transparency imposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission and no requirement for outside accounting oversight.
While private, family-run businesses can be models of effective governance, we know little of real substance about the Trump Organization. His obsession with secrecy makes any true assessment impossible.
We do know Trump was accountable to no one. He surrounded himself with his children and people – including his once-loyal “fixer” Michael Cohen – who served only him.
His one attempt at leading a public corporation, operating within the governance constraints imposed by law and regulation, proved to be an unmitigated disaster – for public investors, anyway.
The board steps in
Public companies are governed differently. And boards of directors, half of whose members must be independent, take their legally established responsibilities seriously.
For example, their fiduciary responsibility requires directors to act in the best interests of the corporation. Their supervisory role involves oversight of the CEO and other officers. And their duty of care obligates close and regular attention to the functioning of the corporation.
With these duties in mind, boards have ousted CEOs – or, more commonly, forced them to resign.
Often, boards simply lose faith in the strategy the CEO is pursuing. That’s what happened at Hewlett Packard when the board fired Carly Fiorina in 2005, a few years after the disastrous acquisition of rival computer maker Compaq destroyed half of HP’s market value.
But boards have also been known to step in – and are doing so at an increasing pace – when the personal behavior of the CEO crosses a line and threatens to harm the company’s well-being.
For example, in early 2017, Uber’s financial performance under founder Travis Kalanick seemed just fine. But board members were growing alarmed by the results of an internal employee attitude survey and shocked when a smartphone video captured Kalanick shouting at his Uber driver. By March he was gone – not fired but clearly forced to step down.
And just a few months ago, the tenure of another iconic founder, Papa John’s very own John Schnatter, came to a similar end. There were no complaints about business performance. The issue was his use of racially charged language, which led the board to force him out of the chairman’s seat – only a year after he lost the CEO role for other disruptive behavior.
A key point in these examples is that even though the executive’s behavior triggered the removal, the company’s financial performance was still at the top of directors’ minds. For example, Papa John’s sales plunged when word spread of his use of a racial slur. Bad behaviors by the CEO will eventually reflect poorly on the company and hurt its performance.
The reality is that boards can lose confidence in their CEOs for many reasons. When that happens, governance rules demand that they take action in the best interests of the corporation.
And this is where the importance of independent board members – who have no ties to the CEO or another employee of the company – comes in. They regularly review the CEO’s performance and are responsible for hiring outside auditors to ensure appropriate and reliance internal control systems.
Finally, even when a a board fails in its duties, shareholder activists and large institutional investors can – and increasingly do – demand accountability.
The real surprise
What is stunning to me in light of recent disclosures is what they reveal about the apparent weakness of governance mechanisms within the federal government.
That’s not to say such mechanisms don’t exist. The Founding Fathers wrote explicit checks and balances into the U.S. Constitution. Congress was meant to act as a co-equal branch to mitigate possible overstepping and abuses by the chief executive. But there has been a complete collapse of constitutional oversight by Congress.
Presidents cannot be fired, exactly. But in extreme cases, they can be removed. The U.S. Constitution offers two mechanisms to do just that. Article 3, Section 3, Clause 1 says a president can be impeached by the House and removed by the Senate for “high crimes and misdemeanors” – however lawmakers choose to define them.
And the 25th Amendment allows the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet to declare the president “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” which would ultimately require two-thirds majorities of both houses of Congress to sustain – an extraordinarily high hurdle, for good reason.
These mechanisms, however, ultimately depend on the willingness of Congress to accept something like a corporate board’s fiduciary and care responsibilities. Even without going through the slow process of impeachment, presidents can also be pressured to resign, in the same way a board insists that a CEO “voluntarily” leave. That’s what happened to Richard Nixon in 1974 when impeachment and conviction became a virtual inevitability.
A last mechanism the U.S. has is something like the independent auditor. His name is Robert Mueller. And in my view, it’s the only institutional governance mechanism working – so long as Mueller is not summarily fired, as the president wishes.
The importance of rules
I don’t want to suggest that public corporate governance is perfect.
Too often, the interests of private investors are placed above the many other stakeholders whose communities and lives are affected by corporate decisions. Safeguards are too often evaded.
But my point is the rules are there, and they do often work.
And much is at stake. When the governance of a corporation goes off the rails, millions, perhaps even billions of dollars can be lost, jobs destroyed, retirement funds wiped out. When it concerns the governance of a country, particularly one with a nuclear arsenal, then the dangers are real and present.