April 24, 2014

Over at HuffPost Live, Ryan Grim and Alexis Goldstein conducted a fascinating 45-minute interview with Thomas Piketty, the economist whose book Capital in the Twenty-First Century is currently a bestseller on Amazon. Among their most interesting questions:

Does the economics profession need a course correction? (starts at 10:04)

Are the massive salaries of executives (who often sit on the boards for their executive friends) overvalued relative to their real worth? (17:32)

Would we have more luck globally coordinating taxes on property than we've had coordinating regulations on Wall Street? (28:28)

Watch below. --Ryan Cooper

8:19 a.m. ET

The United States' bid to host the 2026 World Cup could be lost due to President Trump's travel restrictions on seven predominately Muslim countries, indicating that the reverberations of his 2017 executive order could be felt even long after he is out of office, The New York Times reports.

"It will be part of the evaluation, and I am sure it will not help the United States to get the World Cup," said FIFA vice president Aleksander Ceferin. "If players cannot come because of political decisions, or populist decisions, then the World Cup cannot be played there. It is true for the United States, but also for all the other countries that would like to organize a World Cup."

The threat is perhaps particularly striking because the two proceeding World Cups will be held in Russia, in 2018, and Qatar, in 2022 — both hotly controversial decisions:

2026 tournament bids must be submitted by December of next year. A decision will be announced in May 2020. Jeva Lange

8:12 a.m. ET

As the rest of President Trump's White House seems to be settling into a rhythm, the communications office is overworked, under constant scrutiny from the cable-news-fanatic-in-chief, and now being hounded by Press Secretary Sean Spicer and White House lawyers trying to stop the flood of leaks that Spicer now believes is coming from his staff, White House sources tell Politico. Things came to a head last week when Spicer called an "emergency meeting," and after staffers arrived, they were told to deposit all their phones on a table to prove they had nothing to hide, Politico reports:

Spicer, who consulted with White House counsel Don McGahn before calling the meeting, was accompanied by White House lawyers in the room, according to multiple sources. There, he explicitly warned staffers that using texting apps like Confide — an encrypted and screenshot-protected messaging app that automatically deletes texts after they are sent — and Signal, another encrypted messaging system, was a violation of the Presidential Records Act, according to multiple sources in the room.... Spicer also warned the group of more problems if news of the phone checks and the meeting about leaks was leaked to the media. [Politico]

One leak Spicer was reportedly particularly incensed about was the hiring of Michael Dubke as White House communications director, an addition designed in part to release the work load on Spicer and his staff, who often work 18-hour days. And now the staffers are worried about firings. "In general," said one senior administration official, "there is a lot of insecurity." Spicer declined to comment about the leaks. You can read more at Politico. Peter Weber

7:53 a.m. ET

The Moonlight best-picture flub is not the only Oscars moment that could have given you brutal second-hand embarrassment on Sunday night. Producer Jan Chapman was pictured in the night's "in memoriam" section honoring actors and crew who passed away in the past year, but she is "alive and well and an active producer," she told Variety.

The moment was intended to honor four-time Oscar nominee Janet Patterson, a costume designer. The image alongside Patterson's name, however, was Chapman's:

"I was devastated by the use of my image in place of my great friend and long-time collaborator Janet Patterson," Chapman told Variety. "I had urged her agency to check any photograph which might be used and understand that they were told that the Academy had it covered. Janet was a great beauty and four-time Oscar nominee and it is very disappointing that the error was not picked up."

Chapman and Patterson worked together on the 1993 film The Piano. The Academy has not yet commented on their mistake. Jeva Lange

7:29 a.m. ET
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer personally connected Washington Post and Wall Street Journal reporters with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) in an attempt to discredit a Feb. 15 New York Times story alleging contact between President Trump's campaign aides with Russia, Axios reports.

While the Post has previously reported on the administration's attempts to counter the Times' reports, "the new details show how determined the West Wing was to rebut … that Trump campaign aides 'had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election,'" Axios writes. Pompeo and Burr reportedly did not have details to deny the Times' story, and intelligence officials told Axios that it is unusual for the CIA director to talk one-on-one with a single journalist; typically, the director only talks to publishers or executive editors when a story could potentially hurt national security.

"The Senate Intelligence Committee has the expertise, the cleared staff, and the bipartisan determination to follow the evidence wherever it leads in this investigation into malicious Russian activities," said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a statement. "For the public to have confidence in our findings, it is important that the Committee work in a completely bipartisan fashion and that we avoid any actions that might be perceived as compromising the integrity of our work. It is also important that the Committee ultimately issue a public report on our findings." Jeva Lange

7:02 a.m. ET

On Sunday morning, police in Philadelphia were called to Mount Carmel cemetery to look into the vandalism of three tombstones. They discovered between 75 and 100 headstones knocked over in the Jewish cemetery, which dates back to the mid-1800s. "It's criminal. This is beyond vandalism," said Detective Capt. Shawn Thrush. "It's beyond belief." The desecration in Philadelphia, believed to have taken place Saturday night or early Sunday, comes a week after vandals knocked over 154 headstones at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, and amid a rash of bomb threats being called in to Jewish community centers.

Local and state leaders denounced the destruction at Mount Carmel, as did Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon and several U.S. Jewish groups. After the St. Louis vandalism, a Philadelphia Muslim, Tarek El-Messidi, raised more than $100,000 to help repair the damage, and the national Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA organization quickly pledged to help in Philadelphia, too. "We are deeply troubled by these rising and ongoing attacks on our Jewish sisters and brothers and members from our Philadelphia chapter are in route to assist in clean up," said Nasim Rehmatullah, the group's vice president.

The Anti-Defamation League, Mizel Family Foundation, and Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 are collectively offering $13,000 for an arrest and conviction in the case. Each gravestone will cost $450 to $500 to repair, said Naomi Adler, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, which is collecting donations to return the cemetery to order. You can survey the damage in the Associated Press video below. Peter Weber

6:07 a.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

On Sunday, President Trump hailed what he called the great successes of his first four weeks in office, telling governors at a White House gala that "the borders are stricter, tighter. We're doing a really good job." The first part of that at least appears to be true. But noted French historian Henry Rousso and Australia's best-selling children's author, Mem Fox, were both erroneously detained and mistreated at two different U.S. airports in February, and their remarkably similar stories aren't encouraging.

Rousso, 62, was pulled aside by Customs and Border Protection agents after he arrived at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Feb. 22, on his way to an academic conference at Texas A&M University; he would have been deported to Paris if the university hadn't intervened. Fox, 70, was detained after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport on Feb. 6 on her way to a conference in Milwaukee. Both were held for multiple hours and questioned aggressively about their visas; each had traveled to the U.S. dozens of times, and both say they are not sure they will ever return.

The CBP agents appeared to be convinced, incorrectly, that Rousso and Fox were violating immigration work laws because they received honoraria to cover travel and hotel costs. Rousso was held for 10 hours, finally released at 1 a.m. and told the CBP agent who first pulled him aside was "inexperienced." Fox was held for just under two hours, and CBP agents realized her visa was valid for her trip after 15 minutes of intense questioning in front of about 20 other people being detained, she says. "I have never in my life been spoken to with such insolence, treated with such disdain," she told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "When I got to my hotel room, I completely collapsed and sobbed like a baby." She lodged a complaint with the U.S. Embassy in Canberra and got a "charming" email response, she tells The Washington Post. "I took it as an apology from all of America."

Fox's bestselling books, including Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes and Possum Magic, are about the importance of tolerance and acceptance, also the theme of her talk in Milwaukee. Rousso is an expert on France's history after World War I, especially its role in the Holocaust and Vichy collaboration with Nazi Germany. Jason Mills, an immigration lawyer who helped secure Rousso's release, said such treatment of a visiting scholar was unusual, but immigration officers view their jobs differently under Trump: "Now they're looking really hard for reasons to deny, instead of reasons to admit." Peter Weber

3:47 a.m. ET

Republicans have been railing against the Affordable Care Act since before it even passed, John Oliver noted on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. But now that Republicans control Congress and the White House, they can't just gripe about ObamaCare — and in fact, "all week long, Republicans have been dealing with an unexpected problem: constituents at town halls furious that ObamaCare might be taken away."

"So tonight, let's look at ObamaCare: what it does, what needs fixing, and how Republicans plan to replace it," Oliver said, and he started off by taking everyone back to "just how bad things were before it was passed." ObamaCare fixed some of the systemic problems — getting rid of coverage denial for pre-existing conditions, allowing children to stay on their parents' plans until age 26. But even so, he said, "ObamaCare is not perfect. It had and has serious flaws," and Obama's "famously misleading" and structurally impossible claim about being able to keep your doctor has dogged the law.

On the other hand, in "something of a pattern," the GOP has "happily complained about the flaws in the law" while they "often undermined the whole thing," Oliver said. "That time is now over. It is their turn to present a plan, and the clock is ticking." The GOP's replacement plan is frustratingly elusive, but we have a sense of "what Republicans want to do" from previous plans put forward by HHS Secretary Tom Price and House Speaker Paul Ryan, "and from these talking points that Ryan gave out ahead of the congressional recess."

Oliver walked viewers through the pros and cons of talking points they'll be hearing a lot about from the GOP — "refundable tax credits," "health savings accounts," Medicaid "block grants," and "state high-risk pools" — and the one crucial term Republicans won't define: "continuous coverage incentive," or their mechanism to punish people who drop insurance coverage at any time. "Republicans are in a real bind here," Oliver said. "They need a plan, and soon. And what Price and Ryan have given them so far seems to shift costs from the government to the people, and from the healthy to the sick, and fewer people are going to be covered." Oh, and since the GOP keeps on bringing up Obama's promise about keeping your doctor, he added, "let me remind you what Donald Trump has promised that you are going to do." Watch below — there is quite a bit of NSFW language, plus an unpalatable image of a man in a thong. Peter Weber

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