July 9, 2019

There are lots of gross and prurient aspects to the lurid case unfolding around Jeffrey Epstein, a mysterious, well-connected, and evidently very wealthy self-professed financier, convicted sex offender, and alleged sexual abuser and trafficker of young girls, but there are also lots of basic questions. For one: Where did Epstein get all his money?

Until Epstein flew former President Bill Clinton to Africa with Kevin Spacey and Chris Tucker in 2002, few people paid him any heed. Then a 2002 profile of Epstein in New York laid out his origin story: Born and raised in Coney Island, Brooklyn; attended but did not graduate from Cooper Union and NYU; was recruited to Bear Stearns while teaching high school calculus and physics at the tony Dalton School; worked his way up to partner; left Bear Stearns under mysterious circumstances in 1981; founded his own wealth management company in which he would take on only billionaire clients who agreed to hand him total control of their money; yada yada yada multiple mansions, a fleet of private jets, his own island, and powerful friends.

In 2003, a Vanity Fair profile by Vicky Ward tore a few holes in that story, and in 2015, Ward wrote in The Daily Beast that in her extensive reporting on Epstein "no one I spoke to believed" that "the hidden source of his wealth" was "managing the money of billionaires and taking a commission." Some of Epstein's friends "speculated that retailer Les Wexner was the real source of Epstein's wealth," Ward wrote, but while the billionaire founder of Victoria's Secret is Epstein's only known client — or former client — Wexner wouldn't comment on the idea.

A decade ago, Epstein's lawyers said his wealth was in the nine-figure range, but "today, so little is known about Epstein's current business or clients that the only things that can be valued with any certainty are his properties," including the $77 million Manhattan mansion federal agents raided over the weekend and his properties in New Mexico, Paris, Palm Beach, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where his "black box" of a company is now incorporated, Bloomberg News reports. There's even mystery about the Manhattan mansion: The only New York property record on the 1990s transfer of the mansion from Wexner to Epstein was filed in 2011, with a transfer price of $0, Bloomberg says. "Epstein signed for both sides of the transaction." Peter Weber

2:10 a.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) won Saturday's Nevada caucuses decisively, after winning the New Hampshire primary and essentially tying former Mayor Pete Buttigieg for first in Iowa. So Sanders is the Democratic frontrunner, and he also leads nationally in a new CBS News/YouGov poll released Sunday, drawing the support of 28 percent of Democratic primary voters. But Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) jumped to second place in the poll, at 19 percent followed by former Vice President Joe Biden (17 percent), former Mayor Mike Bloomberg (13 percent), and Buttigieg (10 percent).

Warren came in fourth place in the Nevada caucuses, but a large majority of Nevada Democrats cast their early ballots before Wednesday night's Democratic presidential debate, and half the respondents in the CBS poll — taken Feb. 20-22, between the debate and the caucuses — were most impressed with Warren's performance. Warren's campaign also reported raising $14 million between the New Hampshire primary and Saturday.

CBS News has Biden leading in the next primary, South Carolina, but the big test will be Super Tuesday, March 3. And only 42 percent of Democratic primary voters have definitely made up their minds about who they will vote for, the poll found. At the same time, 69 percent of Warren's supporters are enthusiast about her candidacy followed by Sanders (65 percent), Biden (53 percent), and Buttigieg (52 percent). Democratic voters pick Sanders (57 percent) and Warren (53 percent) as the candidates who will fight the most for people like them.

A majority of all surveyed voters told CBS News/YouGov that President Trump will definitely (31 percent) or probably (34 percent) win re-election, even though in hypothetical head-to-head matchups, Sanders, Biden, and Warren all narrowly beat Trump.

YouGov conducted the poll Feb. 20-22 among 10,000 registered voters, including 6,598 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents likely to vote in the primary. The margin of error for the entire poll is ±1.2 percentage points and for the Democrats, ±1.7 points. Peter Weber

1:58 a.m.

On former President Jimmy Carter's farmland, where nut and soybean crops once stretched as far as the eye could see, there are now 3,852 solar panels providing clean energy for much of Plains, Georgia.

Carter has long championed clean energy — he was the first president to use solar panels at the White House, explaining in 1979: "A generation from now, this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people."

In 2017, the SolAmerica company worked with Carter to install solar panels on 10 acres of his farm, with the goal of powering most of Plains. Plains is home to 727 residents, and today, those solar panels provide more than half the town's power. One megawatt produces enough energy to keep the lights on in 400 to 900 homes, and the Carter farm's solar panels can provide 1.3 megawatts a day under the right conditions, People reports. SolAmerica Energy President George Mori told the magazine that by 2042, the panels are expected to have provided more than 55 million kilowatt hours of power.

The solar panels at the White House were dismantled by former President Ronald Reagan, and are on display at museums around the world, including the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., and the Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta. Catherine Garcia

1:04 a.m.

The FBI is investigating threats made against 18 Jewish Community Centers in New York on Sunday.

Jewish Community Centers offers social, educational, and athletic programs for adults and kids. The anonymous threats were not specific, but did mention bombs. New York State Director of Emergency Management Michael Kopy would not reveal which centers were targeted, but did say the threats were sent to people with Jewish Community Center email addresses. Similar threats were also sent to Jewish Community Centers in other parts of the country, The Associated Press reports.

On Sunday morning, about 100 people were evacuated from the Albany Jewish Community Center, which was searched by police officers and dogs. "These types of situations are so ugly and so unfortunate," Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said. "What's worse is we're seeing more and more of them. We've had about 42 incidents of anti-Semitism in this state this past couple of months, so it's not getting better. It's only getting worse." Catherine Garcia

12:29 a.m.

President Trump arrives in India on Monday for a highly choreographed visit that includes stops in three cities, a rally for him in the world's largest cricket stadium organized by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a special visit to the Taj Mahal, trade talks, and several meals, including a lavish banquet at India's presidential palace. "The president, whose diet is often a rotation of steaks, burgers, and meatloaf, faces a potential shock" as his itinerary keeps him in majority-Hindu cities where "cows are revered as sacred" and "in some neighborhoods, meat eating is so taboo that it's not done in public," CNN reports.

Typically, when Trump travels abroad, "his hosts usually try make him feel at home with his favorite meal: steak with miniature bottles of ketchup on the side," CNN reports, "but Modi is a devoted vegetarian and plans to serve vegetarian food to the president." The menus won't be finalized until the last moment, and Trump's aides could try to intervene, as this president is not a willing traveler and aides place a premium on keeping him in his comfort zone, people familiar with the trip tell CNN. Vegetarian food, or anything spicy or mildly exotic, doesn't fit in that category.

One person who has dined with Trump on several occasions told CNN that other than the occasional salad, "I have never seen him eat a vegetable." A former official involved in some of Trump's earlier trips added: "I don't know what he's going to do in this case. They don't serve cheeseburgers." In India, even McDonald's doesn't serve beef.

Luckily, CNN repots, Trump will have food waiting for him on Air Force One, and Modi has gone out of his way to please Trump in other aspects of the visit. In Ahmedabad, the Modi government is building a 6-foot wall to hide a slum along a road Trump may travel — the government insists the timing is coincidental. Peter Weber

12:03 a.m.

Since 2018, people close to President Trump, including "a well-connected network of conservative activists," have been putting together lists of government officials deemed "disloyal" as well as pro-Trump people who should replace them, more than a dozen people with knowledge of the matter told Axios' Jonathan Swan.

Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, leads Groundswell, the conservative network at the center of the lists. Thomas has passed along memos to Trump listing people who need to be replaced and suggestions as to who should fill their posts. Some recommendations have shaped Trump's opinion, Swan reports, and others have caused internal strife between Trump's outside advisers and White House officials in charge of personnel.

Trump has become convinced that every department in the government is filled with "snakes" who need to be fired, Swan writes. One person who became a victim of these memos is former U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu, a person familiar with the matter told Swan. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had chosen Liu to become the department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, but after reading a lengthy memo listing allegations against her, Trump withdrew the nomination.

That memo was written by a member of Groundswell, a GOP Senate staffer named Barbara Ledeen, Swan reports. The memo claimed that there were more than a dozen reasons why Liu was unfit for the job, including because she dismissed charges against "violent inauguration protesters who plotted to disrupt the inauguration," belongs to a networking group that is "pro-choice," and signed the sentencing filing asking that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn serve jail time. Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, and Ledeen are friends.

You can read more about the lists and the suggested replacements, which include Fox News regulars and a controversial ex-sheriff, at Axios. Catherine Garcia

February 23, 2020

Barbara "B." Smith, a trailblazing model, television host, and restaurateur, died on Saturday evening at her home on Long Island. She was 70.

Smith spent years battling early-onset Alzheimer's disease. In a Facebook post, her husband, Dan Gasby, said "Heaven is shining even brighter now that it is graced with B.'s dazzling and unforgettable smile."

The Pennsylvania native started as a fashion model, and in 1976, she was just the second black woman to appear on the cover of Mademoiselle magazine. Smith was a spokeswoman for Verizon, Colgate, McCormick's Lawry seasonings, and Palmolive Oxy, and owned three restaurants. Her B. Smith's Restaurant in Manhattan opened in 1986, with Essence writing it was "where the who's who of black Manhattan meet, greet, and eat regularly."

Smith was also a cookbook author and host of B. Smith with Style, which aired on NBC stations. She launched a home products brand that debuted at Bed Bath & Beyond in 2001, making her the first black woman to have such a line sold at a nationwide retailer, The Associated Press reports. Smith is survived by Gasby and her stepdaughter, Dana Gasby. Catherine Garcia

February 23, 2020

A man was killed on Saturday night after being hit by a Mardi Gras float in New Orleans.

Police said the victim appeared to fall between two sections of a large tandem float at the Krewe of Endymion. Just days earlier, a 58-year-old woman was run over by a parade float at the Krewe of Nyx. Following the man's death, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced tandem floats, which are several floats connected together and pulled by a tractor, are now banned.

"To be confronted with such tragedy a second time at the height of our Carnival celebrations seems an unimaginable burden to bear," Cantrell said in a statement. "The city and the people of New Orleans will come together, we will grieve together, and we will persevere together." Cantrell also said the city will "be looking at further changes that need to be made to make our routes and our celebrations more safe — but the work starts right now."

Two additional people were injured on Sunday when they fell from a float in the Krewe of Thoth parade. Police said they were both transferred to a trauma center, and are in stable condition. Catherine Garcia

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