Posts tagged with "The New York Times"

Records from Trump White House still missing, National Archives says

October 4, 2022

The National Archives informed Congress’s House Oversight Committee on Friday, September 30, that members of the Trump White House still had not turned over all presidential records—and signaled there could be legal consequences for those who do not comply, reports The New York Times.

In a letter, Debra Steidel Wall, the acting U.S. archivist, said the archives was working to retrieve electronic messages from certain unnamed White House officials who had used personal email and messaging accounts to conduct official business.

Wall wrote that the Archives would consult the Justice Department about whether to “initiate an action for the recovery of records unlawfully removed.”

“While there is no easy way to establish absolute accountability, we do know that we do not have custody of everything we should,” Wall wrote to Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the Oversight Committee.

Wall cited an August filing by the Justice Department to recover official email records from the personal account of Peter Navarro, a former Trump adviser. Navarro is facing charges of contempt of Congress after he refused to comply with a subpoena from the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

In her letter, Wall declined to say whether former President Donald Trump had surrendered all presidential records in his possession.

“With respect to the second issue concerning whether former President Trump has surrendered all presidential records, we respectfully refer you to the Department of Justice in light of its ongoing investigation,” she wrote.

“The National Archives has confirmed to the Oversight Committee that they still have not received all presidential records from the Trump White House,” Maloney said in a statement. “Presidential records are the property of the American people, and it is outrageous that these records remain unaccounted for 20 months after former President Trump left office.”

Maloney had requested a formal assessment from the Archives of what presidential records remained unaccounted for and whether the archives believed any were potentially still in Trump’s possession.

Maloney also requested that the Archives “seek a personal certification from Donald Trump that he has surrendered all presidential records that he illegally removed from the White House after leaving office.”

The federal government tried and failed for more than a year and a half to retrieve classified and sensitive documents from Trump before resorting on August 8 to a search of his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, according to government documents and statements by his lawyers.

Two months before the search, Trump’s lawyer certified that all documents bearing classified markings had been returned and that no “copy, written notation or reproduction of any kind was retained.”

Yet the FBI search revealed that the former president still had more than 11,000 government records—including more than 100 with classified markings and documents with the highest classification markings, some related to human intelligence sources. There were additional classified documents in Trump’s office desk drawer.

The search also turned up 48 folders with classified markings that were empty. Although it was unclear why they were empty, the committee said, the apparent separation of classified material and presidential records from their designated folders raised questions about how the materials were stored and whether sensitive material might have been lost or obtained by third parties.

Research contact: @nytimes

Patagonia founder donates his $3B company to fight climate change: ‘Earth is now our only shareholder’

September 16, 2022

The founder of outdoor apparel maker Patagonia is donating his company to a greater cause: fighting climate change, reports CNBC.

 Yvon Chouinard—the rock climber-turned-billionaire—and his family have transferred their ownership of Patagonia to the newly created Patagonia Purpose Trust and nonprofit Holdfast Collective. The two entities will ensure that all of Patagonia’s profits go toward combating the climate crisis and protecting undeveloped land across the world, the company announced on Wednesday, September 14.

 Patagonia expects to generate and donate roughly $100 million in profits annually, depending on the health of the business, the company said. The company, which Chouinard founded in 1973, is worth $3 billion, according to The New York Times.

 Chouinard, himself, had a $1.2 billion net worth, as of Thursday morning, September 15. “Earth is now our only shareholder,” he wrote in a letter released on the company’s website late Wednesday, adding: “While we’re doing our best to address the environmental crisis, it’s not enough. We needed to find a way to put more money into fighting the crisis while keeping the company’s values intact.”

 In the Wednesday announcement, the founder elaborated, “The Patagonia Purpose Trust … exists to create a more permanent legal structure to enshrine Patagonia’s purpose and values … It will help ensure that there is never deviation from the intent of the founder and to facilitate what the company continues to do best: demonstrate as a for-profit business that capitalism can work for the planet.”

 The company’s mission can be traced to Chouinard’s humble beginnings. In the 1960s, he was a pioneering rock climber in California who lived out of his car and ate damaged cans of cat food he purchased for 5 cents apiece, the Times reports. He also was a craftsman, who made climbing gear and apparel for himself and his friends.

 “I never wanted to be a businessman,” Chouinard wrote in his letter, adding that he only realized the “extent of global warming and ecological destruction, and our own contribution to it” once he entered the apparel industry.

 Today, Patagonia is a B corporation, a designation conferred on private companies that meet the highest environmental, social, and governance standards set by global nonprofit B Lab. As part of those efforts, Patagonia sources eco-friendly clothing materials and annually donates 1% of its total sales to grassroots activists.

 The company plans to continue those efforts, according to Chouinard’s letter. As of this year, about 88% of its products are made from recycled or renewable materials—like recycled polyester and organically grown cotton—the company says.

 Patagonia’s public goal is to use 100% of those materials in their products by 2025. The company says it already uses 100% renewable energy in its stores, offices, and distribution centers.

 “Despite its immensity, the Earth’s resources are not infinite, and it’s clear we’ve exceeded its limits,” Chouinard wrote on Wednesday. “But it’s also resilient. We can save our planet if we commit to it.”

 Research contact: @CNBC

CVS makes $8 billion bet on the return of the house call

September 7, 2022

On Monday, September 5, the drugstore giant, CVS Health, announced that it would acquire Signify Health—which operates a network of doctors who make house calls—for roughly $8 billion in a deal that cements the pharmacy chain’s move away from its retail roots, reports The New York Times.

The deal, if approved by shareholders and regulators, would give CVS, which has nearly 10,000 stores nationwide, a new avenue to reach its customers: at home.

Pharmacies like CVS have been searching for new ways to strengthen ties with their large customer base, particularly as consumers increasingly head online for the everyday items that used to draw them into stores. In Signify, CVS is acquiring a company that offers analytics and technology to help a network of 10,000 doctors provide in-home healthcare to 2.5 million patients across the United States. Signify has a focus on those on Medicare and in underserved communities.

“Their interest is to take over the home,” said Dr. Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research in San Diego, who noted that any care provided to patients at home, rather than in the hospital, lightens the financial load on insurance companies, including Aetna, the insurance business that CVS owns. Signify contracts with insurance providers, including Aetna.

“If you’re looking at it from Aetna’s standpoint, this is a way to save big, big expenditures for their people they cover,” Dr. Topol said.

CVS has been whittling down its store base as it has pushed further into healthcare. The retailer said last year that it would close roughly 900 stores over three years. Its executives told analysts last month that the chain was looking at deals as a way to tack on new health services and ways to deliver those services‚ including in the home.

Karen S. Lynch, the chief executive of CVS, reiterated that strategy in a statement on Monday. “Signify Health will play a critical role in advancing our health care services strategy and gives us a platform to accelerate our growth in value-based care,” she said.

CVS has roughly 40,000 physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and nurse practitioners, as well as 1,100 MinuteClinic locations, which offer care ranging from vaccinations to physicals.

The pharmacy giant will pay Signify $30.50 per share in cash. Signify’s shares jumped almost 7% in after-hours trading; CVS’s stock rose less than 1%. The two companies said they expected the deal to close in the second half of 2023, pending regulatory and shareholder approval.

Research contact: @nytimes

An Apple Watch for a five-year-old child? Many parents say yes!

September 2, 2022

lorian Fangohr waffled for about a year over whether to buy an Apple Watch SE as a gift. The smart watch cost $279, and he worried that its recipient would immediately break it or lose it. In May, he decided the benefits outweighed the costs and bought the gadget.

The beneficiary: his eight-year-old son, Felix, reports The New York Times.

Fangohr, a 47-year-old product designer in Seattle, said he was aware that many people were pessimistic about technology’s creep into children’s lives. But “within the framework of the watch, I don’t feel scared,” he said. “I want him to explore.”

Felix, a rising third grader, said he actually wanted a smartphone. “But the watch is still really, really nice,” he said.

Across the United States, parents are increasingly buying Apple Watches and strapping them onto the wrists of children as young as five. The goal: to use the devices as a stopgap cellphone for the kids. With the watch’s cellular abilities, parents can use it to reach and track their children, while the miniature screens mitigate issues like internet addiction.

Children and teenagers appear to have become a disproportionately large market for smart watches. In a 2020 survey of American teenagers by the investment bank Piper Sandler, 31% said they owned a smart watch. That same year, 21% of adults in the United States said they owned one, according to the Pew Research Center.

The use of smart watches as a children’s gadget shows how the audience for a consumer technology product can morph in unexpected ways. It has also given new life to the Apple Watch, which was unveiled in 2015 and has been variously positioned as a fitness tracker, a style statement, or a way to free yourself from an iPhone.

Apple has deliberately turned the watch into a device that can be attractive for children and their parents. In 2020, the company released the Apple Watch SE, which had fewer features than a premium model and was priced $120 cheaper.

Apple also introduced Family Setup, software that enables parents to track their children’s locations, manage their contacts list, and limit their notifications.

The Silicon Valley company’s moves to make the Apple Watch a child-friendly cellphone took about three years, said two people involved with the project, who were not authorized to speak publicly. A chief concern was battery life, since the watch used more power when it functioned independently from an iPhone, they said.

Apple plans to compete more aggressively soon for young smart watch customers. The company’s COO, Jeff Williams, said, “For family members who do not have an iPhone, Apple Watch offers a remarkable set of features that can help them keep in touch with loved ones, [and help them to]be more active and stay safe.” The company declined to comment on the new watches at its coming event.

Apple does not break out sales of the Apple Watch. To date, there are at least 120 million Apple Watch users—most of them in the United States—according to estimates by Counterpoint Research.

In China and South Korea, Huawei, Xiaomi, and Samsung also have rapidly increased wearable sales among young people.

Any technology used by children raises questions of risks. Social media platforms, in particular, have faced scrutiny in recent years—with lawmakers holding Congressional hearings on the issue in 2021 and homing in on whether sites like Instagram have led to poor self-esteem among teenagers.

But smart watches are inherently limited in their abilities, said Jim Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that reviews media and technology for families. Since smart watches have minimal apps and no web browser or camera, children are less likely to be exposed to distracting games, sexting and other adult content, he said. Not owning a smartphone also encourages children to continue learning how to do things independently, like completing homework assignments without looking up answers online, he said.

“You want to be able to contact them, but you don’t want them spending all day on a screen,” Steyer said.

Jean M. Twenge, who writes books on how tech contributes to generational differences, added that the longer that parents could hold off on providing children with a smartphone—and increased accessibility to social media and other internet wormholes—the better.

Receiving a smartphone later means children “will be older, more mature, and more able to handle the challenges and potential dangers of having their own smartphone,” she commented.

Research contact: @nytimes

Trump’s legal team scrambles to find an argument

August 30, 2022

On May 25, one of former President Donald Trump’s lawyers sent a letter to a top Justice Department official, laying out the argument that his client had done nothing illegal by holding onto a trove of government materials when he left the White House, reports The New York Times.

The letter, from M. Evan Corcoran, a former federal prosecutor, represented Trump’s initial defense against the investigation into the presence of highly classified documents in unsecured locations at his members-only club and residence, Mar-a-Lago.

According to the Times, “It amounted to a three-page hodgepodge of contested legal theories, including … Corcoran’s assertion that Trump possessed a nearly boundless right as president to declassify materials and an argument that one law governing the handling of classified documents does not apply to a president.”

Corcoran asked the Justice Department to present the letter as “exculpatory” information to the grand jury investigating the case.

Government lawyers found it deeply puzzling. They included it in the affidavit submitted to a federal magistrate in Florida in their request for the search warrant they later used to recover even more classified materials at Mar-a-Lago—to demonstrate their willingness to acknowledge Corcoran’s arguments, a person with knowledge of the decision said.

As the partial release of the search warrant affidavit on May 26—including the May 25 letter—illustrated, Trump is going into the battle over the documents with a hastily assembled team. The lawyers have offered up a variety of arguments on his behalf that have yet to do much to fend off a Justice Department that has adopted a determined, focused, and, so far, largely successful legal approach.

“He needs a quarterback who’s a real lawyer,” said David I. Schoen, a lawyer who defended Trump in his second Senate impeachment trial.  Schoen called it “an honor” to represent Trump, but said it was problematic to keep lawyers “rotating in and out.”

Often tinged with Trump’s own bombast and sometimes conflating his powers as president with his role as a private citizen, the legal arguments put forth by his team sometimes strike lawyers not involved in the case as more about setting a political narrative than about dealing with the possibility of a federal prosecution.

“There seems to be a huge disconnect between what’s actually happening—a real live court case surrounding a real live investigation—and what they’re actually doing, which is treating it like they’ve treated everything else, recklessly and thoughtlessly,” Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney and FBI official, told the Times regarding Trump’s approach. “And for an average defendant on an average case, that would be a disaster.”

Trump’s team has had a few small procedural wins. On Saturday, a federal judge in Florida signaled that she was inclined to support Trump’s request for a special master to review the material seized by the government in the search of Mar-a-Lago on August 8.

It is not clear how much the appointment of a special master would slow or complicate the government’s review of the material. Trump’s team has suggested that it would be a first step toward challenging the validity of the search warrant; but it also gives the Justice Department, which is expected to respond this week, an opportunity to air new details in public through their legal filings.

Some of the Trump lawyers’ efforts have also appeared ineffective or misdirected. Corcoran, in his May 25 letter, made much of Trump’s powers to declassify material as president, and cited a specific law on the handling of classified material that he said did not apply to a president. The search warrant, however, said federal agents would be seeking evidence of three potential crimes, none of which relied on the classification status of the documents found at Mar-a-Lago; the law on the handling of classified material cited by Corcoran in the letter was not among them.

According to the Times, two lawyers who are working with Trump on the documents case—Corcoran and Jim Trusty—have prosecutorial experience with the federal government. But the team was put together quickly.

Trusty was hired after Trump saw him on television, people close to the former president have said. Corcoran came in during the spring, introduced by another Trump adviser during a conference call in which Corcoran made clear he was willing to take on a case that many of Trump’s other advisers were seeking to avoid, people briefed on the discussion said.

Trump’s allies have reached out to several other lawyers, but have repeatedly been turned down.

Corcoran, in particular, has raised eyebrows within the Justice Department for his statements to federal officials during the documents investigation. People briefed on the investigation say officials are uncertain whether Corcoran was intentionally evasive, or simply unaware of all the material still kept at Mar-a-Lago and found during the August 8 search by the FBI.

Corcoran did not respond to a request for comment. Taylor Budowich, a spokesman for Trump, said only that Trump and his legal team “continue to assert his rights and expose the Biden administration’s misuse of the Presidential Records Act, which governs all pertinent facts, has been complied with and has no enforcement mechanism.”

Even before Corcoran joined the team, Trump’s legal filings in various cases read like campaign rally speeches that he had dictated to his lawyers. The former president has a history of approaching legal proceedings as if they are political conflicts, in which his best defense is the 74 million people who voted for him in the 2020 election.

Trump’s advisers continue to insist that he was cooperating before the search in returning the documents. They also have suggested that they were quick to respond to Justice Department concerns, citing what they described as a request in June that a stronger lock be placed on the door leading to the storage area where several boxes of presidential records had been kept.

Yet the unsealed affidavit showed a portion of a letter from a Justice Department lawyer sent to Trump’s lawyers that did not specify anything about a lock and read less like a request than a warning.

The classified documents taken from the White House “have not been handled in an appropriate manner or stored in an appropriate location,” the letter read. “Accordingly, we ask that the room at Mar-a-Lago where the documents had been stored be secured and that all of the boxes that were moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago (along with any other items in that room) be preserved in that room in their current condition until further notice.”

During the August 8 search, the FBI found additional documents in that area and also on the floor of a closet in Trump’s office, people briefed on the matter said.

Trump and a small circle within his group of current advisers maintain that he was entitled to keep documents he took from the White House, or that he had already declassified them, or that they were packed up and moved by the General Services Administration — an assertion flatly denied by that federal agency.

Trump, people familiar with his thinking say, sees the attorney general, Merrick Garland, not as the federal government’s chief law enforcement officer, but merely as a political foe and someone with whom he can haggle with about how much anger exists over the situation.

Shortly before Garland announced that he was seeking to unseal the search warrant, an intermediary for Trump reached out to a Justice Department official to pass along a message that the former president wanted to negotiate, as if he were still a New York developer.

The message Trump wanted conveyed, according to a person familiar with the exchange, was: “The country is on fire. What can I do to reduce the heat?”

A Justice Department spokesman would not say if the message ever made it up to Garland; but the senior leadership was befuddled by the message and had no idea what Trump was trying to accomplish, according to an official.

Research contact: @nytimes

Ads begin in Texas governor race, with O’Rourke’s highlighting abortion

August 29, 2022

With early voting now two months away, the ad competition has begun in the race for Texas governor. Two weeks ago, GOP Governor Greg Abbott released his first ad and, on Thursday, August 25, Beto O’Rourke, the former El Paso congressman and perennial Democratic hopeful, countered with two of his own, reports The New York Times.

The O’Rourke campaign, looking for leverage in a tightening but still uphill campaign, focused on abortion, seeking to harness anger among women at the overturning of Roe v. Wade and to direct that anger at Abbott.

O’Rourke’s two ads were released on the day that a so-called trigger law —made possible by the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade— went into effect in Texas. The law, signed last year by Abbott, bans abortion with no exception for rape or incest and with only limited medical exceptions.

“From this day forward, August 25, women all across Texas are no longer free,” several women say in one ad, speaking one after another. “All because of Greg Abbott’s abortion law.”

“So I’m voting for Beto, who will give women our freedom back,” they conclude.

Another 30-second ad from O’Rourke similarly seeks to link him to the idea of freedom, trying to recapture a word that is more often used by Republicans. That ad, also focused on the state’s abortion ban under Abbott, features a politically mixed Texas couple who are now both supporting O’Rourke.

“This is a free country,” says the husband, Trey Ramsey, shown as a lifelong Republican who supported former president Donald Trump. “We need a governor who gets that, and that’s Beto.”

The ad appeared to be part of a strategy by O’Rourke to challenge Abbott for wavering Republican votes, including in typically conservative strongholds around rural Texas. In recent weeks, he has crisscrossed the state, appearing in front of supportive crowds in deep-red areas but occasionally attracting vocal, and armed, protesters.

In contrast to O’Rourke’s attacks, the governor’s campaign opted for a strategy for its first ad that has worked well in previous elections: a biographical portrait of the governor, a two-term incumbent who uses a wheelchair and has been in statewide elective office in Texas since the 1990s.

The ad recounts his recovery from an accident that partly paralyzed him and is narrated by his wife, Cecilia, who is Hispanic. The governor’s campaign has said it believes Abbott can win a majority of Hispanic voters, who have been increasingly turning to Republicans, particularly in more rural areas of South Texas.

“Hard work, perseverance and family: That’s what defines Greg Abbott and how he governs Texas,” Cecilia Abbott says.

The ad is the first of what is likely to be a barrage of messages from Abbott, who has vowed to spend $100 million on the race and whose campaign has already secured some $20 million in television and digital space for ads.

O’Rourke, also a proficient fund-raiser, started behind Abbott, who entered the race with tens of millions on hand. As of the July filing, the governor had $46 million on hand and Mr. O’Rourke had $24 million. The O’Rourke campaign has repeatedly stressed to potential donors the high cost of advertising statewide in Texas.

Several polls in recent weeks put. O’Rourke at five to seven percentage points behind Abbott, who won in 2018 by 13 percentage points.

Research contact: @nytimes

‘Lawyers are giggling’: Attorneys scratch their heads at Trump’s ‘very strange’ DOJ lawsuit

Augusst 24, 2022

On Monday, August 22, former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit demanding the return of documents seized by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago—arguing that the feds did not have sufficient reason for the raid, even though they found 300 classified documents at Trump’s home, according to The New York Times.

Indeed, Salon reports, the FBI recovered more than 300 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago in three batches over the last eight months, according to the report. Trump only turned over 150 of the documents to the National Archives in January, prompting the Justice Department to investigate whether he withheld some materials.

boxes included documents from the CIA, National Security Agency, and FBI across a “variety of topics of national security interest,” according to the report.

Trump rifled through the boxes of documents late last year as officials were attempting to recover them, sources told the outlet. Surveillance footage obtained by the DOJ also showed people “moving boxes … and in some cases, appearing to change the containers some documents were held in,” according to the report. Trump resisted demands to return the documents, describing them as “mine,” sources told the Times.

Earlier this year, Trump attorney Christina Bobb signed a declaration that all classified material had been returned, which ultimately led to the FBI’s unprecedented raid on Trump’s residence to recover documents that he withheld after the first three recovery attempts.

Andrew Weissmann, a former federal prosecutor who served on special counsel Bob Mueller’s team, called the report “incredibly damning” for Trump, noting that the report suggests the former president personally reviewed the documents to decide what to return.

“If you are a prosecutor, you really look for evidence of what the former president did personally,” he told MSNBC. “If the DOJ either knows about or is soon to interview those people who were sources for The New York Times, they’re going to have a substantial criminal case.”

Despite the mounting evidence that Trump’s actions may have run afoul of federal laws governing classified materials and document preservation, Trump filed a lawsuit on Monday arguing that the feds have “failed to legitimize its historic decision” to raid his home.

The lawsuit called for a court to appoint a special master, a third party who is typically a former judge, to review whether some materials may be protected by attorney-client privilege or other guidelines. The lawsuit seeks the return of documents the FBI seized in the raid.

“This Mar-a-Lago Break-In, Search, and Seizure was illegal and unconstitutional, and we are taking all actions necessary to get the documents back, which we would have given to them without the necessity of the despicable raid of my home, so that I can give them to the National Archives until they are required for the future Donald J. Trump Presidential Library and Museum,” Trump said in a statement on Monday.

The lawsuit argues that the raid was politically motivated, claiming that Trump is the “clear frontrunner” in the 2024 election “should he decide to run.”

The lawsuit accuses the feds of violating Trump’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure and asks that the court block “further review of seized material” until they are reviewed by a special master.

The DOJ said it would file a response in court.

“The August 8 search warrant at Mar-a-Lago was authorized by a federal court upon the required finding of probable cause,” DOJ spokesperson Anthony Coley told CNBC.

Research contact: @Salon

Coming soon to an American cliff near you: ‘Via Ferrata’ routes

August 23, 2022

“I stood on a rock ledge, terra firma far below, and took in the panorama to my left,” recalls a contributor to The New York Times, Cindy Hirschfeld, noting that, against the horizon sat Fairchild Mountain—reaching just above 13,500 feet—and other peaks in the Mummy Range in Colorado, a series of lofty summits in the northern part of Rocky Mountain National Park.”

She adds of her adventure, “In the foreground was a bright blue sliver of Mary’s Lake. In front of me, a sheer wall of stippled gneiss. But unlike … experienced amateur climbers, I did not need to have precise technique, nor exceptional strength, nor a rack full of climbing gear to reach my elevated perch.

“That’s because I was on the Cloud Ladder via ferrata, which consists of permanent rebar rungs bolted into the rock, bordered by a continuous series of fixed aircraft-grade steel cables to which I remained attached.”

Those rungs made it relatively easy —although still thrilling—to scale the rock face, Hirschfeld informs us.

Indeed, according to the Times, rock climbing has long been popular in Europe, particularly in the Alps, via ferrata routes — “via ferrata” is Italian for “iron way.” The system originated in Italy as a way to move soldiers through the mountains during World War I and was later adopted by intrepid hikers for ascending steeper terrain.

Such routes are becoming more popular in the United States, with new routes being installed on peaks, in gorges and even at high-end outdoors-oriented resorts.

“I wanted people to experience a part of the mountains that you wouldn’t be able to unless you were a climber,” said Harry Kent, the founder and director of Kent Mountain Adventure Center in Estes Park, Colorado, which operates the Cloud Ladder, open since July 2021, on private property a few miles south of the town.

The site is open year-round, weather permitting, for guests 12 and older; guided tours cost from $174 to $330 per person, depending on the number of climbers.

Through his other business, Via Ferrata Works, Kent and his team are also building the country’s first urban via ferrata at Quarry Trails Metro Park in Columbus, Ohio, in an abandoned limestone quarry. The route, on a 150-foot-high cliff face, is expected to open this fall. Access will be free.

The high-alpine Cloud Ladder has a different type of superlative: With some 600 feet of sustained upward climbing for most of its length, it’s billed as the steepest via ferrata in the United States.

“If I’d been a first-timer,” Hirschfeld says, “I would have opted for the adjacent and easier Peregrine Arete. But having previously ascended other via ferratas, I was game for a challenge—which I found on the second of two heart-pumping suspension bridges, where I hovered on a tightrope-style cable that spanned 45 feet across a 200-foot chasm. I won’t pretend that I didn’t think twice before heading across it, even though I was secured to two other cables at shoulder height.”

As on all via ferratas, in addition to a helmet, Hirschfeld wore a waist harness with a bungee-style lanyard holding two large carabiners (known as lobster claws) and an energy-absorbing device that would lessen the impact in the unlikely event that she fell. (She didn’t.)

As for the carabiners, you clip them onto the cables and leave them attached, sliding them along as you climb, except when you arrive at one of the many anchor bolts along the route. There, you unclip one carabiner, clip it in again after the anchor, and then unclip and clip the second one. “Never double unclip,” her guide, Nick Golden, had cautioned.

Although climbing a via ferrata may look like a daredevil outing, it’s more attainable than you might think. The challenges tilt toward psychological rather than physical. “We regularly see people getting past self-imposed boundaries,” said Sean Kristl, the general manager of the guide service Alpenglow Expeditions, which provides via ferrata tours in Olympic Valley, California.

Once people get on one via ferrata, they start looking up where others are because it is so accessible and fun,” opines Gannon Nawojczyk, the manager of Southeast Mountain Guides, which operates a route in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge. Visitors vary in fitness level, age, and experience. “People are starting to realize that this is for anybody, so our clientele is becoming more mixed,” he added. The company experienced a 190% surge in via ferrata guests between 2018 and 2021, in spite of closing for two months in 2020, according to Nawojczyk.

Not surprisingly, there’s an art to designing a good via ferrata, and that includes incorporating natural rock along with the artificial aids. “Our crew is mostly made up of mountain guides, so we have a good sense of what guests can tolerate in terms of exposure and steepness,” said Mike Friedman, the managing partner of Utah-based Adventure Partners, which has designed via ferratas at ski areas like Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin and Jackson Hole in Wyoming, as well as at the Amangiri resort in Utah and Arizona’s Castle Hot Springs.

Research contact: @nytimes

Plea deal requires Weisselberg to testify at Trump Organization trial

August 19, 2022

Allen Weisselberg—the CFO of the Trump Organization and for decades one of Donald Trump’s most trusted executives—reached a deal to plead guilty on Thursday, August 18, and admit to participating in a long-running tax scheme at the former president’s family business, reports The New York Times

Weisselberg will have to admit to all 15 felonies that prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office accused him of, according to people with knowledge of the matter. And if he is called as a witness at the company’s trial in October, he will have to testify about his role in the scheme to avoid paying taxes on lavish corporate perks, the people said.

But Weisselberg will not implicate Trump or his family if he takes the stand in that trial, the people said, and he has refused to cooperate with prosecutors in their broader investigation into Trump, who has not been accused of wrongdoing.

Even so, his potential testimony will put the Trump Organization at a disadvantage and is likely to make Weisselberg a central witness at the October trial, during which the company will face many of the same charges.

On cross-examination, the Trump Organization’s lawyers could accuse Weisselberg of pleading guilty only to spare himself a harsher sentence: Under the terms of the plea deal, . Weisselberg, who was facing up to 15 years in prison, will spend as little as 100 days behind bars. They might also argue that it would be unfair to hold the Trump Organization accountable for a crime that was not committed by the Trump family, who control the company.

But Weisselberg’s testimony—an acknowledgment from one of the Trump Organization’s top executives that he committed the crimes listed in the indictment—would undercut any effort by the company’s lawyers to contend that no crime was committed.

The indictment placed Weisselberg at the center of a conspiracy that prosecutors said allowed him to avoid paying taxes on leased Mercedes-Benzes, an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and private school tuition for his grandchildren.

Prosecutors have said other employees benefited from a similar arrangement, but no one else has been charged with a crime. Weisselberg’s testimony could help prosecutors prove their broader claims.

The prosecutors also essentially accused him of conspiring with the Trump Organization, which he will have to acknowledge at his plea hearing on Thursday and at the trial, if he is called as a witness.

Earlier in August, Trump’s refusal to answer questions about the tax scheme came on the heels of the FBI’s search of his Florida home as part of an unrelated criminal investigation. He also faces scrutiny in Washington, D.C., and in Georgia for his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

In Manhattan, the investigation has long presented a significant threat to Trump. For years, District Attorney Cy Vance’s prosecutors sought his tax returns—a battle that reached the Supreme Court twice. Before the court ruled in the district attorney’s favor, Bloomberg News reported on some of the perks that Weisselberg had received; leading prosecutors to more closely scrutinize the chief financial officer’s conduct.

In the indictment, prosecutors said that Weisselberg avoided reporting his perks to tax authorities, and that they were not reflected in the Trump Organization’s general ledger, even though they were tracked on spreadsheets within the company.

Even after his indictment, Weisselberg refused to cooperate against Trump as the office continued its investigation into the former president. Before leaving office at the end of the year, Vance directed prosecutors to begin presenting evidence about the former president to a grand jury.

District Attorney Alvin Bragg was sworn in on January 1 and, after weeks of meetings about the case, he developed concerns about proving that Trump had intended to commit a crime. The grand jury stopped hearing evidence and, in February, the two prosecutors leading the investigation resigned, leaving the investigation’s future uncertain.

Bragg has defended the inquiry and said that it has continued. But Weisselberg has refused to cooperate with the broader investigation, and that decision made a plea deal in his own case elusive, the people said.

Even without his cooperation against the Trump family, the negotiations gained steam in recent weeks, culminating in a meeting on Monday, August 15, among Weisselberg’s lawyers, prosecutors, and the State Supreme Court judge presiding over the case.

The judge won’t sentence Weisselberg until after the Trump Organization’s trial, providing prosecutors some leverage over him until the time that he may testify. If the judge finds that. Weisselberg did not live up to the terms of the plea agreement, he can impose a stiffer sentence than the expected five months.

It is unclear where Weisselberg would serve his time, but defendants who receive sentences of less than a year are generally sent to one of the jails on Rikers Island. If Weisselberg were to be sent there, he would be likely to be held in protective custody. His lawyers could also ask that he be placed in a medical ward, or could seek home confinement.

Research contact: @nytimes