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Trump allies worry Cohen will flip – Politico

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President Donald Trump and his outside advisers are increasingly worried that his longtime personal attorney might be susceptible to cooperating with federal prosecutors.

Two sources close to the president said people in Trump’s inner circle have in recent days been actively discussing the possibility that Michael Cohen — long seen as one of Trump’s most loyal personal allies — might flip if he faces serious charges as a result of his work on behalf of Trump.

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“That’s what they’ll threaten him with: life imprisonment,” said Alan Dershowitz, the liberal lawyer and frequent Trump defender who met with the president and his staff over two days at the White House last week. “They’re going to threaten him with a long prison term and try to turn him into a canary that sings.”

FBI agents overseen by federal prosecutors in New York last week raided Cohen’s office and apartment, as well as a hotel room he’d been using. The Trump lawyer is a figure in the ongoing Russia investigation overseen by special counsel Robert Mueller in Washington, but Manhattan-based government attorneys said in court that he is also under separate investigation for his business dealings.

Cohen, who has not been publicly charged with any crimes, owns New York City taxi medallions. He has also been deeply involved in the $130,000 payment made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who has accused Trump of trying to cover up an affair she says the two had in 2006.

In an interview with CNN last week, Cohen called the raid “unsettling to say the least.” But he also said in the same interview that the federal agents were “extremely professional, courteous and respectful” — a dramatic departure from his usual combative style.

Those comments raised eyebrows among some in Trump’s inner circle, who noted that one of the president’s most ferocious attack dogs seemed unusually taciturn.

“When anybody is faced with spending a long time in jail, they start to re-evaluate their priorities, and cooperation can’t be ruled out,” said one Trump ally who knows Cohen.

Since the raid, the president and his advisers have been singularly focused on the risk of a potential federal prosecution of Cohen, which they view as a much bigger existential threat to the presidency than former FBI Director James Comey, whose book “A Higher Loyalty” has dominated headlines and even Trump’s Twitter feed even before its Tuesday release.

Trump has regularly ranted to friends and advisers about the investigation into Cohen, according to two other people familiar with the conversations. He believes strongly that the FBI raid has pushed the boundaries of attorney-client privilege, telling friends that he and his associates are being unfairly targeted.

“He’s not happy about it,” said one White House official.

The White House appears to be creating some distance from Cohen. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters earlier this week that though Trump and Cohen have “still got some ongoing things,” the president “has a large number of attorneys, as you know.”

Trump said Wednesday during a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he wants the Mueller investigation “over with, done with.” He added that his administration is “giving tremendous amounts of paper” to investigators.

A White House spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

In a court filing last week, the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York explained the FBI raid was “the result of a months-long investigation” into the president’s lawyer and that prosecutors were looking for evidence of crimes related to his business dealings.

Trump and his allies fear that documents and recordings that the FBI swept up from Cohen’s home and office could come back to haunt the president, whose lawyers have joined Cohen’s in New York in asserting attorney-client privilege and are asking a federal judge to approve an independent review of the material.

“Who knows what Cohen has in those files,” said a person close to the White House.

But their concerns go beyond Cohen’s voluminous files. Increasingly, Trump’s outside advisers are worried about the risk posed by Cohen himself.

“I think for two years or four years or five years, Michael Cohen would be a stand-up guy. I think he’d tell them go piss up a rope. But depending on dollars involved, which can be a big driver, or if they look at him and say it’s not two to four years, it’s 18 to 22, then how loyal is he?” said one defense lawyer who represents a senior Trump aide in Mueller’s Russia investigation.

“Is he two years loyal? Is he 10 years loyal? Is he 15 years loyal?” the attorney added. “That’s the currency. It’s not measured in inches. It’s measured in years.”

Jay Goldberg, a longtime Trump lawyer, told The Wall Street Journal that he spoke with Trump on Friday about Cohen and warned the president against trusting Cohen if he is facing criminal charges. Goldberg said he warned the president that Cohen “isn’t even a 1” on a scale of 1 to 100, where 100 was remaining fully loyal to the president, the newspaper reported.

But others in Trump’s circle believe Cohen will remain loyal to the president, pointing to Cohen’s long, well-documented history of publicly defending the president, whether in business or politics.

“I’m the guy who would take a bullet for the president,” Cohen told Vanity Fair in an interview last summer. Cohen tweeted earlier this month that he will “always protect” Trump.

Appearing on MSNBC on Wednesday, former Trump White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said Cohen was not a risk to turn on Trump. “If you said to me and I had to flip a coin, is he going to turn on President Trump or turn on other people? I would say adamantly no,” he said.

Cohen and Trump’s relationship dates back a dozen years. He was one of the earliest backers of the president’s political ambitions, and during the 2016 campaign served as a prominent adviser and spokesman, despite disagreements with others on the campaign.

The two men reportedly had dinner together last month at the president’s Mar-a-Lago retreat in South Florida. They also spoke by phone last Friday as their lawyers were working together to try to shield materials seized in the FBI raid.

The fallout from the FBI raid continued Wednesday for Cohen, who dropped two much-publicized libel lawsuits against BuzzFeed and the private investigation firm Fusion GPS over publication of the so-called dossier detailing alleged ties between Trump and Russia.

Cohen’s attorney, David Schwartz, told the court the voluntary decision to drop the lawsuits was needed “given the events that have unfolded, and the time, attention, and resources needed to prosecute these matters, we have dismissed the matters, despite their merits.”

Cohen and his attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

Experts tracking the case say indictments against Cohen are possible for bank and wire fraud. He could also end up becoming a target in Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Mueller has already shown a willingness to play hardball. Former Trump aides Michael Flynn, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos have all pleaded guilty to various criminal charges and are cooperating. Onetime campaign manager Paul Manafort has pleaded not guilty to bank fraud and tax evasion charges and is set to face trial starting in July.

Legal experts noted that federal authorities face an uphill climb in turning lawyers against their clients. “It’s a bit of a moonshot if that’s what they are trying to do,” warned a second defense lawyer working on the Russia probe.

The prospect of years or even decades in prison might be easier to swallow if Cohen believes a presidential pardon is possible. White House officials and others close to the president insist that last week’s decision to pardon former Vice President Dick Cheney’s senior aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby on perjury charges dating to his service in the George W. Bush administration was not intended to send a message to Cohen — but it nonetheless could go a long way toward reassuring the president’s lawyer.

“They’re going to squeeze him like a grape. I think in the end he’ll pop unless Trump pardons him,” said Paul Rosenzweig, a senior fellow at the nonprofit R Street Institute and a former senior counsel during independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s investigation into President Bill Clinton.

Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based Democratic consultant who has worked with both Cohen and Trump, said the ties binding the attorney and the president will go a long way. But he, too, wouldn’t rule out how the pressure of prosecution would influence Cohen.

“Here’s a guy who appears to be very tough, very loyal and has said publicly about how he feels about Mr. Trump. That shouldn’t change, but who knows what the future holds,” he said. “People change when pressure is put on them. He’s very loyal. He’s very stand-up. It’d be a difficult decision for him to make.”

Cohen flipping “would be Trump’s worst nightmare,” said John Dean, the former White House counsel whose cooperation with Watergate prosecutors helped lead to President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974.

“It would be as stunning and life-disrupting a surprise as his winning the presidency,” Dean added. “And if there is any prosecutor’s office in the USA that can flip Cohen, it is the Southern District of New York.”


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Who is not in 'Avengers: Infinity War'?

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There are an estimated 327 million people in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and perhaps you have wondered: How many of them are in “Avengers: Infinity War”? Fifteen percent? Thirty-four percent? Spoiler: Nobody knows for certain how many people appear in “Avengers: Infinity War,” opening Friday. It’s a mystery. The Marvel Studios and IMDB cast lists indicate about 80 cast members — some playing Iron Man and Spider-Man, some playing Man on Bus.

But 80 sounds laughably, conspiratorially low.

I’ve seen the trailers and TV commercials and so have you — does that look like 80 people? “Avengers: Infinity War” stars Chris Pratt and Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth, Chadwick Boseman and Benedict Cumberbatch and Don Cheadle, Idris Elba and Angela Bassett and Peter Dinklage. It stars Cobie Smulders and Tessa Thompson. It stars Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as the evil mastermind Ebony Maw, and Pom Klementieff as the benevolent mastermind Mantis, who has the power of super empathy. (Please note: That is not a joke.) It stars the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel and, though his body is present, the mumble of Benicio del Toro. Thanks to motion-capture animation, it stars the movements of DePaul University graduate Sean Gunn (Rocket Raccoon) but not his body. It stars both the movements and body of Mark Ruffalo, who plays the Hulk.

It stars many, many others.

But my hand is cramping. So, maybe the more direct way to understand the torrential casting of “Avengers: Infinity War” is to ask: Who is not in “Avengers: Infinity War”?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (as of May 2017,), there are 43,470 people in the United States who call acting their profession. Of those 43,470, 17,020 work primarily in the motion picture industry. Here in Illinois, there are 2,040 people who identify themselves as actors (for movies and otherwise) — the third largest concentration (by state), after California and New York — yet only Carrie Coon, who lives in Wicker Park, has a major role. She plays villain Proxima Midnight. Her husband, playwright and actor Tracy Letts, is not in “Avengers: Infinity War.” So that’s one. Which suggests that Common, Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Hudson, Bill Murray, John Cusack — any Cusack — are also not in “Avengers: Infinity War.”

That’s five.

I did the math and apparently only 0.000024 percent of the United States population appears in “Avengers: Infinity War.” Again, that sounds wrong. But in full disclosure, I am bad at math. Besides, you could argue that Donald Trump is in “Avengers: Infinity War,” in the sense that he rules the zeitgeist, and broad, blockbuster entertainments like this generally, metaphorically reflect the tenor and temperature and concerns of their times; but also in the sense that “Avengers: Infinity War” is about a large, imposing being (Josh Brolin) who arrives to undo the past 10 years of plot development, angering liberal Hollywood. Similarly, you could argue “Avengers: Infinity War” stars the wishes and financial backings of everyone who encouraged it — anyone who attended any of the 18 interwoven Marvel films since “Iron Man” in 2008. In other words, every one one of us.

Which is not a criticism: I like many of these films and believe, decades from now, we will look back on this era as similar to the age of the Western, which had hits and misses, artists and curiosities and hacks, then burned itself dry. “Avengers: Infinity War,” you might have heard, is the convergence of a decade’s worth of Marvel productions and plots, most of which have been interlocking and complementary, telling a single, vast storyline, the cinematic approximation to Marvel’s soap opera of a comic book universe. That’s why one film features such a big ensemble — it’s the childhood tea party/crossover event in which Snoopy, Barbie, Mickey and Chewbacca all attend. It is how we played when we were children and unconcerned about character licensing and cease-and-desist letters from Disney lawyers, except in this case the party cost $300 million (the second most expensive film production ever).

Of course, casting this enveloping is not unique to “Avengers: Infinity War.” Film productions that involve the W-2s and schedulers of every sentient creature in Southern California have long been touted as a kind of HR Department special-effect magic. But like “super group” in the music business, “all-star cast” in the motion picture industry is a mixed blessing, meaning “Grand Hotel” and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” but also “Cannonball Run” and the most recent “Murder on the Orient Express.”

The problem is always screen time.

“Avengers: Infinity War” is a spacious 2 hours and 40 minutes, yet if filmmakers dedicated, say, 15 minutes each to four actors — Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson , Hemsworth, Evans — they would have only one hour and 40 minutes left for the other 35 or so performers with some recognizable status. If everyone had very chill agents and all agreed on the same amount of screen time, that means, at most, less than three minutes each for the remaining three dozen stars. But if an egalitarian miracle broke out and everyone agreed to two minutes of screen time, there would be room for another dozen or so actors. Which would be good, because, looking at census data, and looking at the cast, here’s who’s not in “Avengers: Infinity War”:

Enough women — the U.S. is about 51 percent female, though of the recognizable, marquee-worthy cast, “Avengers: Infinity War” is roughly 35 percent female.

Enough Latinos — they are 18 percent of the U.S. population, but mostly represented in “Avengers: Infinity War” by the Puerto Rican-born Benicio del Toro.

There is one Native Hawaiian (Jacob Batalon, who plays Peter Parker’s best friend), but not one Native American; and since we’re sorting by census categories (which separate Native Hawaiians from Asian-Americans), there is not one Asian-American either. (Benedict Wong, who plays Dr. Strange’s sidekick, is British.)Also, though about 17 percent of the main cast identifies as African-American — population-wise, it’s about 13 percent — none of the core members of the Avengers is a person (or alien) of color.

That said, this is an international production — so, a lot of British actors. And Avengers membership will change: The next “Avengers” opens next May, and if the movie Avengers are as transient as the comic book Avengers, inevitably there should be room for anyone left in the United States who has not yet appeared in an “Avengers” film. Besides, Disney, which owns Marvel Studios, recently acquired Fox, which controlled the movie rights to two additional Marvel super teams, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. “Avengers” movies are only going to get bigger. Help will be wanted.

cborrelli@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @borrelli

RELATED: ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ review: After its psycho mood swings, that ending will create a buzz »

Everything that’s happened leading up to ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ »

The stars come out for ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ press conference — but they’re not talking »


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Trump allies worry Cohen will flip – Politico

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President Donald Trump and his outside advisers are increasingly worried that his longtime personal attorney might be susceptible to cooperating with federal prosecutors.

Two sources close to the president said people in Trump’s inner circle have in recent days been actively discussing the possibility that Michael Cohen — long seen as one of Trump’s most loyal personal allies — might flip if he faces serious charges as a result of his work on behalf of Trump.

Story Continued Below

“That’s what they’ll threaten him with: life imprisonment,” said Alan Dershowitz, the liberal lawyer and frequent Trump defender who met with the president and his staff over two days at the White House last week. “They’re going to threaten him with a long prison term and try to turn him into a canary that sings.”

FBI agents overseen by federal prosecutors in New York last week raided Cohen’s office and apartment, as well as a hotel room he’d been using. The Trump lawyer is a figure in the ongoing Russia investigation overseen by special counsel Robert Mueller in Washington, but Manhattan-based government attorneys said in court that he is also under separate investigation for his business dealings.

Cohen, who has not been publicly charged with any crimes, owns New York City taxi medallions. He has also been deeply involved in the $130,000 payment made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who has accused Trump of trying to cover up an affair she says the two had in 2006.

In an interview with CNN last week, Cohen called the raid “unsettling to say the least.” But he also said in the same interview that the federal agents were “extremely professional, courteous and respectful” — a dramatic departure from his usual combative style.

Those comments raised eyebrows among some in Trump’s inner circle, who noted that one of the president’s most ferocious attack dogs seemed unusually taciturn.

“When anybody is faced with spending a long time in jail, they start to re-evaluate their priorities, and cooperation can’t be ruled out,” said one Trump ally who knows Cohen.

Since the raid, the president and his advisers have been singularly focused on the risk of a potential federal prosecution of Cohen, which they view as a much bigger existential threat to the presidency than former FBI Director James Comey, whose book “A Higher Loyalty” has dominated headlines and even Trump’s Twitter feed even before its Tuesday release.

Trump has regularly ranted to friends and advisers about the investigation into Cohen, according to two other people familiar with the conversations. He believes strongly that the FBI raid has pushed the boundaries of attorney-client privilege, telling friends that he and his associates are being unfairly targeted.

“He’s not happy about it,” said one White House official.

The White House appears to be creating some distance from Cohen. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters earlier this week that though Trump and Cohen have “still got some ongoing things,” the president “has a large number of attorneys, as you know.”

Trump said Wednesday during a press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he wants the Mueller investigation “over with, done with.” He added that his administration is “giving tremendous amounts of paper” to investigators.

A White House spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

In a court filing last week, the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York explained the FBI raid was “the result of a months-long investigation” into the president’s lawyer and that prosecutors were looking for evidence of crimes related to his business dealings.

Trump and his allies fear that documents and recordings that the FBI swept up from Cohen’s home and office could come back to haunt the president, whose lawyers have joined Cohen’s in New York in asserting attorney-client privilege and are asking a federal judge to approve an independent review of the material.

“Who knows what Cohen has in those files,” said a person close to the White House.

But their concerns go beyond Cohen’s voluminous files. Increasingly, Trump’s outside advisers are worried about the risk posed by Cohen himself.

“I think for two years or four years or five years, Michael Cohen would be a stand-up guy. I think he’d tell them go piss up a rope. But depending on dollars involved, which can be a big driver, or if they look at him and say it’s not two to four years, it’s 18 to 22, then how loyal is he?” said one defense lawyer who represents a senior Trump aide in Mueller’s Russia investigation.

“Is he two years loyal? Is he 10 years loyal? Is he 15 years loyal?” the attorney added. “That’s the currency. It’s not measured in inches. It’s measured in years.”

Jay Goldberg, a longtime Trump lawyer, told The Wall Street Journal that he spoke with Trump on Friday about Cohen and warned the president against trusting Cohen if he is facing criminal charges. Goldberg said he warned the president that Cohen “isn’t even a 1” on a scale of 1 to 100, where 100 was remaining fully loyal to the president, the newspaper reported.

But others in Trump’s circle believe Cohen will remain loyal to the president, pointing to Cohen’s long, well-documented history of publicly defending the president, whether in business or politics.

“I’m the guy who would take a bullet for the president,” Cohen told Vanity Fair in an interview last summer. Cohen tweeted earlier this month that he will “always protect” Trump.

Appearing on MSNBC on Wednesday, former Trump White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said Cohen was not a risk to turn on Trump. “If you said to me and I had to flip a coin, is he going to turn on President Trump or turn on other people? I would say adamantly no,” he said.

Cohen and Trump’s relationship dates back a dozen years. He was one of the earliest backers of the president’s political ambitions, and during the 2016 campaign served as a prominent adviser and spokesman, despite disagreements with others on the campaign.

The two men reportedly had dinner together last month at the president’s Mar-a-Lago retreat in South Florida. They also spoke by phone last Friday as their lawyers were working together to try to shield materials seized in the FBI raid.

The fallout from the FBI raid continued Wednesday for Cohen, who dropped two much-publicized libel lawsuits against BuzzFeed and the private investigation firm Fusion GPS over publication of the so-called dossier detailing alleged ties between Trump and Russia.

Cohen’s attorney, David Schwartz, told the court the voluntary decision to drop the lawsuits was needed “given the events that have unfolded, and the time, attention, and resources needed to prosecute these matters, we have dismissed the matters, despite their merits.”

Cohen and his attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

Experts tracking the case say indictments against Cohen are possible for bank and wire fraud. He could also end up becoming a target in Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Mueller has already shown a willingness to play hardball. Former Trump aides Michael Flynn, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos have all pleaded guilty to various criminal charges and are cooperating. Onetime campaign manager Paul Manafort has pleaded not guilty to bank fraud and tax evasion charges and is set to face trial starting in July.

Legal experts noted that federal authorities face an uphill climb in turning lawyers against their clients. “It’s a bit of a moonshot if that’s what they are trying to do,” warned a second defense lawyer working on the Russia probe.

The prospect of years or even decades in prison might be easier to swallow if Cohen believes a presidential pardon is possible. White House officials and others close to the president insist that last week’s decision to pardon former Vice President Dick Cheney’s senior aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby on perjury charges dating to his service in the George W. Bush administration was not intended to send a message to Cohen — but it nonetheless could go a long way toward reassuring the president’s lawyer.

“They’re going to squeeze him like a grape. I think in the end he’ll pop unless Trump pardons him,” said Paul Rosenzweig, a senior fellow at the nonprofit R Street Institute and a former senior counsel during independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s investigation into President Bill Clinton.

Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based Democratic consultant who has worked with both Cohen and Trump, said the ties binding the attorney and the president will go a long way. But he, too, wouldn’t rule out how the pressure of prosecution would influence Cohen.

“Here’s a guy who appears to be very tough, very loyal and has said publicly about how he feels about Mr. Trump. That shouldn’t change, but who knows what the future holds,” he said. “People change when pressure is put on them. He’s very loyal. He’s very stand-up. It’d be a difficult decision for him to make.”

Cohen flipping “would be Trump’s worst nightmare,” said John Dean, the former White House counsel whose cooperation with Watergate prosecutors helped lead to President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974.

“It would be as stunning and life-disrupting a surprise as his winning the presidency,” Dean added. “And if there is any prosecutor’s office in the USA that can flip Cohen, it is the Southern District of New York.”


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Politicians with short memories helped Chicago become the first city with a Martin Luther King Jr. Drive

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First we tried to kill him and then we gave him a street and in the wake of the recent remembrances and events marking of the death of Martin Luther King Jr. that’s some of what we remember about the tortured relationship King had with this city.

It was on Aug. 5, 1966, that King was hit in the head with a rock thrown by some of the thousands who came to Marquette Park to confront him and the 700-some others who were accompanying him to protest housing segregation in the city. King had, of course, seen angry mobs before, but after being wounded he would say, “I have never seen — even in Mississippi and Alabama — mobs as hostile and as hate-filled as I’ve seen here in Chicago.”

He was assassinated less than two years later, on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, and the West Side went up in flames and looting and destruction that devastated the area and crippled parts of it for decades (a tragic tale movingly documented by my colleagues Tony Briscoe and Ese Olumhense in the Tribune.)

The mayor, whose name was Richard J. Daley, ordered those in his Police Department to “shoot to kill” any arsonists. But in just a few months, he was in a gentler mood. The Democratic Convention was coming to town for the first time since 1956 and Daley called this “an important sign of faith to the American people for this national convention to be held here, not in some resort center, but in the very heart of a great city, where people live and work and raise their families.” But his enthusiasm was shadowed by fear.

You might easily imagine, the way things turned out, that Daley was worried about the war protesters and other long-haired agitators coming to town. But he had a hard time taking them seriously. No, what he most feared might upset the convention were blacks, his paranoia fueled by those riots earlier in the year. So, the word went out and the police began pressuring various black militants and gang members, arresting some and hassling others, sending a stern behave-or-else message. But Daley’s political savvy dictated a less aggressive maneuver, and on July 31, 1968, the City Council met to mollify the black community by renaming a street in honor of King. Many descriptions of this meeting have been written. Tribune reporter Edward Schreiber wrote that after Daley gave a seven-minute speech, the mayor “sat down and was given a two-minute standing ovation by aldermen and 100 visitors in the council galleries.”

One of the city’s most astute observers of politics and its attendant shenanigans, Mike Royko, captured this particular council gathering in his 1971 book “Boss.” He wrote: “The meeting was remarkable with one administration alderman after another eulogizing King as a great man, forgetting that they had assailed him when he was alive. Daley himself described his relationship with King as one of great friendship and mutual understanding, claiming that King had told him what a fine job he was doing for the city’s blacks. The heights to which Daley and the aldermen rose in praising King moved one observer to write: ‘It was enough to bring tears to your eyes, if you happened to be a crocodile.’”

As usual, the mayor got his way and the council voted 43-0 to rename 11 miles long South Park Way, which ran through predominantly black sections of the South Side, in King’s honor.

There had been other suggestions, a downtown street or one that cut a longer path through the city (Western Avenue, for instance). Daley didn’t want to hear it. He knew that in certain white neighborhoods any new street signs would be defaced or destroyed. So, on Aug. 8, 1968, South Park Way became Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, even though that marvelous City Council maverick Ald. Leon Despres, 5th, called this move “a slight and trivial gesture” and predicted the street would become known as a less than weighty, even frivolous, “Junior Drive.”

There was of course a ceremony to mark the formal renaming, with a crowd of some 500 people gathered near the Victory Monument on 35th Street, a statue built in 1927 to honor the Eighth Regiment of the Illinois National Guard, an African-American unit that served in France during World War I. Daley spoke, saying that he and the city administration were working to improve living conditions in the city. He added, “Violence accomplishes nothing. Arson accomplishes nothing. Rioting accomplishes nothing. … Only love will overcome our difficulties today.”

And thus did Chicago became the first city in the nation to rename a street for King and a week later the Democrats came to town and in time there followed, as you might expect, other cities naming streets after King and there now more than 1,000 such streets across the globe.

Some have caused controversy and dissent but you might think — hope? — that by now, a half century later, such debates might have been silenced. But currently in Kansas City, the one in Missouri and not the one in Kansas, there is still, as The New York Times recently reported, “a split” over whether a MLK Jr. “street would best be placed: In a predominately black neighborhood, as is common, or in a predominantly white neighborhood?”

Many people voiced their opinions in the story, including a 53-year-old man named Walter Turner. He was asked by reporter John Eligon whether a King Street should be in a white neighborhood.

His answer? “Hell, no.”

rkogan@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @rickkogan

MLK’s death 50 years ago sparked riots across the U.S. Some parts of Chicago’s West Side never recovered. »

Commentary: Confronting the 50 years since MLK’s assassination »

Read all of Rick Kogan’s Sidewalks columns in the Tribune »


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'Dowry is not the Lord's way': In Kenya, LDS President Nelson says tithing breaks poverty cycle – Deseret News

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Editor’s note: Deseret News and Church News writers are chronicling the ministry of LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson as he and other church officials travel to Europe, Africa and Asia. Tad Walch reports today from Kenya.

NAIROBI, Kenya — To listen Monday to an LDS Church president’s voice in person for the first time, East African Mormons traveled hundreds of miles in dust-covered buses, bouncing and swaying over dirt roads, broken streets and omnipresent speedbumps that keep speeds under 50 mph.

They received a message tailored for eastern Africa, where many tribes continue to insist that grooms or their families provide a dowry or pay a price for a bride.

“That’s not the Lord’s way,” President Russell M. Nelson told about 2,000 Kenyans and other Africans Monday night inside a large, oval, wooden event center styled after traditional huts in Nairobi, Kenya. “The Lord’s way is to be married in the temple, for time and all eternity, with your children sealed to you.”

He added that if he’d had to pay for his wife, “I would have missed five children, because only with my last five was I out of debt.”

Ravell Call, Deseret News

President Russell M. Nelson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stand together as President Nelson gives a blessing during a special devotional in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday, April 16, 2018.

President Nelson also said tithing can break cycles of poverty in poor nations and families.

“We preach tithing to the poor people of the world because the poor people of the world have had cycles of poverty, generation after generation,” he said. “That same poverty continues from one generation to another, until people pay their tithing.”

The law of the tithe was followed by ancient peoples as taught by Old Testament prophets. LDS faithful believe God restored the law and its blessings for those who follow it by giving one-tenth of their income to the church.

Many Africans began saving money and planning their travel more than a month ago to attend what was billed here as a special devotional. It also was the third stop on President Nelson’s first international trip since he became the church’s leader in January.

He set his watch on the podium and spoke without notes, declaring that those in the audience are pioneers.

“You folks are pioneers right here in Kenya. You might not think of yourself as pioneers, but you’re just as much pioneers now as Brigham Young and the Saints were, following the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith.”

His 35-minute address was worth 16 hours of rough travel, said Palaasi Charles, 49, of Jinja, Uganda.

“Oh, much so. Much so,” said Charles, part of a group of 29 Ugandans who left Jinja by bus at 2 p.m. Sunday and arrived in Nairobi at 6 a.m.

They spent the day on a nearby lawn watching and photographing warthogs and baboons and waiting in line to secure seats closest to the podium.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

People line up to attend a special devotional with President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday, April 16, 2018.

“I wish I’d come with my family,” said Charles, a first counselor in the Jinja LDS Stake presidency. He said he will return home and relay the special devotional’s messages to his family and the Mormon congregations in his area.

“I will share with them the importance of us having temple recommends,” he said, “that tithing is going to break the cycle of poverty, the importance of educating our children and doing away with dowry as part of our culture.”

He and others are looking forward to construction of an LDS temple in Nairobi, announced in April 2017. Church leaders have not announced the temple site yet.

“I don’t know how long it will take to build that temple,” President Nelson said, “but let’s have a little contest: See if you can build your lives to be ready and your ancestral documentation to be ready for when the temple comes.”

He said it is easier for church leaders to build a temple than it is for them to build a people ready for the temple.

Follow the Deseret News as we chronicle President Russel M. Nelson’s travels through seven countries around the world.

He also emphasized the importance of prophets, the Book of Mormon, the Restoration of the priesthood, family and worshipping Jesus Christ. He said one of the great lessons of his 93-year life is that people are God’s children and he speaks to them.

“It’s no different for you than it is for me,” he said. “You can get personal revelation for your own circumstances, just as naturally as I can for my circumstances. You get it for your family and yourself, and I get it for the whole church.”

A total of 67 members of four LDS branches in the Eldoret area 200 miles northwest of Nairobi met at 9 p.m. Sunday, but their bus did not show until 12:30 a.m. They arrived at 7 a.m. and began a 10-hour wait for the meeting.

“We’ve been planning and preparing to make this trip since we learned he was coming,” said Jane Malakwen, a food package maker and second counselor in the Sosiani Branch Relief Society. “We didn’t sleep, but we are not tired. We are full of energy to see the prophet.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He is the second prophet to come here in the history of the church.”

Ravell Call, Deseret News

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks during a special devotional in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday, April 16, 2018.

Late LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley visited in 1998 and 2005.

Another speaker on Monday night, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, also encouraged east Africans to prepare for the temple. He asked them to qualify, receive and carry the temple recommend required for entrance, even before the temple is built.

He also asked them to begin recording their family histories and to attend the temple in Johannesburg, South Africa “as often as the circumstances and the finances and transportation will allow.”

“Nothing will bless you more,” he said, “nothing will unite your family more, nothing will bless your children more, nothing will bless your ancestors more. Quite frankly, there is nothing that will bless you in any way more than your attendance at the temple, a place of peace, a place of revelation, a place of joy, a place of comfort, a place of purity, all the best things in life.”

Malakwen made the bumpy trip from Eldoret to Nairobi in part to see Sister Nelson, who said, “My experience over the years has taught me that being in the presence of a righteous African woman and a righteous African man is to be in the presence of spiritual royalty.”

Sister Nelson also said the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi built a boat, LDS Church founder Joseph Smith oversaw construction of circular Nauvoo Temple windows and President Nelson pioneered heart surgery by living “not after the manner of men,” a Book of Mormon phrase.

“We need to live our lives, build our marriages, increase our means of livelihoods by increasing our knowledge and skills according to the way the Lord would show us, not after the manner of men.”

Ravell Call, Deseret News

Rashid Agesa, left, Fidel Martial and Ann Kerubo sing during a special devotional with President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday, April 16, 2018.

Nephi, Joseph Smith and President Nelson instead followed eternal laws, she said.

“Think about something you need,” she added. “What would make your life better right now? What are the eternal laws that govern that blessing? What eternal law would you need to live so that you could receive that blessing?”

The eternal law that governs finances is tithing, Sister Nelson said.

Then she said dowry and bride price are manners of men. She relayed a message from one of her African friends, and said “You, the Saints of Kenya, could set an example of joyfully freeing our young people from the chains of this practice and thus begin living ‘not after the manner of men.'”


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Sister Patricia Holland paid tribute to the Nelsons. She said Sister Nelson’s experience as a nurse and a therapist honed a maternal instinct that bolsters everyone around her.

“In fact, she has more confidence in us than we have in ourselves,” Sister Holland said.

She said President Nelson is a strong man, but never harsh: “He is one who is of the Savior’s gentleness and the Savior’s compassion.”

The evening was a dream come true, said Sister Laourich Acii, a 23-year-old Ugandan serving in the faith’s Kenya Nairobi Mission.

“In a short duration,” added James D’Souza, who lives on the outskirts of Nairobi, “he taught us so much.”


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James Comey, in Chicago with 'A Higher Loyalty,' wins over crowd with plea for American values

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The essence of former FBI Director James Comey’s book tour appearance in Chicago on Friday night came down to his description of the Donald Trump presidency as “a forest fire.”

That metaphor, he said on the stage of the Harris Theater before a largely appreciative crowd, is in the new book “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.” And it captures both his critique of the man who fired him from the FBI post last May and his belief that America will come out of this conflagration OK.

“In the wake of a forest fire, amazing things grow,” he said, and the sold-out auditorium, at an event put on by the Chicago Humanities Festival, again applauded his message of optimism and plea for enduring American values.

It’s a canny metaphor, though, because it allowed Comey to directly criticize Trump as a man “who will do a lot of damage to our morals and our values,” but it was brought out under the banner of having a higher purpose.

The same thing happened when he described the Trump administration’s inaugural lie about the size of the crowd at the swearing-in ceremony for the 45th president.

Comey could toss the Chicago audience a little red meat by bringing up the untruth, but he was doing so, he said, to make his point that “without truth-telling in our public life, the core of our nation melts away.”

People may savor the head-to-head between Comey and Trump, but his overriding point, he said, was to provide life lessons. “This book is designed to trick you into reading a leadership book,” he said, noting that just three of 14 chapters are about the current president.

At the same time, “I could not write a book about ethical leadership without talking about Donald Trump” — a remark the audience greeted with knowing laughter.

The Chicago appearance was the first stop on Comey’s book tour outside of television guest slots and the publishing capital of New York City. He’ll go on to sold-out stops in cities including Los Angeles and Kansas City through the end of May.

Given his near-blanketing of the TV airwaves this week — from ABC to CBS to CNN to MSNBC to “The New Yorker Radio Hour” — it would have been hard for him to make news Friday night.

He didn’t bite on the obvious stuff. When his questioner, CHF Artistic Director Alison Cuddy, asked him whether “the tape is out there,” a reference both to “The X-Files” and to the alleged video of Trump in compromising behavior in a Moscow hotel, Comey answered that he did not know.

But he hasn’t said a whole lot about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the man overseeing the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election in the wake of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal. He doesn’t even mention Rosenstein by name in the book. But Rosenstein came up Friday.

“He prepared a memo that was allegedly the justification for my being fired. I didn’t think much of that,” Comey said. “I want to say something positive about the deputy attorney general. I think he has, since then — and maybe because of that — gone out of his way to protect the special counsel (Robert Mueller) and the rule of law at the Justice Department. And so, good. Good for him.”

Comey’s criticism of Trump has the Republican Party apparatus, led by Trump’s fervent anti-Comey tweets this week, trying to paint the man as a “leaker” of information and a “liar.” There was a lone protester Friday outside the Harris Theater, a pro-Trumper in an fish suit alleging that Comey’s behavior had been fishy.

At the same time, the left is still mad at him over the FBI’s heavy hand in the 2016 presidential election.

About the bureau’s decision to announce in October 2016 that it was reopening the investigation into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s email, Comey presented it, as he has all week, as the less bad of two terrible choices, and one he strived to arrive at ethically.

His agency could have said nothing when it learned new Clinton emails were found on the computer of former Congressman Anthony Weiner, the husband of a top Clinton aide. But he and his “kitchen cabinet” ultimately decided “the American people’s confidence in us will depend on as much transparency as we can offer,” Comey said

And so the October surprise came, and Clinton has said she believes it tipped the election against her.

Comey still believes he did the right thing, as painful as it has been, but that doesn’t stop him from wishing “Anthony Weiner had never had a laptop and never been born,” he said Friday.

The 1985 University of Chicago Law School graduate has continued to draw fire this week. Some call the book too gossipy for its brief digressions into talking about the size of Trump’s hands or the color of his skin.

But in person he is pretty convincing — even to an audience of self-identified humanists — as a guy who believes deeply in the rule of law and the primacy of truth and their fundamental importance to the nation.

“The reality show is doing two things,” Comey said. “It’s numbing us to a serious erosion of core American values. And that numbing is preventing us from asking the question … ‘What will I tell my grandchildren I did in this moment?’”

sajohnson@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @StevenKJohnson

In Comey notes, Trump fixates on hookers, frets over Flynn »

Read: Ex-FBI Director James Comey’s memos »

‘I’m like a breakup he can’t get over,” Comey tells Stephen Colbert »

Letter: Did James Comey cost Hillary Clinton the presidency? »


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Michael Cohen and the End Stage of the Trump Presidency – The New Yorker

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On May 1, 2003, the day President George W. Bush landed on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln in front of the massive “Mission Accomplished” sign, I was in Baghdad performing what had become a daily ritual. I went to a gate on the side of the Republican Palace, in the Green Zone, where an American soldier was receiving, one by one, a long line of Iraqis who came with questions and complaints. I remember a man complaining that his house had been run over by a tank. There was a woman who had been a government employee and wanted to know about her salary. The soldier had a form he was supposed to fill out with each person’s request and that person’s contact information. I stood there as the man talked to each person and, each time, said, “Phone number?” And each person would answer some version of “The phone system of Iraq has been destroyed and doesn’t work.” Then the soldier would turn to the next person, write down the person’s question or complaint, and then ask, “Phone number?”

I arrived in Baghdad on April 12th of that year, a few days after Saddam’s statue at Firdos Square had been destroyed. There were a couple of weeks of uncertainty as reporters and Iraqis tried to gauge who was in charge of the country and what the general plan was. There was no electricity, no police, no phones, no courts, no schools. More than half of Iraqis worked for the government, and there was no government, no Army, and so no salaries for most of the country. At first, it seemed possible that the Americans simply needed a bit of time to communicate the new rules. By the end of April, though, it was clear: there was no plan, no new order. Iraq was anarchic.

We journalists were able to use generators and satellite dishes to access outside information, and what we saw was absurd. Americans seemed convinced things were going well in Iraq. The war—and the President who launched it—were seen favorably by seventy per cent of Americans. Then came these pictures of a President touting “Mission Accomplished”—the choice of words that President Trump used in a tweet on Saturday, the morning after he ordered an air strike on Syria. On the ground, we were not prophets or political geniuses. We were sentient adults who were able to see the clear, obvious truth in front of us. The path of Iraq would be decided by those who thrived in chaos.

I had a similar feeling in December, 2007. I came late to the financial crisis. I had spent much of 2006 and 2007 naïvely swatting away warnings from my friends and sources who told me of impending disaster. Finally, I decided to take a deep look at collateralized debt obligations, or C.D.O.s, those financial instruments that would soon be known as toxic assets. I read technical books, talked to countless experts, and soon learned that these were, in Warren Buffett’s famous phrase, weapons of financial mass destruction. They were engineered in such a way that they could exponentially increase profits but would, also, exponentially increase losses. Worse, they were too complex to be fully understood. It was impossible, even with all the information, to figure out what they were worth once they began to fail. Because these C.D.O.s had come to form the core value of most major banks’ assets, no major bank had clear value. With that understanding, the path was clear. Eventually, people would realize that the essential structure of our financial system was about to implode. Yet many political figures and TV pundits were happily touting the end of a crisis. (Larry Kudlow, now Trump’s chief economic adviser, led the charge of ignorance.)

In Iraq and with the financial crisis, it was helpful, as a reporter, to be able to divide the world into those who actually understand what was happening and those who said hopeful nonsense. The path of both crises turned out to be far worse than I had imagined.

I thought of those earlier experiences this week as I began to feel a familiar clarity about what will unfold next in the Trump Presidency. There are lots of details and surprises to come, but the endgame of this Presidency seems as clear now as those of Iraq and the financial crisis did months before they unfolded. Last week, federal investigators raided the offices of Michael Cohen, the man who has been closer than anybody to Trump’s most problematic business and personal relationships. This week, we learned that Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months—his e-mails have been read, presumably his phones have been tapped, and his meetings have been monitored. Trump has long declared a red line: Robert Mueller must not investigate his businesses, and must only look at any possible collusion with Russia. That red line is now crossed and, for Trump, in the most troubling of ways. Even if he were to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and then have Mueller and his investigation put on ice, and even if—as is disturbingly possible—Congress did nothing, the Cohen prosecution would continue. Even if Trump pardons Cohen, the information the Feds have on him can become the basis for charges against others in the Trump Organization.

This is the week we know, with increasing certainty, that we are entering the last phase of the Trump Presidency. This doesn’t feel like a prophecy; it feels like a simple statement of the apparent truth. I know dozens of reporters and other investigators who have studied Donald Trump and his business and political ties. Some have been skeptical of the idea that President Trump himself knowingly colluded with Russian officials. It seems not at all Trumpian to participate in a complex plan with a long-term, uncertain payoff. Collusion is an imprecise word, but it does seem close to certain that his son Donald, Jr., and several people who worked for him colluded with people close to the Kremlin; it is up to prosecutors and then the courts to figure out if this was illegal or merely deceitful. We may have a hard time finding out what President Trump himself knew and approved.

However, I am unaware of anybody who has taken a serious look at Trump’s business who doesn’t believe that there is a high likelihood of rampant criminality. In Azerbaijan, he did business with a likely money launderer for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. In the Republic of Georgia, he partnered with a group that was being investigated for a possible role in the largest known bank-fraud and money-laundering case in history. In Indonesia, his development partner is “knee-deep in dirty politics”; there are criminal investigations of his deals in Brazil; the F.B.I. is reportedly looking into his daughter Ivanka’s role in the Trump hotel in Vancouver, for which she worked with a Malaysian family that has admitted to financial fraud. Back home, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka were investigated for financial crimes associated with the Trump hotel in SoHo—an investigation that was halted suspiciously. His Taj Mahal casino received what was then the largest fine in history for money-laundering violations.

Listing all the financial misconduct can be overwhelming and tedious. I have limited myself to some of the deals over the past decade, thus ignoring Trump’s long history of links to New York Mafia figures and other financial irregularities. It has become commonplace to say that enough was known about Trump’s shady business before he was elected; his followers voted for him precisely because they liked that he was someone willing to do whatever it takes to succeed, and they also believe that all rich businesspeople have to do shady things from time to time. In this way of thinking, any new information about his corrupt past has no political salience. Those who hate Trump already think he’s a crook; those who love him don’t care.

I believe this assessment is wrong. Sure, many people have a vague sense of Trump’s shadiness, but once the full details are better known and digested, a fundamentally different narrative about Trump will become commonplace. Remember: we knew a lot about problems in Iraq in May, 2003. Americans saw TV footage of looting and heard reports of U.S. forces struggling to gain control of the entire country. We had plenty of reporting, throughout 2007, about various minor financial problems. Somehow, though, these specific details failed to impress upon most Americans the over-all picture. It took a long time for the nation to accept that these were not minor aberrations but, rather, signs of fundamental crisis. Sadly, things had to get much worse before Americans came to see that our occupation of Iraq was disastrous and, a few years later, that our financial system was in tatters.

The narrative that will become widely understood is that Donald Trump did not sit atop a global empire. He was not an intuitive genius and tough guy who created billions of dollars of wealth through fearlessness. He had a small, sad global operation, mostly run by his two oldest children and Michael Cohen, a lousy lawyer who barely keeps up the pretenses of lawyering and who now faces an avalanche of charges, from taxicab-backed bank fraud to money laundering and campaign-finance violations.

Cohen, Donald, Jr., and Ivanka monetized their willingness to sign contracts with people rejected by all sensible partners. Even in this, the Trump Organization left money on the table, taking a million dollars here, five million there, even though the service they provided—giving branding legitimacy to blatantly sketchy projects—was worth far more. It was not a company that built value over decades, accumulating assets and leveraging wealth. It burned through whatever good will and brand value it established as quickly as possible, then moved on to the next scheme.

There are important legal questions that remain. How much did Donald Trump and his children know about the criminality of their partners? How explicit were they in agreeing to put a shiny gold brand on top of corrupt deals? The answers to these questions will play a role in determining whether they go to jail and, if so, for how long.

There is no longer one major investigation into Donald Trump, focussed solely on collusion with Russia. There are now at least two, including a thorough review of Cohen’s correspondence. The information in his office and hotel room will likely make clear precisely how much the Trump family knew. What we already know is disturbing, and it is hard to imagine that the information prosecutors will soon learn will do anything but worsen the picture.

Of course Trump is raging and furious and terrified. Prosecutors are now looking at his core. Cohen was the key intermediary between the Trump family and its partners around the world; he was chief consigliere and dealmaker throughout its period of expansion into global partnerships with sketchy oligarchs. He wasn’t a slick politico who showed up for a few months. He knows everything, he recorded much of it, and now prosecutors will know it, too. It seems inevitable that much will be made public. We don’t know when. We don’t know the precise path the next few months will take. There will be resistance and denial and counterattacks. But it seems likely that, when we look back on this week, we will see it as a turning point. We are now in the end stages of the Trump Presidency.


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Who in Hollywood is using inclusion riders? Nobody's keeping track — including the group pushing for them

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Last week on Twitter, a young actor asked: “Is there a list of actors/directors/etc who have committed to an inclusion rider yet?”

It’s a good question. Who has committed so far?

He tagged @Inclusionists, which is the Twitter handle of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. That’s the think tank at the University of Southern California led by Stacy L. Smith who originally conceived of, and is now promoting, the inclusion rider.

Here’s how it’s explained on their website: “The concept is that A-list actors can incorporate a clause into their contracts that stipulates that inclusion — both on camera and behind the scenes for crew members — be reflected in films.”

The clause would ensure that “women, people of color, people with disabilities and members of LGBT and marginalized communities who are traditionally underrepresented be depicted on screen in proportion to their representation in the population.”

Sounds like a smart idea. Hollywood stars do have considerable leverage. And if they truly want to push for inclusion — or as I’ve written about in the past, ensure no pay gaps based on gender and race — they should be using their influence when negotiating deals.

Just the idea of inclusion riders is new. This is an ambitious experiment; it would make sense for the organization to maintain a list of who’s on board. This is their project, after all. You’d think they’d want to study its efficacy.

So what was their reply to the actor? “Everything publicly available is in the press.”

Huh. I thought that was vague and asked for clarification. The following is our exchange on Twitter:

“There are public and private announcements,” I was told. “The public ones are available. So yes those can be found with a simple Google search.”

When I pressed further and asked if they have their own database, I was informed: “A simple Google search reveals the database you are asking for. Press articles indicate the public commitments. We have now said the same thing three times. We are being clear.”

Spoiler: A simple Google search does not reveal any such database. You really have to hunt and peck. And who knows if you’re missing anyone? My own internet search turned up the following: Actors Brie Larson, Ashley Judd, Michael B. Jordan, John Boyega, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and director Paul Feig. There a few asterisks besides some of those names; more on that in a moment.

Let’s go back to the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. I was surprised at its reticence to speak plainly about whether it’s compiling a list of participants and said as much, and this was the response: “The people who have publicly committed are in the press. The total number does not warrant a ‘database.’ There is no reticence. Just Google it.”

Well. OK, then.

This is an odd response, to say the least.

“Just Google it.”

Really?

In Twitterspeak, “just Google it” means “figure it out yourself.” It’s one thing when a private individual says that — no one is obligated to be your unpaid learning resource — but when a university-affiliated think tank that’s actually studying the issue gives this kind of kiss-off, that’s a PR problem.

And it raises all kinds of concerns — about transparency and accountability and how the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative is interacting with members of the public — so I emailed Smith to see if we could talk by phone. Katherine Pieper, who is a research scientist with the organization, replied on Smith’s behalf and noted that the “quick answer to your question is that we are not maintaining a database of which actors, etc. have publicly committed to the Inclusion Rider.”

Finally, an answer!

But she did not reply to my requests to speak further by phone.

Here’s why this is troubling: Universities conduct research. And in fact, under the Annenberg banner at USC, a number of studies about Hollywood have been already published, specifically looking at who is and isn’t getting opportunities. It’s valuable work they’re doing.

Both Smith and Pieper have written a number of these studies in recent years and they are extremely useful — for anyone pursuing a career in Hollywood and for journalists obviously. But also for entertainment consumers in general. The data are crunched to expose just how prevalent marginalization is in Hollywood. Tracking that kind of information and analyzing it is precisely what Smith and her colleagues do.

So why aren’t they keeping a running list of who is working to change that through inclusion riders? Why aren’t they planning to follow up with these parties to see how it’s working? Where’s the academic rigor? They have declined to offer an explanation, but I suspect there are a couple of things going on.

The total number is indeed small — and perhaps momentum has fizzled in the month or so since Frances McDormand mentioned inclusion riders in her Oscar acceptance speech. Maybe the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative worries that maintaining a public list with so few names on it undercuts the viability of the idea itself.

Doesn’t it seem likely they are keeping track? Remember that tweet response: “There are public and private announcements” — how do they know about private announcements? It’s likely Hollywood power players have reached out to the Inclusion Initiative directly, but only if their interest is kept confidential. I’d guess the Inclusion Initiative has that information organized somewhere.

We are, of course, talking about individuals and companies who don’t want anyone nosing around their business decisions. But one might wonder why anyone who agrees to an inclusion rider — anyone who agrees to create TV and film with better representation — would want to keep that secret.

I suppose it’s easier to weasel out of that kind of commitment if no one knows you’ve made it. And it’s not unreasonable to worry that someone who has made a public commitment might not follow through.

That’s why there should be a centralized list. It’s a way to keep everyone honest.

So let’s dig in.

Pearl Street Films is Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s production company, and it has announced its commitment to inclusion riders. But what about acting projects for Damon and Affleck individually that don’t involve their company? That’s unclear and perhaps strategically so — if they don’t plan to use their considerable leverage on non-Pearl Street projects, why draw attention to that? I reached out to their publicists for clarification and the response was … silence.

Michael B. Jordan and John Boyega also announced commitments, but the same question applies — does that pertain only to their production companies or all acting jobs going forward? Their publicists also declined to respond.

Brie Larson was the first to signal her intentions and she was as direct as possible. Just hours after the Oscars broadcast she tweeted: “I’m committing to an inclusion rider. Who’s with me?” Larson does not have her own production company, but she is branching out into producing and directing. I asked her publicist if she was committing to an inclusion rider as both an actor and director, and again no response.

At a Sundance panel in January, Ashley Judd talked about this as well: “Those of us who have the ability are also asking for 50/50 riders in our deals” — presumably focusing on gender specifically. My email asking her publicist if that statement meant she is officially committing to inclusion riders was left unanswered.

Why is everyone so skittish?

At that same panel Judd also talked about her agency WME: “I would like for this agency that represents me to be 50/50 male-female, including all ethnicities, races and sexual orientations. And the 50/50 needs to be included in all decision-making levels, which means they would have to add two females at the top.”

WME is the agency that represents both Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg and helped facilitate a several-million-dollar pay gap favoring Wahlberg on a film they starred in together, 2017’s “All the Money in the World.”

WME appears to be taking the right steps. CEO Ari Emanuel (brother of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel) invited Smith to address agents and executives on behalf of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. He later sent a companywide email instructing agents to discuss the inclusion rider with their clients.

“It is imperative that you have a conversation with your film and TV clients about this critical issue,” he wrote in the memo obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. “We also know that talking about inclusivity is not enough. It must be institutionalized in order to create change.”

What we know is that the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative is actively working with Hollywood players. The think tank is advocating for inclusion riders and trying to get people to buy into the idea. This all sounds good.

But when members of the public ask questions, “Just Google it” doesn’t instill confidence. “Just Google it” says: “Go away, mind your own business.”

Which doesn’t jibe with the spirit of their endeavor.

For some time now, people have been asking why Hollywood gatekeepers consistently favor straight white men over everyone else. And the answer has historically been some variation of: “Go away, mind your own business.”

Take Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who said last month that the streaming network is against the idea of inclusion riders. “We’re not so big on doing everything through agreements. We’re trying to do things creatively.” Here’s how USA Today described his stance: “He would rather have his staff speak with the filmmakers about how many women and people of color are working on the project before shooting begins.”

But as WME’s Emanuel pointed out above, talking about inclusivity is not enough.

It’s important to see which high-profile actors are doing their part. A few years ago, agent-turned-producer Gavin Polone wrote a column for Vulture about outrageous perks some actors negotiate into their deals: “luxurious bonus demands like private jets, masseuses and gym trailers,” as well as first-class accommodations for assistants — whose salaries are also picked up by the film.

We’re talking sizable add-ons. “I’ve heard of perk packages exceeding $2 million for one actor on one film,” he wrote. “That may be a small percentage of the $20 million that that actor was probably paid to do the movie, but none of that money is translated into what the audience sees.”

You know what contract stipulation would translate into what the audience sees? Inclusion riders.

It’s a great idea. And because it is being led by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, they should be keeping track of it. Let’s be open and honest about who’s committed to it. And further down the line, how well it’s working.

nmetz@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @Nina_Metz

What’s an inclusion rider? Frances McDormand mystifies at the Oscars »

Hollywood, black actresses and the squishy metrics of who gets paid what »

It’s time Hollywood’s male stars use their power to level playing field »

‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Silicon Valley’ and when TV showrunners avoid creative challenges »


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The '2-by-4' that hit Paul Ryan before his decision not to run again – CNN

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He was in Springfield, Missouri, raising money for two House Republican colleagues when, as he recounts it, a “really successful guy” approached him to talk about family.

“Let me give you a piece of advice that I wish I’d listened to,” the man told him, according to Ryan. “They used to say it’s not the quantity of time you spend with your kids, it’s the quality of time. That’s a bunch of bull. It’s both. And don’t ever forget that. “

The idea that a public official would leave his position “to spend more time with family” and have that actually be the reason is an anomaly in Washington, one that draws knowing chuckles that imply a deeper, more dramatic rationale. But in a 30-minute interview with a small group of reporters in his Capitol Hill office, Ryan insisted that family — to be specific, his three kids in or entering their teenage years — really was the reason for the looming end of his 20-year congressional career, a decision made Sunday night at a family dinner in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, and announced Wednesday.

The headwinds facing the Republican Party that have led most on Capitol Hill — Republicans included — to consider a future in the House minority the only likely end game? He’s aware of them, but says that’s not the reason he decided not to run again.

Frustration with President Donald Trump? He could do with fewer tweets, but their relationship remains in a good place.

Concern that he’d lose his race to a well-funded Democrat? Ryan is confident his seat will remain in Republican hands with or without him.

With Ryan out, the fight for the next House speaker is on

In truth, all of the above factored into the decision-making process (save for the last one — Ryan and his team remained confident he was fine back home throughout). But the clincher that would put an end, for now at least, to the political career of a man who had become one of the faces of the Republican Party, was, in fact, his family.

The top House Republican appeared at ease as he reclined in a chair in his second-floor office overlooking the National Mall, hands clasped behind his head, reflecting on a career spent almost entirely pushing for his policy visions in federal government.

The successes in his mind were clear, most notably the passage of the 2017 tax law and the significant increase in military spending locked in by the recent $1.3 trillion federal spending bill. While he fell short in his goal of overhauling US entitlement programs, his ability to, in his words, “normalize” the discussion for significant changes — something that in his earlier years would be considered radical and is now the mainstream of House Republican orthodoxy — wasn’t a small thing, either.

His biggest regret? The failure to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Does he have ideas about who should replace him atop the House Republican conference? Yes. But that will have to wait until after the election, he said.

His biggest concern? The rise of identity politics.

“It used to be a Saul Alinsky thing. The left was really good at it. Now the right does it,” Ryan said, pointing to technology and social media as an accelerant. “That makes it hard just to have political goodwill in this country, because of all this polarization.”

Paul Ryan Fast Facts

Asked how that concern squared with a President who has used a strategy that relies heavily on those same identity politics more effectively than anyone in recent political history — a President who Ryan has publicly stood by throughout his time in the White House, the speaker exhaled audibly.

“Look, he won the election. He’s the President of the United States. We’re making really good progress on a lot of signature issues and we’re making a positive difference in people’s lives. I think if you can deny the oxygen of identity politics the best way to do that is to have a faster growing economy, more upward mobility, higher wages, getting people from poverty into the workforce. And those are some of the best tools to fight the seed corn of identity politics, the oxygen that feeds identity politics.”

As far as Ryan’s views on Trump — from his initial refusal to back the candidate, which turned to hesitant support, which turned into at times strong public defense of the President — they have been at the center of one of the more speculated about relationships on Capitol Hill.

In truth, according not just to Ryan but also to aides on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue, the relationship between the two men has been solid. They talk constantly by phone — often candid conversations, the speaker says.

One of the sharpest criticisms of Ryan — not just from Democrats, but also from some Republicans — is his perceived unwillingness to publicly attack Trump, even when he clearly disagrees on an issue or action, or, as is often the case, a tweet.

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“It works better to have private conversations than to have public disputes. It’s more effective,” Ryan says. “He appreciates that. He appreciates that when we have disputes or differences of opinion that we air them privately, and what I’ve learned is he learns. And he responds and he respects.”

Asked if he could candidly advise against the idea of, say, firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or special counsel Robert Mueller — something Trump has appeared to be teetering toward in recent days, Ryan starts to speak and then stops.

“I will keep our personal conversations personal, but I can say anything to him,” he said. “We have very candid conversations with each other.”

The other critique is that Ryan will deal with just about anything Trump does in order to get policy victories like the tax overhaul. Ryan doesn’t necessarily reject that idea. Asked if there had ever been a point where drama or concern about the White House made the policy tradeoffs not worth it, he didn’t hesitate.

“No, because I really believe the country was at a critical point,” he said, then ticked through why he felt the tax overhaul and military spending increase were important.

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There's a hot new countertenor in town. And he breakdances.

By | Entertainment News | No Comments

Countertenors, males of the species who sing in the range of a female alto, continue to be the growth industry in classical music.

The global boom in early music performance and the proliferation of that repertory on recordings makes them a hot commodity harking back to the castrato singers of 17th and 18th century Europe, such as the celebrated Italian countertenor Farinelli, who were the rock stars of their day.

A new generation of gifted young countertenors is vying for attention in the classical sphere, and few seem better positioned to carve out a solo career comparable to what older colleagues such as David Daniels, Andreas Scholl and Bejun Mehta have achieved than Jakub Jozef Orlinski.

Already touted as the next countertenor sensation, the Warsaw-born singer, 27, is making it big in European early music circles, collaborating with some leading lights of period performance, including conductors Harry Bicket and Paul Agnew. Last month he took part in a critically praised concert performance of Handel’s opera “Rinaldo” at Carnegie Hall, with Bicket leading the English Concert.

But Orlinski, who will make his Chicago debut this weekend in a program of baroque sacred vocal works, accompanied by the Music of the Baroque orchestra under Agnew’s direction, has even more going for him besides an uncommonly beautiful voice and acute musical and dramatic instincts.

Thanks to his model good looks and acrobatic skills as — yes — a champion breakdancer, he also takes part, on occasion, in advertising campaigns for Levi’s, Nike, Samsung and Mercedes-Benz.

Clever stage directors even manage to incorporate his breakdance routines into their opera productions. Orlinski had one of his power moves, the windmill, included in a staging of Francesco Cavalli’s “Erismena” that delighted audiences last year at the Chateau de Versailles in France. (He’s due to repeat his vocal and athletic tour de force when the production travels to St. Denis, France, in June.) You can catch several of his literally head-spinning routines in video clips posted on YouTube.

The singer’s legion of followers on Facebook and Instagram know him only as a member of the Polish breakdancing/hip-hop collective Skill Fanatikz Crew, while early music devotees know him as a stylish interpreter of Handel, Vivaldi and Pergolesi. He quite naturally would like the two camps to meet in the middle, and he’s using social media to expedite the process.

“I enjoy having direct connections over the internet with people all over the world who are interested in my lifestyle and what it looks like,” the singer said in a recent phone interview. “I come across a lot of people who never have listened to baroque music, and it’s exciting when they message me to say they are going to a concert because they saw me breakdancing on YouTube.”

He believes that posting videos of himself backflipping as a warmup exercise before going out on stage can only help pull young people into classical music who are put off by the ritualized formality that convinces many of them that such music is not for them.

In recent years Orlinski has traveled around Europe to compete in breakdance competitions but found that the tensing of muscles required in breakdance moves is the exact opposite of the relaxation of muscles needed for singing opera or concerts.

“A lot of people do not realize it, but singing is very, very physical,” he said. “Warming up before a performance is about waking up the breathing system. I had to spend quite a few years during my studies at the Juilliard School developing an awareness of muscle groups used in singing, particularly the diaphragm and stomach muscles. That’s been extremely helpful for my career.”

Also helpful has been the encouragement of influential colleagues such as Agnew, the Scottish tenor-turned-conductor who, since 2013, has served with William Christie as joint music director of the period ensemble Les Arts Florissants. They met at Juilliard, where Orlinski asked Agnew to coach him in Handel’s music, and hit it off immediately, according to Agnew.

“It was such a pleasure to work with a young artist of such talent and who was open to different ideas,” the conductor wrote in an email. “He is an enormously personable singer and someone who wears his talent lightly. We have various plans to work together again in the future, and I look forward to them with much anticipation and pleasure.”

What impresses Bicket the most about Orlinski is the singer’s natural ease as a performer.

“The voice was still a work in progress when I first heard Jakub at Juilliard,” he said via email, “but he walked into the room with an unassuming confidence and charmed us all. Audiences love him, and he is a perfect colleague.”

Orlinski began developing his love of early music and his interest in breakdancing around the same time. Without any early training in music, but inspired by the recordings he heard of the male vocal consort King’s Singers, he began singing as a boy alto and soprano with an amateur choir in Warsaw. “I was already singing as a countertenor after my voice changed,” he said.

Before the fall of communist rule in Poland, standards of operatic performance were pretty abysmal, he recalled, which is why young Jakub hated opera. “I assumed opera was only about divas — in the negative sense of the word — and that it meant three hours of sitting in a theater, listening to somebody screaming,” he said with a laugh.

It wasn’t until he enrolled in vocal studies at the music university in Warsaw that he discovered the joys of solo singing. Suddenly a whole new world opened for him, and he knew what he wanted to do with his life.

Orlinski worked jobs as a breakdancer and model to finance his early musical education back home. He found himself competing with music students far more advanced than him. “I did a lot of my studying at night,” he said. “During the days I was doing breakdance shows and commercials for car and clothing companies, to have enough money to live on. Those first couple of years really were an incredible journey.”

Orlinski describes himself as having been “a very active kid, jumping, running around, climbing trees” — exactly the kind of person who would want to take up breakdancing once he entered high school. When a friend invited him to take a free breakdance class, he literally leapt at the chance.

“I found that breakdancing combines freedom, creativity and the physical. There’s no such thing as a wrong move; you can do it in totally different ways and it’s still correct.” The fact that breakdancing is impossible without music to drive it sealed the deal. “My life is driven by music. Whenever I am sad, I listen to music, and it helps my mood. So does breakdancing. It keeps me mentally healthy.”

Now that he is armed with a graduate degree from Juilliard and has a raft of concert and operatic appearances on his calendar, Orlinski has earned his place in a countertenor fraternity of rising young stars that includes Iestyn Davies, Anthony Roth Constanzo, Franco Fagioli, Max Emanuel Cencic and the French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, whose singing, Orlinski said, inspired him to take up singing professionally. The men are close friends.

“We countertenors usually are not jealous of one another,” Orlinski said. “The problem is other people. They are constantly comparing you. Some people think I want to be like Philippe Jaroussky, and I don’t. I just want to be myself.”

Orlinski’s efforts to create a distinct artistic profile amid a crowded field of star male altos got a major shot in the arm with his recent signing of an exclusive recording contract with Warner Erato.

The company had proposed introducing him with a recital disc of Handel arias, but he proposed a more unusual calling card — a program of virtuoso sacred vocal works, most of them world premiere recordings, by little-known 17th- and 18th-century composers such as Jan Dismas Zelenka, Johann David Heinichen and Johann Adolf Hasse. The album, with the European period ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro, is due out this fall. “I feel like it’s my child,” Orlinski said.

So what does attract him to baroque music, and what are the satisfactions he derives from singing it?

“It speaks to me and it touches me,” said Orlinski, who resides in New York and Warsaw. “When I perform the baroque repertory, it’s such a journey of different emotions. So many pieces from that period tug at me in a very emotional way. When I can make people feel at least a little bit of the joy I experience when I am singing, that makes me incredibly happy.”

Countertenor Jakub Jozef Orlinski will join conductor Paul Agnew, soprano Sherezade Panthaki and the Music of the Baroque orchestra in sacred works by Vivaldi, Handel and Pergolesi at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, and 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph St.; $25-$78; 312-551-1414, www.baroque.org

New music conference at NU

The Bienen School of Music and its Institute for New Music will host the third biennial Northwestern University New Music Conference from Friday through Sunday on the Evanston campus. The performances, lectures, master classes and panel discussions are open to the public, and most are free.

The conference will open at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall with works by George Benjamin, Thomas Ades and David Lang, performed by the Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble, Northwestern Chorale and University Symphony Orchestra, under Donald Nally.

Other events include a free recital by flutist Claire Chase at 10 p.m. Friday in Galvin Recital Hall; the Contemporary Music Ensemble performing works by featured guest composers, 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Galvin; the JACK Quartet, 5 p.m. Sunday in the Regenstein Master Class Room; and a closing concert of works submitted by participants, along with music by Erin Gee, Brian Ferneyhough and Amy Williams, 7 p.m. Sunday in Galvin.

For more information, call 847-491-5441 or go to www.concertsatbienen.org.

John von Rhein is a Tribune critic.

jvonrhein@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @jvonrhein

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