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Westlake Legal Group > News Media (Page 342)

Ohio taxi driver jailed for shooting passenger following argument, police say

Westlake Legal Group palmer-cropped-457am Ohio taxi driver jailed for shooting passenger following argument, police say Jack Durschlag fox-news/us/us-regions/midwest/ohio fox-news/us/crime fox-news/us fox news fnc/us fnc c01af89d-bf1e-5283-a5bd-2fb5339c3811 article

An argument in Ohio between a taxi cab driver and his passenger in the parking lot of a gas station early Friday near Cincinnati resulted in multiple gunshot wounds to the passenger’s neck and back and the driver being arrested on felony assault charges, according to a report.

The driver, Phillip Palmer, 71, of Cincinnati, was being held without bond at the Clermont County jail, Cincinnati.com reported. He is scheduled to appear in Clermont County Municipal Court at 10 a.m. Friday, the report said.

OHIO POLICE RESCUE BOY, 13, FROM FREEZING LAKE ERIE AFTER HE FELL OFF BREAK WALL, VIDEO SHOWS

The victim, identified as Nick Young, 38, of Washington Township, was airlifted to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center late Thursday, authorities said. He was listed in stable condition Friday but no update was available, the website reported.

Additional charges against Palmer are pending after the Clermont County Prosecutor’s Office presents its case to a grand jury, the sheriff’s office said.

Deputies were called to the gas station at 8:42 p.m. by patrons who reported the shooting, sheriff’s officials said.

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When deputies arrived, they discovered the suspect had fled the scene in a taxi cab he was driving, Cincinnati.com reported.

Deputies were asked to keep an eye out for a taxi cab traveling westbound on U.S. 52 away from the scene, the report said.

A taxi cab matching the description was located and detained by the New Richmond Police Department in the village of New Richmond, according to the sheriff’s office.

Westlake Legal Group palmer-cropped-457am Ohio taxi driver jailed for shooting passenger following argument, police say Jack Durschlag fox-news/us/us-regions/midwest/ohio fox-news/us/crime fox-news/us fox news fnc/us fnc c01af89d-bf1e-5283-a5bd-2fb5339c3811 article   Westlake Legal Group palmer-cropped-457am Ohio taxi driver jailed for shooting passenger following argument, police say Jack Durschlag fox-news/us/us-regions/midwest/ohio fox-news/us/crime fox-news/us fox news fnc/us fnc c01af89d-bf1e-5283-a5bd-2fb5339c3811 article

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LBJ-era immigration changes skewed political power toward Dems, away from GOP: study

Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-49453f4540cd44e2819538f9008651e0 LBJ-era immigration changes skewed political power toward Dems, away from GOP: study Sam Dorman fox-news/us/immigration/illegal-immigrants fox-news/us/immigration fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/politics/2020-house-races fox news fnc/politics fnc dda447ce-8525-550b-b402-a0045e253ef9 article

U.S. legal and illegal immigration levels will create a markedly different House of Representatives — and post-2020 electoral college votes — than would have existed otherwise, a new study claims.

The study, conducted by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), claims to offer insight into how immigration reforms during the era of Democratic President Lyndon Johnson affected the distribution of American political power.

“Our findings indicate that, over time, immigration profoundly redistributes political power at the federal level by changing the apportionment of House seats and votes in the Electoral College,” the study’s authors wrote.

TOM HOMAN: 2020 DEMS MAKING PROMISES TO ILLEGALS ‘GUARANTEEING’ TRUMP WIN

CIS analyzed Census data to determine that immigrants, and their U.S.-born children, will redistribute at least 26 House seats after 2020. Of those 26 lost seats, 24 will come from states that voted for President Trump in the 2016 election. Meanwhile, solidly Democratic states — California, New Jersey, and New York — will collectively gain 19 additional seats, CIS said Thursday.

In total, California will have nearly a dozen more seats than it otherwise would have without the presence of immigrants and their children. New York and Texas will each have four additional seats.

The study touches on many conservatives’ claims that Democrats are effectively importing new voters to support them in future elections. In particular, conservative author Ann Coulter has repeatedly argued the Johnson-era reforms significantly altered legal immigration in a way that would benefit the party. Johnson served as president from November 1963, following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, until January 1969, when Republican Richard Nixon took office. (Johnson had declined to seek a second term after being elected in 1964.)

CIS similarly said the reforms had a wide-reaching impact.

“Immigration laws were changed significantly in 1965, spurring a new ‘Great Wave’ of immigration as the number of immigrants grew roughly four-and-a-half fold between 1965 and 2019.”

Each state’s electoral vote is composed of the number of seats it holds in the House and Senate, meaning the CIS findings could shed light on the 2022 and 2024 elections as well. Congress will reapportion seats after the U.S. completes the 2020 Census, but that reapportionment won’t take effect until after the 2020 election.

Trump was able to pick up electoral votes in the swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, and Wisconsin — states that will each lose at least one seat, according to CIS. Ohio, perhaps the most-watched state beside Florida, will lose three more seats than it otherwise would have.

ILLEGAL-IMMIGRANT SMUGGLING ADAPTS DESPITE US CRACKDOWN, REPORT SAYS

Florida, however, would gain three additional seats while New Jersey would gain two and Illinois and Massachusetts will gain one additional seat. Each of those last three supported former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

“Apportionment is a zero-sum system; by adding more population to some states rather than others, immigration will continue to significantly redistribute political power in Washington,” the study reads.

Just illegal immigrants and their U.S.-born children will result in key swing states losing seats as well.

“Illegal immigrants and their U.S.-born minor children will redistribute five seats in 2020, with Ohio, Michigan, Alabama, Minnesota, and West Virginia each losing one seat in 2020 that they otherwise would have had,” the authors wrote. “California and Texas will each have two additional seats, and New York will have one additional seat.”

NEW JERSEY GOV. PHIL MURPHY SIGNS LAW LETTING ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS GET DRIVER’S LICENSES

Republicans also criticized 2020 Democratic candidates for offering public services, like free health care, to illegal immigrants. Democrats typically contend that immigrants boost the U.S. economy, don’t replace domestic labor, and add diversity to the country’s civic culture.

Prior polling has shown that immigrants tend to support Democrats and a 2016 study seemed to confirm the threat that Republicans faced from growing immigration.

“The impact of immigration on Republican votes in the House is negative when the share of naturalized migrants in the voting population increases,” the National Bureau of Economic Research study concluded.

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It added that its results were “consistent with naturalized migrants being less likely to vote for the Republican Party than native voters and with native voters’ political preferences moving towards the Republican Party because of high immigration of non-citizens.”

The CIS favors lower immigration levels and has been called a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) — an accusation that prompted CIS to sue the SPLC in January.

Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-49453f4540cd44e2819538f9008651e0 LBJ-era immigration changes skewed political power toward Dems, away from GOP: study Sam Dorman fox-news/us/immigration/illegal-immigrants fox-news/us/immigration fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/politics/2020-house-races fox news fnc/politics fnc dda447ce-8525-550b-b402-a0045e253ef9 article   Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-49453f4540cd44e2819538f9008651e0 LBJ-era immigration changes skewed political power toward Dems, away from GOP: study Sam Dorman fox-news/us/immigration/illegal-immigrants fox-news/us/immigration fox-news/politics/2020-presidential-election fox-news/politics/2020-house-races fox news fnc/politics fnc dda447ce-8525-550b-b402-a0045e253ef9 article

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Tesla Stock Hits Elon Musk’s Magic Number: $420

Westlake Legal Group 23tesla4-facebookJumbo Tesla Stock Hits Elon Musk’s Magic Number: $420 Tesla Motors Inc Stocks and Bonds Prices (Fares, Fees and Rates) Musk, Elon Electric and Hybrid Vehicles

Back in August 2018, Elon Musk casually announced on Twitter that he planned to take Tesla private at a price of $420 a share, a 20 percent premium at the time. He added that he had “funding secured.”

The announcement turned out to be much less secure than Mr. Musk had suggested, and it landed him in hot water with securities regulators, who asserted that he had misled investors. For more than a year after that, troubles seemed to mount for Mr. Musk and his electric-car company — including distribution challenges, a sales slump, quarterly losses, a liquidity scare and more legal problems for Mr. Musk.

All of that weighed heavily on Tesla’s share price, which fell as low as $177 in June.

But in recent months the company has seemed to turn a corner. Rising sales lifted Tesla to a profit in the third quarter, it unveiled a fourth car for its model line, and it completed a factory in China, a market of vast potential growth.

On Monday, its stock reached a milestone, rising to an intraday high of $422, exceeding the price that Mr. Musk once appeared to offer. Even though Tesla shares ended the day slightly below $420, they are up more than 60 percent in two months.

“It’s pretty dramatic how sentiment has shifted about the company’s outlook,” said Mike Ramsey, a Gartner analyst.

Tesla’s fortunes have risen as Mr. Musk has presented a more measured presence on Twitter this year, refraining from clashing as often as he did in the past with short-sellers — investors betting against Tesla’s stock — and other detractors online.

And Mr. Musk scored a legal victory this month when a jury in federal court in Los Angeles cleared him in a defamation case brought by a British man whom Mr. Musk had referred to as a “pedo guy.”

“It removes a major issue that was hanging over the company that could be really damaging to the brand,” Mr. Ramsey said. “Now he’s off the hook.”

Tesla did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Musk hasn’t eliminated all irreverence from his Twitter feed. After the stock passed the $420 mark on Monday, he tweeted, “Whoa … the stock is so high lol,” apparently a reference to the association between the number 420 and marijuana use.

Right after Mr. Musk proposed taking Tesla private at $420 a share, he appeared to take a puff of a marijuana cigarette during a podcast interview, one of the actions that had raised concerns about his behavior among investors and his own board members.

Tesla still faces plenty of challenges. Sales of its most profitable cars, the Model S luxury sedan and Model X sport utility vehicle, have plunged. It is spending heavily to ramp up production in China, build a plant in Germany and finish development of two new vehicles — a roomier version of its Model 3 sedan called the Model Y and a wedge-shaped pickup known as the Cybertruck.

On Jan. 1, Tesla will have exhausted the federal tax credit available to its buyers, effectively making its cars slightly more expensive just as more competing models are arriving on the market.

Mr. Musk has also promised to have a million self-driving cars on the road by summer, while other industry executives have concluded that autonomous vehicles are still several years away from widespread use.

Nevertheless, cost-cutting and continuing increases in sales of its most affordable car, the Model 3, have put the company into the black. It reported income of $143 million for the third quarter, when many analysts had expected a loss. It sold 97,000 cars in the period, helped by rising sales overseas.

Tesla needs to sell 105,000 cars this quarter to reach sales of 360,000 cars for the year. It had forecast 360,000 to 400,000.

The new factory outside Shanghai should help Tesla continue its growth streak. China is the world’s largest market for electric cars, but Tesla has been held back because import duties make its vehicles more expensive there. The new plant will produce the Model 3. The car will be eligible for incentives offered by the Chinese government aimed at encouraging purchases of locally made electric cars.

At the same time, Mr. Musk’s more measured presence on social media has eased concerns about the company’s decision making, Mr. Ramsey said.

“I have always felt the only thing that could truly derail Tesla was Elon going off the rails with his behavior,” he said. “And he has been more professional.”

In October, Mr. Musk said the Model Y would be available in the summer and probably outpace the Model 3 in sales. Last month, he unveiled the Cybertruck, although production probably won’t start for at least two years.

Tesla may be beaten in the race to offer an electric truck by another start-up automaker, Rivian Motors. On Monday, Rivian said it had raised $1.3 billion from investors including the fund manager T. Rowe Price, Amazon and Ford Motor. Earlier this year, Rivian announced three other rounds of funding totaling more than $1.5 billion.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Tennessee man accused of beating blind, homeless man to death with fire extinguisher at bus station

Westlake Legal Group brandon-brown-homeless-man-beating-death-suspect Tennessee man accused of beating blind, homeless man to death with fire extinguisher at bus station fox-news/us/us-regions/southeast/tennessee fox-news/us/crime/homicide fox-news/us/crime fox-news/travel/vacation-destinations/nashville fox-news/topic/homeless-crisis fox news fnc/us fnc ed174ab5-2ae1-5372-b46c-543b62cb97e9 Danielle Wallace article

A man was arrested for murder early Monday after allegedly using a fire extinguisher to beat a blind, homeless man to death inside a parking garage at a Nashville, Tenn., bus station.

Brandon Brown, 32, was charged with criminal homicide after a 49-year-old man was found beaten to death inside the WeGo Central parking garage at the Music City Central Bus Station. The identity of the man killed has yet to be released by Nashville Metro Police. He was believed to be blind and homeless.

Police initially responded to the bus station at 2 a.m. where they found Brown with blood on his shirt and a cut above one eye. He was transported to Metro General Hospital to be treated, police said. He did not tell officers how he was injured, FOX 17 Nashville reported.

MISSISSIPPI HOMELESS MAN COMMITS CRIME TO GET LOCKED UP AND OUT OF THE COLD

It wasn’t until about 5:30 a.m. when a security staff member discovered a man beaten to death on the fifth floor of the parking garage, investigators said. Detectives determined the weapon used to kill him was a fire extinguisher.

Police returned to the hospital to question Brown but he had already been released. Officers later spotted him walking down the street nearby and brought him into custody. He was arrested and charged after implicating himself in the murder during a police interview, according to detectives. The motive remains unclear at this point in the investigation, police said.

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He was being held on a $1.2 million bond,  The Tennessean of Nashville also reported.

Westlake Legal Group brandon-brown-homeless-man-beating-death-suspect Tennessee man accused of beating blind, homeless man to death with fire extinguisher at bus station fox-news/us/us-regions/southeast/tennessee fox-news/us/crime/homicide fox-news/us/crime fox-news/travel/vacation-destinations/nashville fox-news/topic/homeless-crisis fox news fnc/us fnc ed174ab5-2ae1-5372-b46c-543b62cb97e9 Danielle Wallace article   Westlake Legal Group brandon-brown-homeless-man-beating-death-suspect Tennessee man accused of beating blind, homeless man to death with fire extinguisher at bus station fox-news/us/us-regions/southeast/tennessee fox-news/us/crime/homicide fox-news/us/crime fox-news/travel/vacation-destinations/nashville fox-news/topic/homeless-crisis fox news fnc/us fnc ed174ab5-2ae1-5372-b46c-543b62cb97e9 Danielle Wallace article

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More than 1,000 Christians killed by Islamic militants in Nigeria in 2019: report

Westlake Legal Group Nigeria-GE-map More than 1,000 Christians killed by Islamic militants in Nigeria in 2019: report fox-news/world/world-regions/africa fox-news/world/terrorism fox-news/world/religion/islam fox-news/world/religion/christianity fox-news/world/religion fox news fnc/world fnc Danielle Wallace article 73ede8f5-aba7-5d1d-b52e-02600fc79b15

More than 1,000 Christians have been murdered by Islamic militants this year in Nigeria, according to a report circulated by Christian news outlets earlier this month.

A militia of Islamic Fulani herdsmen murdered Christians as part of an aggressive and strategic land-grabbing strategy across the Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Southern Kaduna and parts of Bauchi state, the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), a British non-profit run by a member of the British House of Lords, Baroness Cox, reported.

“They attack rural villages, force villagers off their lands and settle in their place — a strategy that is epitomized by the phrase: ‘Your land or your blood,'” the report said. “In every village, the message from local people is the same: ‘Please, please help us! The Fulani are coming. We are not safe in our own homes.'”

“In every village, the message from local people is the same: ‘Please, please help us! The Fulani are coming. We are not safe in our own homes.'”

— Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust report

NIGERIA’S CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY SLOWLY BEING ERASED AS MILITANTS STEP UP VICIOUS KILLINGS, KIDNAPPINGS

The report, published Nov. 18 but circulated this month, is titled “Your Land or Your Body.” It also estimates about 6,000 Christians have been killed by members of the Fulani ethnic group since 2015 and another 12,000 displaced, according to a copy obtained by The Christian Post.

Nomadic Fulani herdsmen “seek to replace diversity and difference with an Islamist ideology which is imposed with violence on those who refuse to comply. It is – according to the Nigerian House of Representatives – genocide,” Baroness Cox told the Christian Institute.

“Something has to change — urgently,” Cox also told Christian Today. “For the longer we tolerate these massacres, the more we embolden the perpetrators. We give them a ‘green light’ to carry on killing.”

“Something has to change — urgently. For the longer we tolerate these massacres, the more we embolden the perpetrators. We give them a ‘green light’ to carry on killing.”

— Baroness Cox, Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust

Tensions over land-scarcity have been rising in Nigeria as the Sahara Desert continues to expand and the population is on the rise. Predominantly Christian communities remain the target of land-grabbing attacks, suggesting “religion and ideology play a key part” in the Fulani herdsmen’s motive.

The Fulani herdsmen are responsible for the majority of the Christian deaths in Nigeria in 2019. About half of the Christian deaths this year occurred in five separate attacks in Kaduna between January and November, the report said, according to Christian Today. Christians are also being killed by Boko Haram, a jihad terrorist group, in the Borno state, the report said. The exact death toll is not known.

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“The attacks have, on occasion, led to retaliatory violence, as communities conclude that they can no longer rely on the government for protection or justice,” the report said. “However, we have seen no evidence of comparability of scale or equivalence of atrocities.”

Westlake Legal Group Nigeria-GE-map More than 1,000 Christians killed by Islamic militants in Nigeria in 2019: report fox-news/world/world-regions/africa fox-news/world/terrorism fox-news/world/religion/islam fox-news/world/religion/christianity fox-news/world/religion fox news fnc/world fnc Danielle Wallace article 73ede8f5-aba7-5d1d-b52e-02600fc79b15   Westlake Legal Group Nigeria-GE-map More than 1,000 Christians killed by Islamic militants in Nigeria in 2019: report fox-news/world/world-regions/africa fox-news/world/terrorism fox-news/world/religion/islam fox-news/world/religion/christianity fox-news/world/religion fox news fnc/world fnc Danielle Wallace article 73ede8f5-aba7-5d1d-b52e-02600fc79b15

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Pentagon Eyes Africa Drawdown as First Step in Global Troop Shift

Westlake Legal Group merlin_136996809_fbacec63-9308-4778-b896-7dc97918fbb1-facebookJumbo Pentagon Eyes Africa Drawdown as First Step in Global Troop Shift United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Terrorism Shabab Military Bases and Installations Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Esper, Mark T Boko Haram Al Qaeda Africa Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper is weighing proposals for a major reduction — or even a complete pullout — of American forces from West Africa as the first phase of reviewing global deployments that could reshuffle thousands of troops around the world, according to officials familiar with internal deliberations.

The discussions of a large-scale pullback from West Africa include abandoning a recently built $110 million drone base in Niger and ending assistance to French forces battling militants in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. The deliberations stem from a push to reduce post-9/11 missions battling terrorist groups, and instead to refocus Pentagon priorities on confronting so-called Great Powers like Russia and China.

With an initial decision about Africa expected in January, the plans are sure to draw criticism from lawmakers, allies and military officials, and could eventually affect most global missions in some way. About 200,000 American forces are currently stationed abroad, similar to the force posture when President Trump took office with a promise to close out the nation’s “endless wars.”

But Mr. Trump is not so much ending wars as he is moving troops from one conflict to another, and Mr. Esper’s initiative aims to carry out that rebalancing.

Officials say the overhaul of Africa deployments will be followed by one in Latin America, and that drawdowns will happen in Iraq and Afghanistan, as has been expected.

The initiative reflects what has become the defining priority for Mr. Esper: moving away from 18 years of counterterrorism deployments in places troubled by militancy and insurgency where thousands of American troops cycle through in an attempt to maintain minimal stability but without much prospect of definitive solutions.

“We’ve begun a review process where I’m looking at every theater, understanding what the requirements are that we set out for, making sure we’re as efficient as possible with our forces,” Mr. Esper told reporters this month.

Planning for a West Africa pullback has been closely held in the Pentagon; Congress has not been consulted.

The primary mission of the American troops has been to train and assist West African security forces to try to suppress Islamist groups like Boko Haram and offshoots of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. As part of that mission, four American soldiers were ambushed and killed two years ago while on patrol in Niger.

Mr. Esper’s team has questioned the value of those efforts and wants to scale back missions to counter militants who lack the demonstrated ability and intent to attack the United States on its own soil, the officials said. None of the terrorist groups operating in West Africa are said to meet this heightened assessment standard.

President George W. Bush’s administration conducted a similar internal debate after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and initially targeted only those terrorist groups bent on attacking civilians in the West — in particular Al Qaeda.

But at the same time, Mr. Bush blurred the distinction between Al Qaeda and the Taliban, an Islamist militant group focused on imposing Shariah law in Afghanistan. He blamed and attacked the Taliban for having provided a haven for Osama bin Laden and his followers.

Early internal criticism about the new proposals has focused on whether any American withdrawal would create a vacuum for other Great Powers to fill, undermining their strategic purpose. Also at question is whether they would risk a breakdown of stability that could sharply increase the flow of refugees and other migrants north into Europe.

Mr. Esper has given Africa Command until January to draft a withdrawal plan, as well as a plan for redeploying troops.

The defense secretary is also considering significant cuts in the Middle East. In the coming months in Iraq, officials said, Mr. Esper may cut American presence to 2,500 troops from 5,000. And he has already conveyed a desire to withdraw about 4,000 of the nearly 13,000 troops now in Afghanistan.

But these changes, perceived by some as seismic, run the risk of confrontation between the Pentagon and the four-star generals who lead the regional headquarters.

Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the newly appointed head of Africa Command, has struggled to articulate the need for American forces in Africa to confront China and Russia, which are vigorously expanding their influence economically and militarily across the continent and in its surrounding waters.

And Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., who is in charge of American troops in the Middle East, has often lobbied for more forces in the region to deter and confront Iran, including overhead surveillance aircraft and troops.

But the Pentagon’s proposed drawdown in West Africa also runs at cross-purposes with a new State Department initiative to combat a resurgent Islamic State there. “ISIS is outpacing the ability of regional governments and international partners to address that threat,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month at a meeting of nations fighting the terrorist group.

He also created a special task force to focus specifically on deteriorating security and other problems in the sub-Saharan region that stretches from Senegal to Sudan and has been seized by growing waves of terrorism and armed conflict.

Mr. Esper’s initiative, though, has alarmed key allies, including France, which has around 4,500 troops in West Africa who are taking the lead in fighting ISIS and Qaeda insurgents there. The French rely on American intelligence, logistics support and aerial refueling — at a cost to the Pentagon of about $45 million a year.

French officials say they are moving to be more self-sufficient — ordering more American-made C-130 transport planes and Reaper drones, as well as leading a new effort to have European special forces train African militaries.

Mr. Esper has made no attempt to hide his desire to reshuffle American forces around the world. In October, during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, he said he was asking all of his commanders to look for areas “where they can free up time, money and manpower to put into our top priorities as chartered by the National Defense Strategy: China, No. 1; Russia, No. 2.”

The Pentagon’s review of forces comes amid Mr. Trump’s repeated promises to end what he calls the United States’ “endless wars,” an attempt at fulfilling a 2016 campaign pledge.

No wars have ended, though, and more troops have been deployed to the Middle East in recent months than have come home.

Independent analysts praised Mr. Esper’s effort to review force levels but warned that the new emphasis on confronting China and Russia should not mean neglecting other global hot spots.

“The demands on U.S. forces are high, and bringing supply and demand into equilibrium is a challenge the department shouldn’t dodge,” said Kathleen Hicks, a former top Defense Department official now at the Center for Strategic and International Security. “But the formula will need to be nuanced.”

Africa Command is the first of the Pentagon’s global fighting commands to come under what is being called a “blank slate” review. There are about 6,000 to 7,000 American troops in Africa, with the largest numbers concentrated in the sub-Saharan region and in the Horn of Africa. In Somalia, there are about 500 Special Operations troops fighting the Shabab — a Qaeda-linked terrorist group — from small outposts alongside local troops.

Mr. Esper’s proposed cuts would most likely focus on the several hundred troops now deployed in countries like Niger, Chad and Mali. The Air Force recently started flying Reaper drone missions from the new base, known as Air Base 201, near Agadez, Niger.

In the past year, the Pentagon has shrunk its forces in Africa by reducing several hundred Special Operations troops on the continent as part of the troop shift.

Ahead of their impending reviews, some commands are taking steps to promote their troops’ operations. Southern Command, which oversees missions in Latin America, is now publishing a weekly digital newsletter. A recent bulletin mentioned the deployment of a Navy plane to help search for a missing Chilean Air Force plane as well as the participation in a disaster-relief exercise with Panamanian troops.

For Central Command, the proposed cuts in Afghanistan and Iraq would follow significant cuts already made in northeastern Syria: Troops there were reduced to 1,000 from 2,000. The order — an effort to follow the president’s demands to withdraw all American troops from the region — was later partly reversed to help prevent ISIS from recapturing valuable oil fields.

Even in regions where American force levels are likely to remain steady or even increase, the Pentagon is pressing host nations to pay a larger share of the costs.

For instance, Mr. Esper recently pressed the South Korean government to pay up to $5 billion a year to support the 28,500 American troops in the country — more than five times the amount Seoul agreed to pay this year. Negotiations continue.

And in Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon has started negotiations to recoup billions of dollars in “partner burden-sharing” costs. The United States recently deployed 3,000 air defense and other troops to help protect the kingdom after a drone and missile attack on oil fields, which Washington blamed on Iran.

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Pentagon Eyes Africa Drawdown as First Step in Global Troop Shift

Westlake Legal Group merlin_136996809_fbacec63-9308-4778-b896-7dc97918fbb1-facebookJumbo Pentagon Eyes Africa Drawdown as First Step in Global Troop Shift United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Terrorism Shabab Military Bases and Installations Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Esper, Mark T Boko Haram Al Qaeda Africa Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper is weighing proposals for a major reduction — or even a complete pullout — of American forces from West Africa as the first phase of reviewing global deployments that could reshuffle thousands of troops around the world, according to officials familiar with internal deliberations.

The discussions of a large-scale pullback from West Africa include abandoning a recently built $110 million drone base in Niger and ending assistance to French forces battling militants in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. The deliberations stem from a push to reduce post-9/11 missions battling terrorist groups, and instead to refocus Pentagon priorities on confronting so-called Great Powers like Russia and China.

With an initial decision about Africa expected in January, the plans are sure to draw criticism from lawmakers, allies and military officials, and could eventually affect most global missions in some way. About 200,000 American forces are currently stationed abroad, similar to the force posture when President Trump took office with a promise to close out the nation’s “endless wars.”

But Mr. Trump is not so much ending wars as he is moving troops from one conflict to another, and Mr. Esper’s initiative aims to carry out that rebalancing.

Officials say the overhaul of Africa deployments will be followed by one in Latin America, and that drawdowns will happen in Iraq and Afghanistan, as has been expected.

The initiative reflects what has become the defining priority for Mr. Esper: moving away from 18 years of counterterrorism deployments in places troubled by militancy and insurgency where thousands of American troops cycle through in an attempt to maintain minimal stability but without much prospect of definitive solutions.

“We’ve begun a review process where I’m looking at every theater, understanding what the requirements are that we set out for, making sure we’re as efficient as possible with our forces,” Mr. Esper told reporters this month.

Planning for a West Africa pullback has been closely held in the Pentagon; Congress has not been consulted.

The primary mission of the American troops has been to train and assist West African security forces to try to suppress Islamist groups like Boko Haram and offshoots of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. As part of that mission, four American soldiers were ambushed and killed two years ago while on patrol in Niger.

Mr. Esper’s team has questioned the value of those efforts and wants to scale back missions to counter militants who lack the demonstrated ability and intent to attack the United States on its own soil, the officials said. None of the terrorist groups operating in West Africa are said to meet this heightened assessment standard.

President George W. Bush’s administration conducted a similar internal debate after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and initially targeted only those terrorist groups bent on attacking civilians in the West — in particular Al Qaeda.

But at the same time, Mr. Bush blurred the distinction between Al Qaeda and the Taliban, an Islamist militant group focused on imposing Shariah law in Afghanistan. He blamed and attacked the Taliban for having provided a haven for Osama bin Laden and his followers.

Early internal criticism about the new proposals has focused on whether any American withdrawal would create a vacuum for other Great Powers to fill, undermining their strategic purpose. Also at question is whether they would risk a breakdown of stability that could sharply increase the flow of refugees and other migrants north into Europe.

Mr. Esper has given Africa Command until January to draft a withdrawal plan, as well as a plan for redeploying troops.

The defense secretary is also considering significant cuts in the Middle East. In the coming months in Iraq, officials said, Mr. Esper may cut American presence to 2,500 troops from 5,000. And he has already conveyed a desire to withdraw about 4,000 of the nearly 13,000 troops now in Afghanistan.

But these changes, perceived by some as seismic, run the risk of confrontation between the Pentagon and the four-star generals who lead the regional headquarters.

Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the newly appointed head of Africa Command, has struggled to articulate the need for American forces in Africa to confront China and Russia, which are vigorously expanding their influence economically and militarily across the continent and in its surrounding waters.

And Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., who is in charge of American troops in the Middle East, has often lobbied for more forces in the region to deter and confront Iran, including overhead surveillance aircraft and troops.

But the Pentagon’s proposed drawdown in West Africa also runs at cross-purposes with a new State Department initiative to combat a resurgent Islamic State there. “ISIS is outpacing the ability of regional governments and international partners to address that threat,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month at a meeting of nations fighting the terrorist group.

He also created a special task force to focus specifically on deteriorating security and other problems in the sub-Saharan region that stretches from Senegal to Sudan and has been seized by growing waves of terrorism and armed conflict.

Mr. Esper’s initiative, though, has alarmed key allies, including France, which has around 4,500 troops in West Africa who are taking the lead in fighting ISIS and Qaeda insurgents there. The French rely on American intelligence, logistics support and aerial refueling — at a cost to the Pentagon of about $45 million a year.

French officials say they are moving to be more self-sufficient — ordering more American-made C-130 transport planes and Reaper drones, as well as leading a new effort to have European special forces train African militaries.

Mr. Esper has made no attempt to hide his desire to reshuffle American forces around the world. In October, during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, he said he was asking all of his commanders to look for areas “where they can free up time, money and manpower to put into our top priorities as chartered by the National Defense Strategy: China, No. 1; Russia, No. 2.”

The Pentagon’s review of forces comes amid Mr. Trump’s repeated promises to end what he calls the United States’ “endless wars,” an attempt at fulfilling a 2016 campaign pledge.

No wars have ended, though, and more troops have been deployed to the Middle East in recent months than have come home.

Independent analysts praised Mr. Esper’s effort to review force levels but warned that the new emphasis on confronting China and Russia should not mean neglecting other global hot spots.

“The demands on U.S. forces are high, and bringing supply and demand into equilibrium is a challenge the department shouldn’t dodge,” said Kathleen Hicks, a former top Defense Department official now at the Center for Strategic and International Security. “But the formula will need to be nuanced.”

Africa Command is the first of the Pentagon’s global fighting commands to come under what is being called a “blank slate” review. There are about 6,000 to 7,000 American troops in Africa, with the largest numbers concentrated in the sub-Saharan region and in the Horn of Africa. In Somalia, there are about 500 Special Operations troops fighting the Shabab — a Qaeda-linked terrorist group — from small outposts alongside local troops.

Mr. Esper’s proposed cuts would most likely focus on the several hundred troops now deployed in countries like Niger, Chad and Mali. The Air Force recently started flying Reaper drone missions from the new base, known as Air Base 201, near Agadez, Niger.

In the past year, the Pentagon has shrunk its forces in Africa by reducing several hundred Special Operations troops on the continent as part of the troop shift.

Ahead of their impending reviews, some commands are taking steps to promote their troops’ operations. Southern Command, which oversees missions in Latin America, is now publishing a weekly digital newsletter. A recent bulletin mentioned the deployment of a Navy plane to help search for a missing Chilean Air Force plane as well as the participation in a disaster-relief exercise with Panamanian troops.

For Central Command, the proposed cuts in Afghanistan and Iraq would follow significant cuts already made in northeastern Syria: Troops there were reduced to 1,000 from 2,000. The order — an effort to follow the president’s demands to withdraw all American troops from the region — was later partly reversed to help prevent ISIS from recapturing valuable oil fields.

Even in regions where American force levels are likely to remain steady or even increase, the Pentagon is pressing host nations to pay a larger share of the costs.

For instance, Mr. Esper recently pressed the South Korean government to pay up to $5 billion a year to support the 28,500 American troops in the country — more than five times the amount Seoul agreed to pay this year. Negotiations continue.

And in Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon has started negotiations to recoup billions of dollars in “partner burden-sharing” costs. The United States recently deployed 3,000 air defense and other troops to help protect the kingdom after a drone and missile attack on oil fields, which Washington blamed on Iran.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Pentagon Eyes Africa Drawdown as First Step in Global Troop Shift

Westlake Legal Group merlin_136996809_fbacec63-9308-4778-b896-7dc97918fbb1-facebookJumbo Pentagon Eyes Africa Drawdown as First Step in Global Troop Shift United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Terrorism Shabab Military Bases and Installations Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Esper, Mark T Boko Haram Al Qaeda Africa Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper is weighing proposals for a major reduction — or even a complete pullout — of American forces from West Africa as the first phase of reviewing global deployments that could reshuffle thousands of troops around the world, according to officials familiar with internal deliberations.

The discussions of a large-scale pullback from West Africa include abandoning a recently built $110 million drone base in Niger and ending assistance to French forces battling militants in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. The deliberations stem from a push to reduce post-9/11 missions battling terrorist groups, and instead to refocus Pentagon priorities on confronting so-called Great Powers like Russia and China.

With an initial decision about Africa expected in January, the plans are sure to draw criticism from lawmakers, allies and military officials, and could eventually affect most global missions in some way. About 200,000 American forces are currently stationed abroad, similar to the force posture when President Trump took office with a promise to close out the nation’s “endless wars.”

But Mr. Trump is not so much ending wars as he is moving troops from one conflict to another, and Mr. Esper’s initiative aims to carry out that rebalancing.

Officials say the overhaul of Africa deployments will be followed by one in Latin America, and that drawdowns will happen in Iraq and Afghanistan, as has been expected.

The initiative reflects what has become the defining priority for Mr. Esper: moving away from 18 years of counterterrorism deployments in places troubled by militancy and insurgency where thousands of American troops cycle through in an attempt to maintain minimal stability but without much prospect of definitive solutions.

“We’ve begun a review process where I’m looking at every theater, understanding what the requirements are that we set out for, making sure we’re as efficient as possible with our forces,” Mr. Esper told reporters this month.

Planning for a West Africa pullback has been closely held in the Pentagon; Congress has not been consulted.

The primary mission of the American troops has been to train and assist West African security forces to try to suppress Islamist groups like Boko Haram and offshoots of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. As part of that mission, four American soldiers were ambushed and killed two years ago while on patrol in Niger.

Mr. Esper’s team has questioned the value of those efforts and wants to scale back missions to counter militants who lack the demonstrated ability and intent to attack the United States on its own soil, the officials said. None of the terrorist groups operating in West Africa are said to meet this heightened assessment standard.

President George W. Bush’s administration conducted a similar internal debate after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and initially targeted only those terrorist groups bent on attacking civilians in the West — in particular Al Qaeda.

But at the same time, Mr. Bush blurred the distinction between Al Qaeda and the Taliban, an Islamist militant group focused on imposing Shariah law in Afghanistan. He blamed and attacked the Taliban for having provided a haven for Osama bin Laden and his followers.

Early internal criticism about the new proposals has focused on whether any American withdrawal would create a vacuum for other Great Powers to fill, undermining their strategic purpose. Also at question is whether they would risk a breakdown of stability that could sharply increase the flow of refugees and other migrants north into Europe.

Mr. Esper has given Africa Command until January to draft a withdrawal plan, as well as a plan for redeploying troops.

The defense secretary is also considering significant cuts in the Middle East. In the coming months in Iraq, officials said, Mr. Esper may cut American presence to 2,500 troops from 5,000. And he has already conveyed a desire to withdraw about 4,000 of the nearly 13,000 troops now in Afghanistan.

But these changes, perceived by some as seismic, run the risk of confrontation between the Pentagon and the four-star generals who lead the regional headquarters.

Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the newly appointed head of Africa Command, has struggled to articulate the need for American forces in Africa to confront China and Russia, which are vigorously expanding their influence economically and militarily across the continent and in its surrounding waters.

And Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., who is in charge of American troops in the Middle East, has often lobbied for more forces in the region to deter and confront Iran, including overhead surveillance aircraft and troops.

But the Pentagon’s proposed drawdown in West Africa also runs at cross-purposes with a new State Department initiative to combat a resurgent Islamic State there. “ISIS is outpacing the ability of regional governments and international partners to address that threat,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month at a meeting of nations fighting the terrorist group.

He also created a special task force to focus specifically on deteriorating security and other problems in the sub-Saharan region that stretches from Senegal to Sudan and has been seized by growing waves of terrorism and armed conflict.

Mr. Esper’s initiative, though, has alarmed key allies, including France, which has around 4,500 troops in West Africa who are taking the lead in fighting ISIS and Qaeda insurgents there. The French rely on American intelligence, logistics support and aerial refueling — at a cost to the Pentagon of about $45 million a year.

French officials say they are moving to be more self-sufficient — ordering more American-made C-130 transport planes and Reaper drones, as well as leading a new effort to have European special forces train African militaries.

Mr. Esper has made no attempt to hide his desire to reshuffle American forces around the world. In October, during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, he said he was asking all of his commanders to look for areas “where they can free up time, money and manpower to put into our top priorities as chartered by the National Defense Strategy: China, No. 1; Russia, No. 2.”

The Pentagon’s review of forces comes amid Mr. Trump’s repeated promises to end what he calls the United States’ “endless wars,” an attempt at fulfilling a 2016 campaign pledge.

No wars have ended, though, and more troops have been deployed to the Middle East in recent months than have come home.

Independent analysts praised Mr. Esper’s effort to review force levels but warned that the new emphasis on confronting China and Russia should not mean neglecting other global hot spots.

“The demands on U.S. forces are high, and bringing supply and demand into equilibrium is a challenge the department shouldn’t dodge,” said Kathleen Hicks, a former top Defense Department official now at the Center for Strategic and International Security. “But the formula will need to be nuanced.”

Africa Command is the first of the Pentagon’s global fighting commands to come under what is being called a “blank slate” review. There are about 6,000 to 7,000 American troops in Africa, with the largest numbers concentrated in the sub-Saharan region and in the Horn of Africa. In Somalia, there are about 500 Special Operations troops fighting the Shabab — a Qaeda-linked terrorist group — from small outposts alongside local troops.

Mr. Esper’s proposed cuts would most likely focus on the several hundred troops now deployed in countries like Niger, Chad and Mali. The Air Force recently started flying Reaper drone missions from the new base, known as Air Base 201, near Agadez, Niger.

In the past year, the Pentagon has shrunk its forces in Africa by reducing several hundred Special Operations troops on the continent as part of the troop shift.

Ahead of their impending reviews, some commands are taking steps to promote their troops’ operations. Southern Command, which oversees missions in Latin America, is now publishing a weekly digital newsletter. A recent bulletin mentioned the deployment of a Navy plane to help search for a missing Chilean Air Force plane as well as the participation in a disaster-relief exercise with Panamanian troops.

For Central Command, the proposed cuts in Afghanistan and Iraq would follow significant cuts already made in northeastern Syria: Troops there were reduced to 1,000 from 2,000. The order — an effort to follow the president’s demands to withdraw all American troops from the region — was later partly reversed to help prevent ISIS from recapturing valuable oil fields.

Even in regions where American force levels are likely to remain steady or even increase, the Pentagon is pressing host nations to pay a larger share of the costs.

For instance, Mr. Esper recently pressed the South Korean government to pay up to $5 billion a year to support the 28,500 American troops in the country — more than five times the amount Seoul agreed to pay this year. Negotiations continue.

And in Saudi Arabia, the Pentagon has started negotiations to recoup billions of dollars in “partner burden-sharing” costs. The United States recently deployed 3,000 air defense and other troops to help protect the kingdom after a drone and missile attack on oil fields, which Washington blamed on Iran.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Congress Saves Coal Miner Pensions, but What About Others?

The $1.4 trillion spending bill passed by Congress last week quietly achieves what a parade of select committees and coordinating councils could not: rescue a dying pension fund that is the lifeblood of nearly 100,000 retired coal miners.

For the first time in 45 years of federal pension law, taxpayer dollars will be used to bail out a fund for workers in the private sector. And now that there’s a precedent, it might not be the last.

“We could be the blueprint,” said Chuck Pettit, who mined coal for 42 years. “But we’ve got to do it right.”

The coal miners belong to one of about 1,400 pension plans that cover a large group of workers in a single industry or trade. These so-called multiemployer plans cover more than 10 million workers in unions including the Teamsters, the American Federation of Musicians, the Screen Actors Guild and, in Mr. Pettit’s case, the United Mine Workers of America. Even President Trump has a multiemployer pension, worth about $70,000 a year, earned in his reality-TV days.

But nearly three-quarters of the people with this type of pension are in plans that have less than half the money they need to pay promised benefits, according to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the federal agency that insures pension plans. Chronic underfunding, lax government oversight and serial bankruptcies have left them in dire straits. And the guaranty corporation’s program backing up these plans — which operated under the assumption that they were inherently strong — would be wiped out by the failure of just one of the major pension pools.

Unbalanced Sheet

One coal company after another has gone bankrupt and stopped paying into the miners’ pension plan, but the retirees are still there. Its assets are dwindling, but the liabilities have stayed about the same.

Westlake Legal Group miners-pension-solvency-600 Congress Saves Coal Miner Pensions, but What About Others? United Mine Workers of America Pensions and Retirement Plans Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp Murray, Robert E Murray Energy Corp Mines and Mining Law and Legislation

The plan’s

liabilities

The plan’s

shortfall

The plan will run out of money soon.

Total assets of the

United Mine Workers

of America pension plan

Forecasts by the plan’s actuaries

Westlake Legal Group miners-pension-solvency-335 Congress Saves Coal Miner Pensions, but What About Others? United Mine Workers of America Pensions and Retirement Plans Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp Murray, Robert E Murray Energy Corp Mines and Mining Law and Legislation

The plan’s

liabilities

The plan’s

shortfall

The plan will

run out of

money soon.

Total assets of the

United Mine Workers

of America pension plan

Forecasts by the

plan’s actuaries

Sources: Plan regulatory filings

By Karl Russell

“It’s a disaster waiting to happen,” said James P. Naughton, an associate professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and an actuary whose clients have included multiemployer pension plans.

The solution approved by Congress uses the Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation Fund, which is partly supported by a per-ton fee that all coal companies pay. In 1992, Congress allowed the fund to help pay for retired miners’ health care, and the new legislation — the Bipartisan American Miners Act — uses the fund as a vehicle to support the pensions, too. The bill, among other changes, allows the Treasury to send as much as $750 million a year into the fund as it covers the unfunded pension obligations.

How Taxpayers Will Now Help Pay Miners’ Pensions

When the mine workers’ retiree health plan ran out of money in 1989, Congress arranged for new funding sources, including the Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation Fund and, later, the Treasury. That precedent is now being followed for the miners’ pensions. Starting next year, the Treasury’s transfers to the Abandoned Mine Lands fund will rise to a maximum $750 million a year, and will help pay for pensions as well as retiree health care. This may prompt other unions to seek federal assistance for their plans, too.

Westlake Legal Group miners-pension-treasury-335 Congress Saves Coal Miner Pensions, but What About Others? United Mine Workers of America Pensions and Retirement Plans Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp Murray, Robert E Murray Energy Corp Mines and Mining Law and Legislation

The U.S.

Treasury

AS OF DEC. 2019

Supplements pay pension as well as health costs

Abandoned

Mine Lands

Reclamation

Fund

Coal companies

(both union

and nonunion)

Interest and principal diverted to pay miners’ health and pension costs

United

Mine Workers

of America health and pension funds

Coal companies

with union

workers

Less and less as companies have gone bankrupt; $30 million in 2018.

Westlake Legal Group miners-pension-treasury-600 Congress Saves Coal Miner Pensions, but What About Others? United Mine Workers of America Pensions and Retirement Plans Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp Murray, Robert E Murray Energy Corp Mines and Mining Law and Legislation

Coal companies

with union

workers

Coal companies

(both union

and nonunion)

Less and less as companies have gone bankrupt; only $30 million in 2018.

Interest and principal diverted to pay miners’ health and pension costs

AS OF DEC. 2019

Supplements pay pension as well as health costs

United

Mine Workers

of America health and pension funds

Abandoned

Mine Lands

Reclamation

Fund

The U.S.

Treasury

Set up in 1977 to clean up abandonded coal mines. Since 1992, some of its money has been used for retired miners’ health care.

Illustrations by Guilbert Gates

A failure to act would have had dire consequences: Tens of thousands of miners, many in already economically distressed areas, would have lost their benefits. And coal pensions support not just families but sometimes whole towns.

Identification cards belonging to Mr. Pettit from his decades as a coal miner.Credit…Ross Mantle for The New York Times Mr. Pettit, center, in a decades-old photo signed by Rich Trumka, a former president of the union.Credit…Ross Mantle for The New York Times

The collapse of the miners’ plan was hastened by the parade of bankruptcies that have hit the industry in recent years. By this fall, just one major employer, Murray Energy, was still paying into the fund. On Oct. 29, Murray declared bankruptcy — the eighth coal producer to do so this year.

Usually, leaving a multiemployer pension plan is an expensive proposition for a company. It must pay off its share of any shortfall to leave. But bankruptcy provides a cheap exit ramp, because the pension plan is treated as an unsecured creditor — the kind that goes to the back when everyone lines up to be paid.

After Alpha Natural Resources declared bankruptcy in 2015, for example, the pension fund’s trustees calculated that it owed $985 million. Alpha got out for about $75 million: a $10 million payment spread over four years and the rest in stock in the new company.

But when companies get out of the pension pool, their employees stay in — and become the responsibility of the companies still kicking in money. As more companies failed, it only increased the pressure on the others to get out.

‘Orphaned’ Miners

When a company goes bankrupt and exits a multiemployer pension plan, it leaves behind its retirees, who are said to be “orphaned.” The companies that remain are responsible for the orphans’ pensions, but the additional cost gives them a motive to leave the plan, too, creating even more orphans. As of 2018, the miners’ plan had 95,990 members — and 84,900 of them were orphans.

Westlake Legal Group miners-pensions-orphans-335 Congress Saves Coal Miner Pensions, but What About Others? United Mine Workers of America Pensions and Retirement Plans Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp Murray, Robert E Murray Energy Corp Mines and Mining Law and Legislation

Total members in the United Mine

Workers of America pension plan

‘Orphaned’ members

Westlake Legal Group miners-pensions-orphans-600 Congress Saves Coal Miner Pensions, but What About Others? United Mine Workers of America Pensions and Retirement Plans Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp Murray, Robert E Murray Energy Corp Mines and Mining Law and Legislation

Total members in the United Mine

Workers of America pension plan

‘Orphaned’ members

Source: Plan regulatory filings

By Karl Russell

The result has been a complicated cascade of splits, sales and financial collapses.

Mr. Pettit, 70, started his career at the Consolidated Coal Company and stayed with it until he retired in 2011. He spent more than four decades at the vast Shoemaker Mine, just south of Wheeling, W.Va.

When he started there, Consolidated was one of more than 180 employers paying into the pool, he said. Times were good: He could work plenty of overtime, put his two children through college and accrue retirement benefits that would provide for his wife if he died.

“That’s the reason we fight so hard,” he said. “A good friend of mine got killed in the mine, and his wife is still taken care of.”

By the time he retired, he said, just 11 companies were paying into the pension fund. His former employer — by then known as Consol — sent the most, $35 million. But two years later, Consol announced that it wanted to diversify into natural gas and was selling the Shoemaker Mine and four others with union contracts. The high bid came from Murray Energy, whose owner, Robert E. Murray, has lobbied hard on behalf of coal-fired power plants.

Murray Energy also took over Consol’s stake in the pension fund, until its bankruptcy.

Mr. Pettit is upset with the way Consol was able to rid itself of its pension obligations. In his view, the bill should now go back to Consol, which has never declared bankruptcy.

“When does common sense come into the picture?” he asked.

The average coal miner’s pension is about $7,150 annually, according to Lorraine Lewis, executive director of the United Mine Workers’ Health and Retirement Funds. More recent retirees typically get more.

John Leach, a 70-year-old retired miner in Bear Creek, Ky., gets $698.18 a month. That pays the bills while he and his wife, Rhonda, care for their two adult children, Christopher and Elizabeth. Both have Friedreich’s ataxia, an incurable disease of the nervous system. (A third child, Dena, also had Friedreich’s ataxia. She died in 2001.)

Mr. Leach retired in 1995 after 23 years at Peabody Energy, America’s biggest coal company. He worked at five mines, and at every stop, he said, he got the same speech: “You work here for 20 years and you get your pension for life.”

But starting in 2007, a decade of corporate reorganizations and bankruptcy filings meant that hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid pension liabilities for Peabody retirees were settled for pennies on the dollar.

That year, Peabody spun off all but one of its union mines into a new company, Patriot Coal, which got 13 percent of Peabody’s assets but 40 percent of its liabilities — including those for paying pensions to people like Mr. Leach. Patriot soon went bankrupt, and when the pension plan sent Patriot a bill for $888 million, the company said it couldn’t pay.

The trustees then sued Peabody, accusing it of creating Patriot just to dump its pension obligations. Less than a year later, Peabody itself went bankrupt. The trustees billed it $644 million for its own share of the shortfall. Once again, the bill was an unsecured credit.

In 2017, Peabody settled it for roughly $75 million in stock and cash, payable over four years.

“There’s something wrong with whoever lets the company file bankruptcy like that and get rid of all the people who made that company what it is,” Mr. Leach said. “That is what they do with us. They just drop us.”

While the new legislation ensures that Mr. Leach and Mr. Pettit will be paid, it does nothing to address the problems of other multiemployer plans.

“Every plan is in a precarious position,” said Professor Naughton, the former actuary. “If you’re in any declining industry, your plan is in trouble. If you’re in a growing industry, your plan is O.K. until it starts to decline.”

Not Enough Money

Each year, the plan pays retirees more than $600 million. When all its money is gone, the federal pension insurance program is supposed to step in. But it takes in premiums of only about $300 million a year — and that has to cover all multiemployer pensions, not just the miners’.

Westlake Legal Group pension-payments-335 Congress Saves Coal Miner Pensions, but What About Others? United Mine Workers of America Pensions and Retirement Plans Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp Murray, Robert E Murray Energy Corp Mines and Mining Law and Legislation

Payments to beneficiariesof

the United Mine Workers

of America pension plan

Premiums received by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s multiemployer program, for all plans.

Employer

contributions

to the plan

Westlake Legal Group pension-payments-600 Congress Saves Coal Miner Pensions, but What About Others? United Mine Workers of America Pensions and Retirement Plans Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp Murray, Robert E Murray Energy Corp Mines and Mining Law and Legislation

Payments to beneficiaries of

the United Mine Workers

of America pension plan

Premiums received by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s multiemployer program, for all plans.

Employer

contributions

to the plan

Sources: Plan regulatory filings; Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

By Karl Russell

Many of the problems can be traced back to the 1970s, when Congress enacted sweeping pension laws. Multiemployer plans were thought to be much safer than single-employer plans, and unions and employers argued against holding them to the same standards. The logic was simple: The risk was spread out over a large number of companies.

But that lack of oversight created a host of problems. Unions and employers negotiated pension-funding commitments as part of their labor contracts, with little regard for the actual funding needs of the plan. In some cases, even the funding needs aren’t clear: In 1993, the Securities and Exchange Commission began pushing single-employer plans to use new and improved calculations, but it had no power over multiemployer plans, which generally still use the old math.

The government’s oversight power is limited in other ways, too. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation can completely take over a single-employer plan that is found to be too far behind, but it cannot legally take over a dying multiemployer plan until it has spent down all its assets — which means problems that have been clear for years can go unfixed and become worse.

Until this fall, a number of unions were pushing legislation to let troubled multiemployer plans borrow cash from the United States Treasury. Proponents said the plans were viable, just temporarily short of cash because retired baby boomers were drawing their benefits. Once the boomers were gone, they argued, the plans would repay the loans.

The House passed such a bill in July, but the Senate held back, especially after the Congressional Budget Office debunked the notion that weak plans would bounce back once the boomers were gone. It reported in September that many plans were doomed to fail no matter what and would never pay the government back.

Photographs from Mr. Leach’s 23 years as a miner at Peabody Energy, America’s biggest coal company.Credit…Philip Scott Andrews for The New York Times A work belt and hard hat used by Mr. Leach. He worked at five mines at Peabody.Credit…Philip Scott Andrews for The New York Times

The miners’ fund is one of the largest multiemployer plans, but it’s not the biggest. One ailing Teamster plan is larger, with $40.5 billion in unfunded liabilities, for 390,079 workers and retirees. It, too, is destined to run out of money — in 2025, according to the plan’s most recent funding notice, sent to all participants.

Like the miners’ plan, the Teamsters’ plan is large enough to wipe out the federal multiemployer insurance program. To keep that from happening, lawmakers will almost certainly have to intervene again — although the other unions don’t have something like the abandoned mine fund to channel the money through.

John Murphy, the Teamsters’ international vice president, said his union still thought the loan program was a viable solution.

“I believe that our government will respond to the plight that American citizens face,” he said. “I wish they would do it quicker, but I believe they will.”

It’s unclear when the loan program — or some other proposal — will get enough traction to move forward. But, for now, the miners’ pensions appear to be safe.

Mr. Leach said he was “tickled to death” that Congress had finally found a way to keep his benefits coming.

“This is what we fought for so long,” he said.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

In The Face Of Impeachment, Trump Is Unchastened

Westlake Legal Group gettyimages-1194791322_wide-d0b3544a0ed9466f4071654fe4e7bb6d0ebcaf4c-s1100-c15 In The Face Of Impeachment, Trump Is Unchastened

President Trump has set new records for tweet volumes since the House voted to impeach him. Scott Olson/Getty Images hide caption

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Scott Olson/Getty Images

Westlake Legal Group  In The Face Of Impeachment, Trump Is Unchastened

President Trump has set new records for tweet volumes since the House voted to impeach him.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Impeachment is the ultimate form of censure, a permanent mark on a president. But there’s little indication President Trump has been chastened by last week’s impeachment vote. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Trump is leaning in, attacking political opponents in deeply personal terms and setting records for rally length and the sheer volume of his tweets.

“I think it’s the new ‘not-normal’ that we’re in right now,” said Doug Heye, a former House Republican leadership aide.

The White House has cast the impeachment vote as a politically motivated strategy, and has maintained that Trump did nothing wrong in his interactions with Ukraine’s president.

Trump has tried to project a certain nonchalance about it all. “It doesn’t feel like impeachment,” he told reporters last week in the Oval Office.

But his tweets tell a different story. Trump has always tweeted a lot, and the tweets ramped up in the fall. But in the past two weeks, he blasted out more Twitter messages than any other time in his presidency. There were 298 tweets and retweets in the week ending Dec. 22 — and 416 tweets and retweets the week before. Most of them concerned impeachment.

That works out to an average of more than 50 tweets a day in the weeks that included the Judiciary Committee approving articles of impeachment and the full House of Representatives voting to impeach Trump.

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And then there was his speech in Battle Creek, Michigan, the night he was impeached. At two hours and one minute, it was the longest rally speech of his presidency.

“Crazy Nancy Pelosi’s House Democrats have branded themselves with an eternal mark of shame,” Trump said that night, drawing boos from his crowd. “It’s a disgrace.”

During the speech, Trump told a story about Michigan Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell calling to thank him for lowering flags to half staff after her husband, former Congressman John Dingell, died earlier this year.

She had told Trump her late husband was looking down and would be so thrilled, Trump recounted. Then he joked to the crowd: “Maybe he’s looking up, I don’t know.”

The insinuation that the beloved former congressman might be in hell prompted groans from some in the crowd. What did Dingell to do deserve this “counter punch,” as the White House called it? His widow, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, had voted to impeach Trump.

“I look at her and she’s so sincere, and what happens?” Trump said, again imitating her voice: “‘I vote to impeach Trump.'”

Westlake Legal Group gettyimages-1194932037-1--c31f2676e230221714a6af764a731cc65b30889c-s1100-c15 In The Face Of Impeachment, Trump Is Unchastened

Representative Debbie Dingell, D-MI, was the target of a barb from Trump about her late husband that most politicians would have seen as off-limits. Alex Wong/Getty Images hide caption

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Alex Wong/Getty Images

Westlake Legal Group  In The Face Of Impeachment, Trump Is Unchastened

Representative Debbie Dingell, D-MI, was the target of a barb from Trump about her late husband that most politicians would have seen as off-limits.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Trump hasn’t apologized. And he almost never does. This is far from the first time Trump has disparaged someone in a way other politicians would consider off-limits. Heye says it goes back to the last campaign when Trump said late Republican Sen. John McCain wasn’t a war hero because he had been a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

“And when Trump was able to go there and not be penalized for it, he learned, I think, very quickly that he can do whatever he wants,” Heye said.

Trump’s post-impeachment defiance stands in stark contrast to former President Bill Clinton’s conciliatory tone after his own impeachment 21 years ago. The day the House of Representatives voted to impeach him, Clinton also held a rally of sorts. He spoke in the White House Rose Garden with Democratic members of Congress standing behind him in a show of unity.

“I ask the American people to move with me,” Clinton said in a subdued speech. “To go on from here, to rise above the rancor, to overcome the pain and division, to be a repairer of the breach, all of us.”

Trump and Clinton are obviously different presidents, accused of very different misdeeds, though forever linked in history as presidents who were impeached. Trump’s strategy for survival has, from the start been about maintaining total Republican fidelity, which means firing up the base and not bothering with trying to bring people together or heal wounds.

“And so rather than run away from it and have himself curled up in the fetal position and try to ignore it much in the way that Bill Clinton did, President Trump has run toward it and attacked it directly,” said Jason Miller, who was the senior communications adviser on Trump’s 2016 campaign and now co-hosts the Impeachment War Room podcast.

Assuming a Senate trial goes forward in the New Year, Trump is expected to be acquitted, just as Clinton was. Heye keeps thinking about a Saturday Night Live skit from the weekend after Clinton’s acquittal. Darrel Hammond, as Clinton, came out to the Rose Garden, stepped up to the podium and declared with a chuckle: “I am bulletproof. Next time you best bring cryptonite.”

“If Donald Trump is acquitted this won’t just be an acquittal, this will be the greatest exoneration in our nation’s history,” Heye said using Trump-style hyperbole. “We saw how he reacted to the Mueller report. He’s going to do that times 10.”

Emboldened. Unconstrained. Certainly not chastened.

“I think it’s worth pointing out the mood of the president and his supporters,” said Miller. “It’s very much a bullish mindset, that it’s very much a defiant mindset, that President Trump has literally every single thing thrown at him and he’s still in office.”

In the days immediately following the impeachment vote, the Trump campaign and Republican party reported raising a combined $10 million. Trump’s push to fight back was rewarded.

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