WASHINGTON — Tax cuts for alcohol producers in the Senate’s tax code overhaul could result in around 2,000 more alcohol-related deaths each year, according to a researcher at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.

The tax bill, which the Senate could vote on later this week, would provide a $4.2 billion tax break over two years for the makers of beer, wine and spirits. While lawmakers have framed the change as a benefit for smaller producers of craft beverages, large global conglomerates that dominate the industry would likely enjoy the bulk of the savings.

“The industry now supports about 15,000 jobs. Sixty-one new breweries have opened just last year alone in Ohio,” Sen. Rob Portman said at the Finance Committee’s markup of the tax proposal earlier this month. “This legislation is only going to promote the expansion and the jobs that come with these entrepreneurial small businesses.”

Health researchers who study the role that taxes play in reducing alcohol consumption fear that a tax cut could lead to more drinking. That could result in more illnesses and deaths associated with excessive alcohol use.

Adam Looney, a senior fellow for economic studies at Urban-Brookings, crunched the numbers and estimated that the industrywide 16 percent tax cut would result in between 281 and 659 traffic-related deaths per year, and about 1,550 deaths from diseases related to alcohol consumption. Those estimates were based on previous studies that found increases in the tax to have the reverse effect on crashes and health outcomes.

— CQ-Roll Call


Lawmakers push measure to make ‘revenge porn’ a federal crime

WASHINGTON — Just days after a member of Congress had a explicit image released on the internet by an anonymous Twitter user, congressional lawmakers began a strong push to make “revenge porn” or “sextortion” a federal crime.

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, said he shared a sexually explicit video and text messages with a woman he was seeing after he separated from his second wife. An image from that video of a naked Barton, now 68, appeared on the internet last week, becoming the talk of his hometown and spurring debate over criminal intent.

Tuesday, Sens. Richard Burr, R-N.C., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said they’d sponsor the new legislation to make “revenge porn” a federal crime. The bill is similar to a bill introduced last year by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif. Speier introduced the bill in the House again Tuesday.

Burr told McClatchy he expects the proposal to pass easily through the Senate with support from both parties, though the congressional schedule would likely push the vote into early next year. Klobuchar is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the bill’s first stop.

— McClatchy Washington Bureau


US military may archive Guantanamo prison art rather than burn it

MIAMI — The idea of incinerating artwork made by wartime captives at Guantanamo Bay has stirred such alarm that the U.S. military is now discussing keeping and cataloging detainee art rather than burning it.

Army Col. Lisa Garcia of the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees the 41-captive prison and its 1,500-member staff, said Tuesday that Southcom is recommending to the prison that the staff archive detainee artwork. A lawyer quoted a captive as saying that military officials at the prison in southeast Cuba said that artwork of detainees who leave the prison would be incinerated.

For years the prison had permitted attorneys for the captives to take their clients’ art off the U.S. Navy base — after a security screening that, among other things, sought to analyze it for secret messages. In the instance of some model ships ingeniously made by a Yemeni, troops went so far as to make and study an X-ray of it. Some of the more than 700 captives who were resettled or repatriated were allowed to take some of their artwork with them.

But an ongoing exhibit at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice featuring paintings and other works by current and former captives — “Ode to the Sea” — caught the attention of the Pentagon because the exhibit’s website offered an email address for people “interested in purchasing art from these artists.”

Department of Defense officials “were not previously aware that detainee artwork was being sold to third parties,” and ordered the prison to stop releasing it, Pentagon spokesman Air Force Maj. Ben Sakrisson said. He called the artwork property of the U.S. government.

— Miami Herald


Jared Kushner’s Maryland apartment company asks court to shield investors’ identities

BALTIMORE — The apartment company owned by Jared Kushner, senior adviser and son-in-law of President Donald Trump, has asked a federal judge in Maryland to hide the names of the firm’s investors to protect them from what it says has been unfair media coverage of a lawsuit filed by Baltimore-area tenants.

“Given the tenor of the media’s reporting of this case, including politically motivated innuendo no doubt intended to disparage the First Family, there is foreseeable risk of prejudice to the privacy rights and reputations of innocent private investors,” Westminster Management wrote in court papers filed last week.

Two tenants filed a class-action lawsuit in Baltimore Circuit Court in late September saying the firm has charged them improper fees and threatened eviction to force payment.

A judge moved the case to the U.S. District Court of Maryland this month after Westminster invoked a rule that allows such a transfer if the defendants are not residents of or companies in Maryland.

Westminster Management said in a court filing that four of its members reside in other states: Kushner, “a resident of New York, New York and Washington, D.C.,” his parents, Charles and Seryl Kushner of New York, and Westminster MGT GP Corp. of New York. In a separate filing, Westminster says Jared Kushner and his brother, Josh, are members of another corporate entity, JK2 Westminster, and that all are based in New York. Another entity, Carroll Park Holdings LLC, has one member, Delaware-based Middle River JV LLC.

— The Baltimore Sun


Pope Francis urges tolerance in Myanmar amid Rohingya crisis

BANGKOK — Pope Francis urged continued ethnic reconciliation in a speech that avoided direct reference to the Rohingya refugee crisis that has fueled criticism of the nation’s Nobel laureate leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

The pontiff is on a six-day visit to Myanmar and neighboring Bangladesh, where more than 600,000 of the predominately Muslim Rohingya ethnic group have fled amid a violet military crackdown. His speech, which was attended by Suu Kyi, came just days after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson condemned Myanmar’s actions as “ethnic cleansing.”

“The future of Myanmar must be peace,” Pope Francis told government leaders and diplomats in the capital, Naypyidaw. “A peace based on respect for the dignity and rights of each member of society, respect for each ethnic group and its identity, respect for the rule of law, and respect for the democratic order that enables each individual and every group — none excluded — to offer its legitimate contribution to the common good.”

The pope’s remarks avoided any direct reference to the Rohingya, which Myanmar doesn’t include among its 135 officially recognized ethnic groups, and also gave credit to the government’s peace achievements. Still, he urged leaders to “end violence, to build trust and to ensure respect for the rights of all who call this land their home.”

— Bloomberg News


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