- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Dallas Morning News. Oct. 3, 2016.

How can you lose nearly $1 billion and be a business genius?

If losing $916 million and possibly avoiding federal income taxes for nearly two decades makes Donald Trump a brilliant businessman, we shudder to think what would make him a bad one.

Making a profit and paying income taxes?

Like so much that involves Trump and his business dealings, this latest revelation remains shrouded in secrecy attributable to his refusal to release his tax returns. Nearly every presidential candidate since Richard Nixon has released his returns, so why not Trump?

The reason for his refusal seems clearer this week than last: His losses approach $1 billion, stripping any shred of credibility from his claims of business prowess.

The New York Times last weekend peeled back the Trump mythology with a story based on the first pages of the real estate mogul’s 1995 state income tax filings that the newspaper said arrived anonymously in a reporter’s mailbox. Based on the reported net loss of $916 million in federal taxable income for 1995, the newspaper - supported by tax experts - surmised that Trump could have used those losses to avoid paying income taxes for as many as 18 years.

Contrary to Trump’s claim that people would “learn nothing,” from his tax returns, we’ve learned plenty from these few pages. What we have is a shameless presidential candidate portraying himself as a business genius for losing nearly $1 billion and playing the system to skip out on taxes. Hardworking Americans who face tax burdens have every right to be offended, and to question whether as president Trump would pursue the nation’s best interests or his own.

“It’s either a unique combination of bad luck or he’s a terrible businessman or both. I don’t understand how you can lose a billion dollars and stay in business,” says Douglas Holtz-Eakin, an economist and president of the American Action Forum, a conservative pro-growth advocacy group.

Trump appears to have broken no tax laws, but the system is badly rigged if he can gamble, lose and claim success. Trump plays by rules that amount to “heads I win” and “tails you lose.”

Further undermining Trump’s claim of great business aptitude was Monday’s report that New York’s attorney general has ordered Trump’s charitable foundation to stop fundraising because it is soliciting donations without proper certification.

Every American is supposed to pay his or her fair share. We may differ on what that means, but we should agree that it doesn’t mean a billionaire can lose and win at the same time. American taxpayers should demand Trump stop this financial shell game and release his income tax returns.

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The (McAllen) Monitor. Oct. 4, 2016.

DAPA case unheard by unfilled Supreme Court

Proponents of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program (otherwise known as “DAPA”), as well as an expansion of the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (“DACA,”) admit that requesting a rehearing by the U.S. Supreme Court on this controversial United States vs. Texas immigration case - that would have allowed about 5 million immigrants to lawfully stay in this country - was a longshot. But had the Supreme Court been fully staffed with nine seated justices, it would not have been an impossibility.

But with the court still having just eight justices - following the death of Antonin Scalia on Feb. 13, 2016 - there was politically no way to get the required five justices to sign off on a rehearing, unless one of the justices from the court’s 4-4 tie vote in June flipped their vote on Monday. And without five justices signing off, according to Supreme Court rules, there can be no rehearing and a lower court ruling in the 5th U.S. Circuit, that declared Obama’s actions unconstitutional, stands as law.

That the high court was able to turn away the case without comment is unfortunate.

Every political poll conducted, to date, has listed immigration as a leading priority among Americans. Yet a case that is key to one of our nation’s most divisive issues is not being decided because of politics outside of the courts august chambers because just across the street, in the halls of Congress, Senate leaders have decided not to hold a vote to confirm President Obama’s choice to succeed Scalia.

We do not believe that is how our Constitution meant our country to be run. And certainly not for so long.

Justice Scalia died nine months ago and at the time there was widespread speculation that his seat would not be filled until a new president takes over and makes the appointment. But it is doubtful that most of America ever expected the court to truly remain in limbo for this long, or even longer as a new president will not assume the oath of office until mid-January, therefore likely pushing the calendar around the one-year anniversary of Scalia’s death before a new justice is seated.

In delaying to hold confirmation hearings on President Obama’s pick for nomination of Merrick Garland, Senate Republicans are in essence holding hostage one of our nation’s top issues.

Because with the June 23 tie vote, no legal precedent was set, and no insight was provided into individual justices’ positions on the legal issues raised in the case. Hearing the esteemed justices’ thoughts on this case is necessary if our nation is to ever enact meaningful immigration reform measures - something that most Americans clearly want.

Yet our politicians continue to fail to lead. And they continue to point fingers.

“I have pushed to the limits of my executive authority,” the president said after the Supreme Court announced its 4-4 tie. “We now have to have Congress act. And hopefully, we’re going to have a vigorous debate during this election - this is how democracy is supposed to work - and there will be a determination as to which direction we go in.”

“It’s never (been) about Garland, it’s always been about the principle,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told The Daily Beast.

“This is untoward and the Supreme Court has been hamstrung as a result of them wanting Donald Trump to appoint the next Supreme Court justice,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid told reporters recently.

Nevertheless, Republicans have been holding hearings to fill the more than 20 vacancies in federal district courts. And just two weeks ago, the Judiciary Committee held a hearing on five Texas judges.

Surely Americans will not forget how these Senate Republicans failed to perform their duties. Surely Americans will remember how long our nation’s judicial system was forced to operate without a full court.

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San Antonio Express-News. Sept. 29, 2016.

Don’t believe everything you see on “CSI”

A recent report to the president by his Council of Advisors on Science and Technology represents a breakthrough for criminal justice. It says that too much forensic science used in our criminal courts is of dubious value and that plenty of evidence shows “expert testimony” isn’t all that expert or statistically valid.

Lives hang in the balance, which is why the more unreliable forms of such science shouldn’t be allowed in Texas courtrooms until more certain science can be attained. Or if allowed, jurors should be informed of how statistically reliable they are. If jurors were informed of the rate of false positives on some of these tests, some convictions might not occur.

DNA evidence became the spoiler for other types of evidence when this more statistically reliable method - refined through the years - exonerated people convicted on the alleged strength of other methods. Among these less reliable methods is the now nearly universally rejected bite-mark evidence, but it also includes fingerprints, hair samples and bullet markings. And there is even more work to be done honing DNA forensic testing and training.

All these faultier methods have been used in Texas’ criminal courtrooms to convict defendants. Texas has acted to limit bite-mark evidence.

And after reports that the arson evidence used to convict Cameron Todd Willingham in 1991 for the burning deaths of his daughters was unscientific and of little value, the state fire marshal changed evidence standards for arson. Unfortunately, Willingham was put to death in 1994, in all likelihood a case of the state executing an innocent man.

The report to the president doesn’t address arson, but the Willingham case demonstrates the importance of getting all forensic science right.

The report recommends that the National Institute of Science and Technology evaluate the validity of all current and future forensic disciplines. It recommends research to improve forensic methods and training.

It raises concern about the accuracy of expert testimony.

It asks the U.S. attorney general to limit testimony and reports to those that are proven to be scientifically valid.

And judges should become more expert gatekeepers on which evidence to allow, not simply admitting certain types because previous judges have.

Texas, whose nation-leading exoneration rate tells us something, should pay particular attention.

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Amarillo Globe-News. Sept. 29, 2016.

History was made, not justice

History was made last week. For the first time in his presidency, President Barack Obama suffered a severe political hit - and the political punch came from Democrats as well Republicans.

Speaking of Republicans, not all participated in the push-back against the president - most notably U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon.

It was odd, but probably will not amount to much in the long run.

Congress overturned the president’s veto of a bill (the first time the president has had a veto nullified) allowing the families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia. (The bill is the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.) And a significant number of Democrats helped derail Obama’s veto, while Thornberry was one of 18 Republicans in the House to vote to support the president’s veto.

We told you it was odd.

It is easy to see certain sides of this issue. There are those who contend allowing 9/11 families to seek financial reparations from Saudi Arabia (15 of the 19 individuals responsible for the worst act of terrorism on U.S. soil were Saudi) opens the door for countries to do the same to the U.S., which could jeopardize national security.

This is a definite possibility.

Here is what we are pretty confident will happen, though: Not much.

It will be difficult, if not impossible, to prove in any courtroom (no matter location) knowledge or participation in 9/11 by the Saudi government, and we don’t expect the Saudis to cooperate much in any investigation. This is just reality.

Should such lawsuits occur in the future, we predict it could take years (if not decades) before a ruling is issued - one way or the other.

So in other words, 9/11 families need not hold their breath waiting for compensation from Saudi Arabia.

That is why history might have been made last week but little progress as far as justice.

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El Paso Times. Sept. 26, 2016.

Candidates should address U.S.-Mexico ties

Mexico is the United States’ third-largest trading partner and our nation’s second-largest market for our exported goods. Those exports to Mexico create more than 1 million jobs in the United States.

Mexico is the third-largest supplier of imported goods to the United States. That has created millions of jobs in Mexico, improving the economy of a neighbor with whom we share a 2,000-mile border.

The drug trade - a witch’s brew of U.S. demand and Mexican supply - is a threat to the stability of both countries. Opioids - especially heroin provided by Mexican cartels - are wreaking havoc in U.S. communities from coast to coast. Those cartels are killing thousands of Mexicans every year, corrupting civil society and threatening the nation’s continued development.

The U.S.-Mexico relationship is crucial to the futures of both countries, but the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign has been largely devoid of discussion about that relationship.

Instead, we get Donald Trump’s superficial bluster about the North American Free Trade Agreement, his nonsensical blather about building a wall between the two nations, and Hillary Clinton’s generalities about broad immigration reform and her tap-dancing about trade.

With seven weeks remaining in the campaign, the major-party candidates should outline their visions for one of our nation’s most important binational relationships. Last week’s first presidential debate would be a good place to start.

Obviously, we on the border have a deeper interest in the topic than most Americans. But the U.S.-Mexico relationship is crucial for the entire country in this election.

Any substantive discussion about the U.S.-Mexico relationship has to start with an acknowledgement of some facts.

- NAFTA, while imperfect, has benefited the economies of the United States, Mexico and Canada. Trump’s threat to unilaterally breach the trade pact with Mexico and Canada would cause huge economic disruption. Clinton, in the face of a Democratic base that’s highly skeptical of trade deals, has ineffectively tried to thread the needle by supporting free trade in concept but criticizing details in specific pacts, including NAFTA.

- Immigration, both lawful and unlawful, has complex causes that defy simplistic solutions. Net migration from Mexico has been negative in recent years because of various factors, including a stronger Mexican economy. Any number of factors - the economy, security, stability - will impact that flow in the future.

- An enforcement-dominated approach, including a wall, is incredibly expensive and inefficient. Immigration reform, while necessary, can’t address all the factors that cause people to make the wrenching decision to leave their homeland for another country.

- Immigration must be addressed in all its complexities, something that the United States body politic - including both current major party nominees - has long been reluctant to acknowledge.

- Both the United States and Mexico bear responsibility for the illegal drug crisis that is taking a horrifying toll on both countries. The problem can only be addressed by close cooperation between the countries. Demonizing Mexico - Trump’s go-to option - is counter-productive.

So have at it, candidates. Give voters some details on how you, as president, would approach the vital relationship with Mexico.

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