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The War in Ukraine Rages as American Allies Continue to Add Money to Russian Coffers By Hamil R. Harris

May 29, 2023


Hamil Harris


( - When Russia invaded Ukraine, President Biden said that the impact of such aggression would be met with international sanctions so severe that it would cripple Vladimir Putin and his generals.

But 18 months later, Russia continues to get millions from multinational corporations, an example of moral hypocrisy that renews an old debate about how effective economic sanctions have been and what can be done to punish or shame companies that refuse to say no to Russia's trading partners.

As the war in Ukraine rages, most Americans believe more than mere reputational damage should come to those who continue to do business with Russia. America, as usual, is doing more than its part in supplying aid to Ukraine, even as American citizens languish in food lines. Many are growing weary and believe America must take a stand when requiring that allies bear their fair share of the responsibility and not violate the spirit of the sanctions.

One example of why this is necessary is the behavior of commodities traders like Niels Troost, a Dutch oil trader and founder and owner at Paramount Energy & Commodities SA, a Switzerland-based commodities trading firm. Even though the US and other Western countries have imposed sanctions on Russia's oil and gas sector, Troost's company continued to trade with Russian companies. As a result, observers are keen to examine the possible engagement with or around US sanctions.

As reported by The Financial Times, Troost has spoken publicly about the importance of global food security. Yet, his company's actions show they are willing to put profit above everything else, including the suffering of people in Ukraine, by buying oil from Russia above the sanctioned price.

To continue trade with Russia despite the sanctions, Paramount Energy & Commodities SA established a new company in Dubai called Paramount Energy & Commodities DMCC. With practically the same name as the original company, global observers are interested in understanding if this move allowed them to continue to profit from Russian oil while sidestepping the sanctions.

It has been widely reported that other Swiss-based companies continue to support Russia because, according to the country's State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, "legally independent subsidiaries" of Swiss companies are not bound by Swiss sanctions. The European Union, more strident in its sanctions, does not allow subsidiaries to circumvent the sanctions with creative business structuring.

The behavior of companies that flaunt the sanctions highlights the need for stronger measures against those who continue to support Russia's aggression against Ukraine. America can not be left holding the bag and the responsibility of policing the bad guys of the world. For those not paying attention, the Russians are, without question, the bad actors. America's allies, particularly the Swiss, must take a tougher stance against companies that violate the spirit of the sanctions and continue to prop up Russia.

What Happens If America Can No Longer Pay Its Bills? By Charlene Crowell 

May 23, 2023

bipartisanpolicyreport debt default 15may2023

( - For much of Black America, having adequate cash to cover monthly bills or small business overhead has historically been an ongoing challenge. But over the coming days, the nation’s coffers could also lack adequate cash and credit to cover its bills.  

The debt limit is the total amount of money that the United States government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest on the national debt, tax refunds, and other payments, according to the Treasury Department. 

On May 1, Treasury SecretaryJanet Yellenwarned both the House and Senate, “After reviewing recent federal tax receipts, our best estimate is that we will be unable to continue to satisfy all of the government's obligations by early June, and potentially as early as June 1, if Congress does not raise or suspend the debt limit before that time…Given the current projections, it is imperative that Congress act as soon as possible to increase or suspend the debt limit in a way that provides longer-term certainty that the government will continue to make its payments.” 

Since then, every passing day shortens time for President Biden and Congressional leaders to craft a resolution. To avoid rippling global financial chaos, both the Administration and Congress must reach agreement. 

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy advocates tying the debt dilemma to the Administration’s budget proposal, including slashing many domestic programs and adding new work requirements to access program benefits. Alternatively, President Biden seeks a separation between the debt limit and the budget. While discussions among the White House and lawmakers have begun, at press time no solution has yet to be announced. 

In the meantime, an anxious nation – its people and businesses – both face financial uncertainty.  

According to U.S. RepresentativeEmanuel Cleaver(Missouri), a long-time lawmaker and member of the House Financial Services Committee,“This is the first debt-ceiling situation that I felt was not going to be abated in time to protect our country. “I’ve never seen anything like this.” 

Federal fiscal agencies like the Congressional Budget Office and Federal Reserve have clearly and repeatedly warned Congress as well of the unprecedented and looming financial chaos that would result from debt default. Nonpartisan economists have also chimed in. 

For example,Moody’s Analytics, a foremost provider of financial intelligence that assists businesses to reach informed decisions, recently published a related report. 

“The timing could not be worse for the economy; even without the specter of a debt limit breach many CEOs and economists believe a recession is dead ahead,” states the report. “With the Federal Reserve ramping up interest rates to quell wage and price pressures, avoiding a recession would be difficult even if nothing else went wrong… Assuming a June 8 debt limit breach that dragged on through July, the Treasury would have no choice but to eliminate a cumulative cash deficit of approximately $150 billion by slashing government spending. As these cuts work through the economy, the hit to growth would be overwhelming.” 

The Bipartisan Policy center, a DC-based think tank that promotes viable public policy solutions, released its own independent analysisstating in part. “Ongoing risks include increasing costs to taxpayers, delayed payments to individuals and businesses, and potentially catastrophic financial and economic impacts if congressional inaction to raise the debt limit causes the U.S. government to default on its debt (unprecedented in modern history).” 

The list of federal benefits at risk in a debt default is as lengthy as it is painful. A sample of the benefits at risk include: 

  • Up to 21 million Americans could lose their Medicaid, up to 1 million older adults could lose access to food stamps known known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. And up to 1 million poor children could lose welfare through TANF, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, according to lawmakers who wrote aMay 11 letterto President Biden. 
  • Section 8 housing vouchers that enable 2.1 million people to pay a national rental average of $347 to live in standard and affordable housing would also be at risk, according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition.
  • On June 1, $12 billion is supposed to go to military and civilian retirement payments and $12 billion towards veterans’ benefits. On June 15,  another $4 billion is needed to pay military salaries, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center;
  • At the end of 2022, the Center for Medicare Advocacy. 

 “[A]cross the nation, rents have skyrocketed, eviction filings have increased, homelessness is on the rise, and millions of America’s lowest-income renters are just one financial shock away from falling behind on rent and losing their homes,” said Diane Yentl, President and CEO of the Coalition. “It is unacceptable to cut critically needed assistance to these households.” 

It should also be unacceptable for lawmakers elected to serve all of America’s people to lack the will to protect the nation. 


Charlene Crowell is a senior fellow with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached 

In Commencement Address, Biden Recognizes Howard U. as ‘The Soul of the Nation’ - Some Graduates Stage Protest While President Speaks - by Sam P.K. Collins

May 17, 2023
President Joe Biden speaks to Howard University's Class of 2023 during the commencement ceremony at Capital One Arena in D.C. on May 13. PHOTO: Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer

Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from the Washington Informer

( - In his commencement address to Howard University’s (HU) Class of 2023, President Joe Biden sparked excitement among the graduates and their families when he recognized HU’s legacy of excellence and called the historically Black university “the soul of the nation.”

His charge to graduates on Saturday was to follow in the footsteps of their fellow alumni to advance the cause of racial equity and tackle the issues that, several decades after HU’s founding, continue to affect Black people’s quality of life in the United States. 

“What is the soul of the nation? The essence of who we are. The soul makes us us. The soul of America, which makes us unique among all nations. The only nation founded on an idea, not geography, religion or ethnicity,” Biden said in his commencement address on Saturday. 

“The single prophecy in the Declaration of Independence that we’re all created equal. We never totally lived up to that promise but never walked away from it,” Biden continued. “America hasn’t been a fairy tale. It’s been a constant push and pull for more than 240 years. It’s a battle that’s never really over. To stand up to white supremacy, the domestic terrorist threat to our homeland.” 

Not all students embraced Biden’s message. As Biden spoke, some graduates stood up and turned their back to the president. Some of them held up signs that said “Black people stand up, fight back.” 

Students who mentioned the protest on social media expressed skepticism about Biden’s intentions to address white settler colonialism. They also incited calls to challenge what they described as the U.S. government’s collusion with HU to oppress Black people abroad. 

For many graduates, the road to HU commencement had its ebbs and flows. Just months into their freshman year, HU’s Class of 2023 counted among those who quickly pivoted to virtual learning amid a pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands. 

Over the next few years, the class of 2023 would not only navigate COVID,  but the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, a protracted student-led protest for improved housing conditions and transparency, contract negotiations between the university and faculty members, and a series of bomb threats that have gone unsolved. 

Throughout it all, they also witnessed a renaissance in which, amid a growing racial consciousness, HBCUs experienced record enrollment and increased federal government support. 

In 2021, Biden signed an executive order reestablishing the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity through HBCUs. The executive order called for a holistic approach to supporting historically Black higher education institutions via access to federal funding and research and development programs. 

The Biden-Harris administration’s budget proposal that year also included more than $1 billion allocated toward HBCU research, STEM workforce development programs, and IT infrastructure, among other projects, via the U.S. Department of Education (DOE)’s Title III initiative. 

Other priorities centered on teacher preparation at HBCUs. Those allocations built upon $500 million directly allocated to HBCUs through DOE grants, along with more than $5 million in COVID-related relief that Congress earmarked at the height of the pandemic. 

HU has benefitted from federal investments, the most recent of which turned HU into a university-affiliated research center that, through collaboration with the Department of Defense, would aid in development of “tactical autonomy.” In his homecoming address to alumni in October, HU President Wayne A.I. Frederick revealed that the university surpassed its $100 million milestone for research contract and grants. 

In his opening remarks at HU commencement, Frederick once again reflected on HU’s financial situation, this time acknowledging the Biden-Harris administration’s investments in HBCUs. 

“President Biden has been instrumental in making these lofty  goals a reality [with] investments, including for postsecondary education, including historically Black colleges and universities,” Frederick said on Saturday. “This is crucial to our future and Biden and his administration understand and are doing something about it.” 

This year’s commencement was scheduled to be the first to take place on the HU Yard since 2019. A last-minute location change however brought the commencement to Capital One Arena in Northwest. 

In the hours leading up to the opening processional, legions of graduates, faculty, staff, and family members converged on Capital One Arena. Graduates who marched into the ceremony before the processional waved at family and friends, laughed among one another, wiped tears from their eyes, and at times, belted the oh-so-famous “HU! You Know!” slogan. 

Those in attendance at HU commencement included actor Wendell Pierce, D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie (I-At large), Wendell Felder, chair of the Ward 7 Democrats, and Congressman James E. Clyburn (S.C.), who received an honorary doctorate. 

Other honorary doctorate recipients were Biden, Bruce A. Karsh and Marsha L. Karsh, founders of the Karsh Family Foundation, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Keith Christopher Rowley, clinical investigator and health policy scholar Dr.Eugene Washington, and Benaree Pratt Wiley, a corporate director and trustee. 

The Rev. Dr. Bernard L. Richardon, dean of Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel, gave the invocation while Jordyn Allen, president of HU Student Association, greeted her fellow graduates. Later, the HU Concert Chorale and Symphonic WInds gave a rendition of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” 

In her remarks, Severna Medor, a graduate of HU College of Pharmacy, reflected on her journey as a student, and how the comradery of others laid the foundation for an academically and socially enriching graduate-level experience. 

“Once I… saw students with the same desire to excel, I knew I was on the right path,” Medor said. “Coming to Howard University allowed me to find me. I found my voice and passion. At Howard, differences are valued and respected,” she continued. “Our shared desire to succeed prepared us to meet challenges. This journey has tested us literally and figuratively. We doubted ourselves at times [but] got the results we wanted.” 

IRS Free Tax Filing Service Could Further Harm Black, Low-Income Taxpayers By Hamil R. Harris

May 23, 2023

( - The IRS is exploring a direct e-file system for tax returns. However, some believe the system would bring undue harm to historically marginalized communities – including Black and low-income taxpayers - based on recent reports concerning IRS enforcement actions.

The Internal Revenue Service submitted a report to Congress, required by the Inflation Reduction Act, which evaluated the feasibility of providing taxpayers with the option of a free, voluntary, IRS-run electronic filing system, commonly referred to as "Direct File."

This report was issued just days after IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel sent a letter to Congress admitting that Black taxpayers are unfairly subject to audits more than any other group. The letter confirmed the findings in a Stanford University study released in January showing that Black taxpayers are 3-5 times more likely to receive an IRS audit than others.

Another academic study issued in January by Syracuse University noted that low-income taxpayers – primarily those who qualify for the earned income tax credit – are five times more likely to receive an audit than other tax filers. Both studies were conducted using data directly from the IRS.

Industry experts familiar with the e-file program developments and the reported imbalance in IRS enforcement actions noted that a new system built on a foundation of bias is risky and will have a negative impact on individuals and families already suffering from over audits.

More broadly, industry experts say the new system would make the process of filing taxes less transparent and undermine access to independent tax experts and advocates for all Americans. This could risk low-income and working-class taxpayers receiving smaller tax refunds than they deserve.

While the IRS report found that many taxpayers are interested in using a free IRS-provided tool to prepare and file taxes and that the agency is technically capable of delivering a Direct File program, the study is drawing fire from tax industry preparers like TurboTax.

Derrick Plummer, spokesperson for Intuit, the parent company of TurboTax, said in a statement. “The report released by the IRS is not grounded in reality. The study ignores the harm a government-run system will have on vulnerable taxpayers and the true costs to taxpayers. The prices estimated in the study to build, operate, and maintain are laughable. “

Plummer also said, “The study cherry-picks data to support its flawed conclusion ignoring that only 12% of taxpayers said they would use a government-run system if state returns are not included.”

The IRS report concluded that effective execution of a Direct File program would require sustained budget investment and careful management of the potential program's operational complexity.

The report focused on three areas: taxpayer opinions, cost, and feasibility. The information included an analysis conducted by an independent third party, as required by the statute. The report also outlines the potential benefits and challenges associated with the IRS implementing a Direct File program.

“The IRS is committed to delivering significantly improved services by providing taxpayers with tools, information, and assistance to make it easier to comply with their tax filing obligations. Direct File – used by numerous tax jurisdictions worldwide – has long been discussed as an option for improving the customer experience for taxpayers in the U.S.," said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel.

Before the study's release, lobbyists for tax preparers criticized how the IRS historically targeted people of color when processing tax returns.

Last month activists protested tax prep giants TurboTax and H&R Block for trying to slow the release of government tax filing programs, which was part of a mega million-dollar lobbying effort.

April 18 was the deadline to file taxes in 2023, and the IRS reported receiving 90 million returns as of March 30. Agency officials expect 168 million individual tax returns to be filed this year.

A report from the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) released in January, found that Black Americans were more likely to be audited by the IRS than another taxpayer group.

 “What we found was that the audit rate of Black taxpayers was 3 to 5 times the rate of audits for non-Black taxpayers, Stanford Researcher Daniel Ho told NPR.

He says the disparity doesn't appear to be deliberate. The IRS doesn't ask taxpayers about their race, and most audits are conducted by mail. But something in the way the agency decides who to audit results in Blacks being disproportionately targeted. And the new IRS commissioner,

sworn in just two months ago, told NPR, “Our tax system must be fair.”

“I engaged with my team on day one to make sure it's a priority to understand fully,” Werfel said. “How do we get to the bottom of it and figure out what we need to do going ahead?

While the agency is looking into the matter of disproportionate Black audits, an Intuit blog post notes that when it comes to direct e-file, taxpayers are concerned with “the conflict of interest of having the IRS as the judge, jury, and executioner of a taxpayers’ personal finances.”

According to the IRS report, approximately 60 percent of multiracial, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander recipients received a payment in the first week, compared to roughly 55 percent of White, American Indian, Alaska Native, Black, or Asian recipients.

In contrast, White and Asian recipients were the most likely to receive their payments in the first six weeks, though more than 90 percent of revenues were received in the first six weeks for every racial/ethnic subgroup the authors examined.

Grand Jury Lets the Police Walk Concerning the Killing of Jayland Walker

May 17, 2023

Jayland Walker


( - A Special Ohio Grand jury failed to indict eight Akron police officers who fired 46  shots at Jayland Walker, a delivery driver, as he ran his life in a hail of bullets before died.

The toxicology screen was negative for drugs or alcohol, according to the Summit County Medical Examiner Lisa J. Kohler, M.D.

The medical examiner did not have gunshot residue because it could not be determined whether the person, Walker, did not fire a weapon.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said Walker was driving before he jumped out of his car. Yost said made a threatening, before leading to the shooting. A gun was found in his car and next to a wedding ring.

The cops fired a total of 94 shots at Walker in 6.7 seconds. The eight officers have not been named but they have resumed desk duties.

Walker was hit in the heart neck and lung, liver, spleen, left kidney, intestines, and multiple ribs. He also was shot in the knees, right lower leg, and right foot.