Jon Cazares

Jon Cazares

Okay. As a huge Michael Jackson fan I did not want to watch Leaving Neverland, the HBO documentary detailing MJ during the height of his stardom and his relationship with two boys, aged 7 and 10 (now in their 30s), and their story of how MJ sexually abused them. I mean, I was always on the fence with MJ's guilt. I’m sure that over the years, I defended him in conversations, even though I had my doubt.

I grew up in the 80’s and MJ was THE super star of my generation. Everyone loved him. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there was always a kid or two that was like, “I hate Michael Jackson” but, whatever. No they didn't.  

In fact, one of the hardest decisions my 9 year old self ever had to make was this: It was Friday night and there were two things on TV at the same time that I desperately needed to watch.

The first: Doctor Who: The Key to Time Part (something)  Dude, you may not care about Doctor Who but for me, as a nine year old kid - Doctor Who was the everything!  I can’t remember exactly which episode of Key to Time was going to be on, but I know that it aired at 10pm and went until midnight. On Friday.

The second: Friday Night Videos. Which, from memory was on from 10:30 to 11:30pm. And, you know what video was going to be the featured? Thriller! For the first time, ever!

OMG! What to watch. What to do? What to watch! Doctor Who or Thriller?  Thriller or Doctor Who?

I watched Doctor Who. Which, come Monday morning at school, turned out to be huge mistake because everyone else had seen Thriller and I was suddenly the uncool kid, and the only kid in class - who had not seen it. Which, is a big deal when you’re nine.

Moving forward, personally, I think Bad is actually a more consistent album than Thriller, and Smooth Criminal is the greatest dance video ever produced and probably my favorite MJ song. I bought MJ’s early 90s album, Dangerous, but by then the magic was fading. I never bought HIStory and never even heard much of his music after that because by then we were neck deep in “Wacko Jacko” stories and abuse allegation trials. And, even if their wasn’t actual abuse, which is what I believed at the time - Jackson was f**king weird, man! He did himself no favors by … ummm … admitting to sleeping in the same bed with lots of children. For many years. At his private ranch. While the parents of the kids where at a completely separate part of the ranch. And MJ had alarms on his doors & hallways so no one would be able to sneak up on his bedroom unnoticed - where he was alone with the children. In bed. But, um, nothing happened (says Jackson.)

And a lot of us … kind of believed it. I mean, the idea that MJ, who’s public persona was nothing more than a grown up kid himself, actually molested children was difficult to believe. But now, in 2019, the very thought that I didn’t believe the allegations against him feels pretty damn naïve. But at the time, I mean, he was weird and he was rich - which makes him an easy target. And just because he’s weird and rich doesn’t mean he’s evil. And besides, I like his music and his dancing is awesome. Therefore - he probably isn’t guilty. Right? (And "probably" was good enough for me.) 

Shortly after his death (in 2009), I read about a couple of the police officers that had collected evidence in the 90's Jackson child abuse allegations. And while they were under a gag order and were unable to discuss specifics, both of the officers said something that struck me, which was to the effect of, “I make sure no one, and I mean no one in my house, or family - listens to Michael Jackson. Ever.”

Hmmm. Reading between the lines there, it sounds as if the officers involved in collecting evidence from Neverland Ranch were so disturbed by said collected evidence against M.J. - that they refused to let anyone in their family ever listen to his music.

To me, that suggested - something. Not everything, yet ...  but something. But still, at the time, had you asked me if I was 100% certain of MJs guilt I probably would have made excuses defending him, but then at the end of the conversation would have said, “But I don’t know, I wasn’t there. So … maybe he’s guilty.”

Back to the fact that I really didn’t want to watch Leaving Neverland. You know why? Because it’s pretty damn clear I always suspected in my heart that my childhood idol was guilty of pedophilia and I just didn’t want to hear proof. Which is a sad admission, but there it is. Also, I suspect many, many people feel/felt this way.

And so, I watched it.

Holy God. The documentary is as horrifying as you’ve heard. Part 1 details the allegations, which are stunning. Part 2 deals with family trauma, which is heartbreaking. And it's true that the documentary doesn’t offer “proof,” per say (for example - video of the abuse), it does; however, offer two extremely believable, sincere testimonials from James Safechuck and Wade Robson, both of whom accused MJ of sexually molesting them for many years when they were young, Wade as early as seven years old. Seven years old! And the documentary does not make any case that MJ doesn’t know what he is doing. In fact, it suggests the exact opposite in that MJ is a totally self aware f**king monster. The grooming. The planning. The lying. The seducing. The gifts. Getting the kids to lie for you. Just about everything we know about child molesters is there and it was probably always there, and most of us ignored it - because Michael Jackson is awesome!   

Corey Feldman and Macaulay Culkin, MJ's two famous childhood actor friends, have both repeatedly said that MJ never did anything inappropriate to them which, I actually beleive because they were both famous child actors at the time. Pedophiles target kids with no power. Feldman and Culkin had, at least a modicum amount of power which is probably why MJ didn't target them. Culkin, as far as I am aware, has yet to comment on the documentary, but Feldman pushed back calling it “one sided” and criticized the film because MJ has no chance to defend himself.  But, that's not exactly true, is it? I mean, MJ had every chance to defend himself when he was alive and in fact, he did so because there were acusations and trials. It occurred to me that we’ve only heard MJ’s side of the story - over and over and over - that he's innocent, he would never hurt kids, the alleged "victims" were out for money and that the media lied about him because he's rich and weird. That's the story we've been told. Leaving Neverland is actually, the first time we’ve ever heard from any of the alleged victims. So, I kind of feel like, while it's true we don't have "proof" that MJ is guilty or innocent - we've heard his side of things - that he's an altruistic angel and does nothing wrong and is the target of a smear campaign. And now we've finally heard from two of the alleged victims. And they are very, very compelling. 

Feldman, himself an alleged victim of sexual abuse, quickly backtracked his early defense of MJ, telling CNN:

“I cannot in good consciousness defend anyone who’s being accused of such horrendous crimes, but at the same time, I’m also not here to judge him, because, again, he didn’t do those things to me and that was not my experience …  It comes to a point where, as an advocate for victims, as an advocate for changing the statutes of limitations to make sure that victims’ voices are heard, it becomes impossible for me to stay virtuous and not at least consider what’s being said and not listen to what the victims are saying … As I’m watching it [the Leaving Neverland documentary], I’m going, ‘This doesn’t make sense to me. This isn’t the guy that I knew. But look, I’m a guy that at 14 years old was molested, did have a pedophile completely lie to me about who he was. I trusted him. I believed in him as a friend, and I thought he was a good person, and then he molested me. It all proves that I’m not the best judge, and that’s why I shouldn’t be the judge in this situation, and especially given the fact that I’m so close to [Jackson].”

Jackson still has his defenders. He always will. I used to be one of them. Not so much any longer. I mean, MJ was weird and rich and was an easy target and his estate is worth … God only knows … a couple of billion dollars? That, right there, is motive. So, I feel that I really understand all the reasons people don’t want to believe that, Michael Jackson, the best selling recording artist of all time - is a pedophile. I really do understand the reasons for doubt, but - I no longer believe any of them.

Not one bit.

Meanwhile, in the gaming community there has been some controversy about an upcoming game. Well, actually it’s been more like a huge fight. You see, there is a game developer called, “Desk Plant” and they are planning to release a game in April called “Rape Day.”

If you think the name of a game Rape Day means that you get to play a game where you … you know, rape women. Well, then you’d be right. That’s right - some douchebag company honestly thought it would be a great idea to market a game where you could rape women.

But who would be dumb enough to release such a game (you might ask)?

Enter Steam. For those that do not know, Steam is website developed by Valve Corporation. The site is used to distribute games & related media online and provides the user with installation and automatic management of software. Steam has a lot of games. And I mean - a lot. I use it all the time. In fact, 90 million active members use Steam every month, just to give you an idea how big the game site is.

Steam is no stranger to controversy. They sell a huge variety of games that cover a huge variety of topics up to and including - controversial topics. There has been game drama. Which led Steam to come up with an official response and, they kind of washed their hands with policing games they sell on their site. They feel that folks should be able to tell stories and create games about any and all controversial topics. It’s the free speech argument. Which is totally fair, so they basically said that unless the game is illegal - we’ll sell it.  From their official June 6th, 2018 blog post:

“...we've decided that the right approach is to allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling.”  

Okay. Fair enough. The “straight up trolling” comment is the interesting part because that could mean … well, a lot of different things.

Cut to Rape Day. The developers call it an interactive graphic novel. What this means is the game is not a traditional animated movement game as your characters walk around, interact with objects and fight bad guys. Instead of that, it’s more like you (the player) are flipping pages of a comic book and get to make choices in order to reveal specific drawn pages.

The premise of Rape Day is simple: it’s a zombie apocalypse. And in the zombie apocalypse you play a sociopath. And you get to kill zombies. You also get to murder survivors and rape any and all women you encounter!

Um, what?

As you can imagine, the ridiculous premise brought the gamer social media house down. Multiple petitions and almost ten thousand emails flooded Steam Sales owner Valve Corporation with a universal cry of “WTF?”

After a few days of deliberating, Steam released this as their official word on the matter:

"After significant fact-finding and discussion, we think Rape Day poses unknown costs and risks and therefore won't be on Steam. We respect developers’ desire to express themselves, and the purpose of Steam is to help developers find an audience, but this developer has chosen content matter and a way of representing it that makes it very difficult for us to help them do that."

I’m fine with Steam’s decision here. Now, this doesn’t mean no one will be able to find the game anywhere. Desk Plant will probably just sell it off their own site, or something. But not getting on Steam will certainly restrict its findability, for sure.

BUT .... like all controversial things … controversy breeds sales. And I know I am part of the problem here. For example: It’s highly likely that, had I not written about this game - you may have gone your entire life without ever hearing about it. And I wouldn’t have ever heard about it had several game sites not written about it. Had the game just been released on Steam it might have come and gone and the overwhelming majority of us would have lived in blissful ignorance. Which, probably, would have kept sales for Rape Day, very, very low. And then the game and the company that developed it, probably would have come and gone and faded into obscurity.

Alas, now it’s out there. It’s not even just on the game sites any longer as Variety, Business Insider and Fortune all have articles about it. What probably began as some legitimately concerned women and/or parents sending a message or two to Steam asking them, “Is this seriously what you want to sell on your site?” has now blossomed into free advertising for a game that most folks would have never, ever heard about in the first place.

Which makes me a little sad. I mean, technically, these guys aren't doing anything illegal (as far as I am aware) but the idea of trying to "normalize rape" (that's the game developer's words, not mine) frankly, is kind of disgusting. 

So, while Rape Day, as a game, might be legal - at least it won’t easily accessible and found on Steam. And I'm okay with that.

Although, I am suddenly playing Devil's Advocate here and thinking, "But if it remains on Steam, you could see which of your friends are playing it and then you could sit them down and be like, "Dude - WTF is wrong with you!?"

Nah. I guess I'd just rather just have it off Steam, go find it somewhere else, Incel Troll.  

Tanner Wilson, a student at Caddo Hills High School in Norman, Arkansas often walked the halls of school with his wheelchair bound buddy, Brandon Qualls. Tanner took notice that his friend Brandon, would often have to stop and rest his arms due to fatigue. And it’s easy to imagine why. I mean, you try pushing yourself around in a manual wheelchair for hours at a time and see how long you last. Right?

Anyway, Tanner took notice alright. So much so that he spent two years saving his money from a part time job. He also spent a year searching the internet for a motorized wheelchair that would work well for his friend Brandon. After two years of work, saving and then finally finding a motorized wheelchair on sale on Facebook, Tanner bought it for his buddy. Tanner then surprised Brandon during class one day, presenting the wheelchair to him in front of his friends and teacher.

You can watch the video here. (This is the same video linked to the front of the page).

And that is why Tanner Wilson is my favorite person this month.

Two devastating tornadoes ripped through Alabama on Sunday night killing at least 23 people, injuring dozens more with at least ten people still missing. The Governor immediately declared a statewide emergency and by Monday afternoon FEMA had search and rescue teams in state in hopes of finding those still missing.

 

In fact, 18 tornadoes hit Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina over the weekend, it’s just that the Alabama two did the most damage, including one that blasted through Lee County and caused the most deaths. The storm hit several families tragically hard - seven from two families related by marriage were killed and at least three families had two or three people die in the storm. The names of the all the victims can be found here.

 

By Tuesday morning rescue operations turned into recovery operations and residents were told to push any debris on their property out to the edge of the roadway for eventual pickup. But if that’s not bad enough, the weekend might bring in more storms from the west.

 

According to CNN there are multiple ways you can help families affected by the storm - here is the official link to the Public Good campaign to help victims of Alabama tornadoes. Or you can donate to the Alabama Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund.

Multiple sources (but mostly CNN Business) are reporting that Amazon will offer their Prime customers the option to select “Amazon Day” for their delivery option. An Amazon Day selection means customers may select a specific day of the week to receive all their packages from the company, instead of Amazon delivering packages to them through the week.

This is Amazon’s plan to “reduce its carbon footprint and give customers more control over when they receive their packages.” Seems like a legit idea to me. Especially for folks who order from Amazon multiple times per week. The only minor issue issue I see could be one of storage space. I know Amazon already has many warehouses where they store product but this seems to be slightly different. For example: Let’s say over the course of a week you order ten things from Amazon and want them all delivered the following Monday. And then millions of other folks do the exact same thing. Suddenly, that’s means Amazon has a large amount of things to store until Monday morning. Which, could be an issue. But, I guess the counter argument is that storage is probably only a minor logistical problem - for a company a large as Amazon. Fair enough.

Again, it should be noted that only Prime member will receive the Amazon Day option and you don’t need to select it. If you wish, you can continue to get your shipments daily. I’ve also read that by, “2030, Amazon wants half of its shipments to be carbon neutral.” To me that says that Amazon Day, for now, is optional. But it might suggest that it will become the norm at some time in the future.

I think the once per week delivery option is actually a great idea. Much better then Amazon’s previous “make the delivery process smoother” idea - the Amazon Key. If you are unfamiliar with the idea, Amazon’s Key is a security camera, door lock and Cloud storage for about $250. You instal Amazon’s Security System and Key and that will allow Amazon drivers to unlock your Amazon lock, and deliver your packages inside your home when you are away.

I mean, safe packages - that’s cool. But … allowing strangers into your home - not so much.  

And, after a quick Google search for “Amazon Key sales” it appears as if Amazon Key has been wildly unsuccessful and hugely unpopular. And I am not surprised.

Anyway.

Amazon Key. Nope.

Amazon Day. Sign me up!

Editor's note: Lots of interesting stuff here and I think the entire statement is worth reading but I'm not sure I see the "smoking gun" that will turn Trump supporters away from supporting the President. I mean, they don't care that he has sex with porn stars and cheats on his wife (or they pretend to think he's innocent of such things because they believe him to be a "Christian," which he is not), they don't care how much he's actually worth (or not), they don't care about his taxes, they don't care about Hilary Clinton (unless they're bashing her). They only care that Trump isn't a Democrat. If the Cohen statement said something like, "I actually have proof Trump is a secret Democrat and has been working in collusion with the Dems to pass a Green New Deal," well - then they'd turn on him! Aside from that, I fear this is all going to revert to business as usual...
 
Cohen's opening statement to Congress: 
"Chairman Cummings, Ranking Member Jordan, and Members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me here today.
I have asked this Committee to ensure that my family be protected from Presidential threats, and that the Committee be sensitive to the questions pertaining to ongoing investigations. Thank you for your help and for your understanding.
 
 
I am here under oath to correct the record, to answer the Committee's questions truthfully, and to offer the American people what I know about President Trump.
I recognize that some of you may doubt and attack me on my credibility. It is for this reason that I have incorporated into this opening statement documents that are irrefutable, and demonstrate that the information you will hear is accurate and truthful.
Never in a million years did I imagine, when I accepted a job in 2007 to work for Donald Trump, that he would one day run for President, launch a
campaign on a platform of hate and intolerance, and actually win. I regret the day I said "yes" to Mr. Trump. I regret all the help and support I gave him along the way.
I am ashamed of my own failings, and I publicly accepted responsibility for them by pleading guilty in the Southern District of New York.
I am ashamed of my weakness and misplaced loyalty -- of the things I did for Mr. Trump in an effort to protect and promote him.
I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump's illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience.
I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is.
He is a racist.
He is a conman.
He is a cheat.
He was a presidential candidate who knew that Roger Stone was talking with Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of Democratic National Committee emails.
I will explain each in a few moments.
I am providing the Committee today with several documents. These include:
  • A copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account -- after he became president - to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and prevent damage to his campaign;
  • Copies of financial statements for 2011 -- 2013 that he gave to such institutions as Deutsche Bank;
  • A copy of an article with Mr. Trump's handwriting on it that reported on the auction of a portrait of himself -- he arranged for the bidder ahead of time and then reimbursed the bidder from the account of his non-profit charitable foundation, with the picture now hanging in one of his country clubs; and
  • Copies of letters I wrote at Mr. Trump's direction that threatened his high school, colleges, and the College Board not to release his grades or SAT scores.
I hope my appearance here today, my guilty plea, and my work with law enforcement agencies are steps along a path of redemption that will restore faith in me and help this country understand our president better.
***
Before going further, I want to apologize to each of you and to Congress as a whole.
The last time I appeared before Congress, I came to protect Mr. Trump.
Today, I'm here to tell the truth about Mr. Trump.
I lied to Congress about when Mr. Trump stopped negotiating the Moscow Tower project in Russia. I stated that we stopped negotiating in January 2016. That was false -- our negotiations continued for months later during the campaign.
Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That's not how he operates.
In conversations we had during the campaign, at the same time I was actively negotiating in Russia for him, he would look me in the eye and tell
me there's no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing. In his way, he was telling me to lie.
There were at least a half-dozen times between the Iowa Caucus in January 2016 and the end of June when he would ask me "How's it going in Russia?" -- referring to the Moscow Tower project.
You need to know that Mr. Trump's personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow Tower negotiations before I gave it.
To be clear: Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project.
And so I lied about it, too -- because Mr. Trump had made clear to me, through his personal statements to me that we both knew were false and through his lies to the country, that he wanted me to lie. And he made it
clear to me because his personal attorneys reviewed my statement before I gave it to Congress.
****
Over the past two years, I have been smeared as "a rat" by the President of the United States. The truth is much different, and let me take a brief moment to introduce myself.
My name is Michael Dean Cohen.
I am a blessed husband of 24 years and a father to an incredible daughter and son. When I married my wife, I promised her that I would love her, cherish her, and protect her. As my father said countless times throughout my childhood, "you my wife, and you my children, are the air that I breathe." To my Laura, my Sami, and my Jake, there is nothing I wouldn't do to protect you.
I have always tried to live a life of loyalty, friendship, generosity, and compassion -- qualities my parents ingrained in my siblings and me since childhood. My father survived the Holocaust thanks to the compassion and selfless acts of others. He was helped by many who put themselves in harm's way to do what they knew was right.
That is why my first instinct has always been to help those in need. Mom and Dad...I am sorry that I let you down.
As many people that know me best would say, I am the person they would call at 3AM if they needed help. I proudly remember being the emergency contact for many of my children's friends when they were growing up because their parents knew that I would drop everything and care for them as if they were my own.
Yet, last fall I pled guilty in federal court to felonies for the benefit of, at the direction of, and in coordination with Individual #1.
For the record: Individual #1 is President Donald J. Trump.
It is painful to admit that I was motivated by ambition at times. It is even more painful to admit that many times I ignored my conscience and acted loyal to a man when I should not have. Sitting here today, it seems unbelievable that I was so mesmerized by Donald Trump that I was willing to do things for him that I knew were absolutely wrong.
For that reason, I have come here to apologize to my family, to the government, and to the American people.
***
Accordingly, let me now tell you about Mr. Trump.
I got to know him very well, working very closely with him for more than 10 years, as his Executive Vice President and Special Counsel and then personal attorney when he became President. When I first met Mr. Trump, he was a successful entrepreneur, a real estate giant, and an icon. Being around Mr. Trump was intoxicating. When you were in his presence, you felt like you were involved in something greater than yourself -- that you were somehow changing the world.
I wound up touting the Trump narrative for over a decade. That was my job. Always stay on message. Always defend. It monopolized my life. At first, I worked mostly on real estate developments and other business transactions. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Trump brought me into his personal life and private dealings. Over time, I saw his true character revealed.
Mr. Trump is an enigma. He is complicated, as am I. He has both good and bad, as do we all. But the bad far outweighs the good, and since taking office, he has become the worst version of himself. He is capable of behaving kindly, but he is not kind. He is capable of committing acts of generosity, but he is not generous. He is capable of being loyal, but he is fundamentally disloyal.
Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation -- only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the "greatest infomercial in political history."
He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign -- for him -- was always a marketing opportunity.
I knew early on in my work for Mr. Trump that he would direct me to lie to further his business interests. I am ashamed to say, that when it was for a real estate mogul in the private sector, I considered it trivial. As the President, I consider it significant and dangerous.
But in the mix, lying for Mr. Trump was normalized, and no one around him questioned it. In fairness, no one around him today questions it, either.
A lot of people have asked me about whether Mr. Trump knew about the release of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of time. The answer is yes.
As I earlier stated, Mr. Trump knew from Roger Stone in advance about the WikiLeaks drop of emails.
In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump's office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr.
Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of "wouldn't that be great."
Mr. Trump is a racist. The country has seen Mr. Trump court white supremacists and bigots. You have heard him call poorer countries "shitholes."
In private, he is even worse.
He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn't a "shithole." This was when Barack Obama was President of the United States.
While we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way.
And, he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid.
And yet I continued to work for him.
Mr. Trump is a cheat.
As previously stated, I'm giving the Committee today three years of President Trump's financial statements, from 2011-2013, which he gave to Deutsche Bank to inquire about a loan to buy the Buffalo Bills and to Forbes. These are Exhibits 1a1b, and 1c to my testimony.
It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.
I am sharing with you two newspaper articles, side by side, that are examples of Mr. Trump inflating and deflating his assets, as I said, to suit his financial interests. These are Exhibit 2 to my testimony.
As I noted, I'm giving the Committee today an article he wrote on, and sent me, that reported on an auction of a portrait of Mr. Trump. This is Exhibit 3A to my testimony.
Mr. Trump directed me to find a straw bidder to purchase a portrait of him that was being auctioned at an Art Hamptons Event. The objective was to ensure that his portrait, which was going to be auctioned last, would go for the highest price of any portrait that afternoon. The portrait was purchased by the fake bidder for $60,000. Mr. Trump directed the Trump Foundation, which is supposed to be a charitable organization, to repay the fake bidder, despite keeping the art for himself. Please see Exhibit 3B to my testimony.
And it should come as no surprise that one of my more common responsibilities was that Mr. Trump directed me to call business owners, many of whom were small businesses, that were owed money for their services and told them no payment or a reduced payment would be coming. When I advised Mr. Trump of my success, he actually reveled in it.
And yet, I continued to work for him.
Mr. Trump is a conman.
He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair, and to lie to his wife about it, which I did. Lying to the First Lady is one of my biggest regrets. She is a kind, good person. I respect her greatly -- and she did not deserve that.
I am giving the Committee today a copy of the $130,000 wire transfer from me to Ms. Clifford's attorney during the closing days of the presidential campaign that was demanded by Ms. Clifford to maintain her silence about her affair with Mr. Trump. This is Exhibit 4 to my testimony.
Mr. Trump directed me to use my own personal funds from a Home Equity Line of Credit to avoid any money being traced back to him that could negatively impact his campaign. I did that, too -- without bothering to consider whether that was improper, much less whether it was the right thing to do or how it would impact me, my family, or the public.
I am going to jail in part because of my decision to help Mr. Trump hide that payment from the American people before they voted a few days later.
As Exhibit 5 to my testimony shows, I am providing a copy of a $35,000 check that President Trump personally signed from his personal bank
account on August 1, 2017 -- when he was President of the United States -- pursuant to the cover-up, which was the basis of my guilty plea, to reimburse me -- the word used by Mr. Trump's TV lawyer -- for the illegal hush money I paid on his behalf. This $35,000 check was one of 11 check installments that was paid throughout the year -- while he was President.
The President of the United States thus wrote a personal check for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme to violate campaign finance laws. You can find the details of that scheme, directed by Mr. Trump, in the pleadings in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
So picture this scene -- in February 2017, one month into his presidency, I'm visiting President Trump in the Oval Office for the first time. It's truly awe-inspiring, he's showing me around and pointing to different paintings, and he says to me something to the effect of...Don't worry, Michael, your January and February reimbursement checks are coming. They were Fed-Exed from New York and it takes a while for that to get through the White House system. As he promised, I received the first check for the reimbursement of $70,000 not long thereafter.
When I say conman, I'm talking about a man who declares himself brilliant but directed me to threaten his high school, his colleges, and the College Board to never release his grades or SAT scores.
As I mentioned, I'm giving the Committee today copies of a letter I sent at Mr. Trump's direction threatening these schools with civil and criminal actions if Mr. Trump's grades or SAT scores were ever disclosed without his permission. These are Exhibit 6.
The irony wasn't lost on me at the time that Mr. Trump in 2011 had strongly criticized President Obama for not releasing his grades. As you can see in Exhibit 7, Mr. Trump declared "Let him show his records" after calling President Obama "a terrible student."
The sad fact is that I never heard Mr. Trump say anything in private that led me to believe he loved our nation or wanted to make it better. In fact, he did the opposite.
When telling me in 2008 that he was cutting employees' salaries in half -- including mine -- he showed me what he claimed was a $10 million IRS tax refund, and he said that he could not believe how stupid the government was for giving "someone like him" that much money back.
During the campaign, Mr. Trump said he did not consider Vietnam Veteran, and Prisoner of War, Senator John McCain to be "a hero" because he likes people who weren't captured. At the same time, Mr. Trump tasked me to handle the negative press surrounding his medical deferment from the Vietnam draft.
Mr. Trump claimed it was because of a bone spur, but when I asked for medical records, he gave me none and said there was no surgery. He told me not to answer the specific questions by reporters but rather offer simply the fact that he received a medical deferment.
He finished the conversation with the following comment. "You think I'm stupid, I wasn't going to Vietnam."
I find it ironic, President Trump, that you are in Vietnam right now.
And yet, I continued to work for him.
***
Questions have been raised about whether I know of direct evidence that Mr. Trump or his campaign colluded with Russia. I do not. I want to be clear. But, I have my suspicions.
Sometime in the summer of 2017, I read all over the media that there had been a meeting in Trump Tower in June 2016 involving Don Jr. and others from the campaign with Russians, including a representative of the Russian government, and an email setting up the meeting with the subject line, "Dirt on Hillary Clinton." Something clicked in my mind. I remember being in the room with Mr. Trump, probably in early June 2016, when something peculiar happened. Don Jr. came into the room and walked behind his father's desk -- which in itself was unusual. People didn't just walk behind Mr. Trump's desk to talk to him. I recalled Don Jr. leaning over to his father and speaking in a low voice, which I could clearly hear, and saying: "The meeting is all set." I remember Mr. Trump saying, "Ok good...let me know."
What struck me as I looked back and thought about that exchange between Don Jr. and his father was, first, that Mr. Trump had frequently told me and others that his son Don Jr. had the worst judgment of anyone in the world. And also, that Don Jr. would never set up any meeting of any significance alone -- and certainly not without checking with his father.
I also knew that nothing went on in Trump world, especially the campaign, without Mr. Trump's knowledge and approval. So, I concluded that Don Jr. was referring to that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting about dirt on
Hillary with the Russian representative when he walked behind his dad's desk that day -- and that Mr. Trump knew that was the meeting Don Jr. was talking about when he said, "That's good...let me know."
***
Over the past year or so, I have done some real soul searching. I see now that my ambition and the intoxication of Trump power had much to do with the bad decisions I made.
To you, Chairman Cummings, Ranking Member Jordan, the other members of this Committee, and the other members of the House and Senate, I am sorry for my lies and for lying to Congress.
To our nation, I am sorry for actively working to hide from you the truth about Mr. Trump when you needed it most.
For those who question my motives for being here today, I understand. I have lied, but I am not a liar. I have done bad things, but I am not a bad man. I have fixed things, but I am no longer your "fixer," Mr. Trump.
I am going to prison and have shattered the safety and security that I tried so hard to provide for my family. My testimony certainly does not diminish
the pain I caused my family and friends -- nothing can do that. And I have never asked for, nor would I accept, a pardon from President Trump.
And, by coming today, I have caused my family to be the target of personal, scurrilous attacks by the President and his lawyer -- trying to intimidate me from appearing before this panel. Mr. Trump called me a "rat" for choosing to tell the truth -- much like a mobster would do when one of his men decides to cooperate with the government.
As Exhibit 8 shows, I have provided the Committee with copies of Tweets that Mr. Trump posted, attacking me and my family -- only someone burying his head in the sand would not recognize them for what they are: encouragement to someone to do harm to me and my family.
I never imagined that he would engage in vicious, false attacks on my family -- and unleash his TV-lawyer to do the same. I hope this committee and all members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will make it clear: As a nation, we should not tolerate attempts to intimidate witnesses before congress and attacks on family are out of bounds and not acceptable.
I wish to especially thank Speaker Pelosi for her statements in Exhibit 9 to protect this institution and me, and the Chairman of the House Permanent
Select Committee on Intelligence Adam Schiff and Chairman Cummings for likewise defending this institution and my family against the attacks by Mr. Trump, and also the many Republicans who have admonished the President as well.
I am not a perfect man. I have done things I am not proud of, and I will live with the consequences of my actions for the rest of my life.
But today, I get to decide the example I set for my children and how I attempt to change how history will remember me. I may not be able to change the past, but I can do right by the American people here today.
Thank you for your attention. I am happy to answer the Committee's questions."

For better or worse the Oscar ceremony is over and Green Book is now an Academy Award winning film. I understand there is some controversy about the movie but it’s gone unseen by me so I can’t really comment. To be honest, I wasn’t that excited by any of the choices for Best Picture so I kind of didn’t really care what won.

That being said, Black Panther won the awards it should have won - production, costuming and original score. Which, the “original score” was the one that shocked me. Not that I was surprised it did (or did not) win for original score, no that’s not what I meant. What surprised me was that a young, head banging, long haired white dude wrote the score for a Afro-centric film. Not that there's anything wrong with that, I just wasn’t expecting it. But good for him.

Anyway, here is a list of full winners. But that’s not really what I’m here to talk about. Each year there are always delightful behind the scenes moments that didn’t make it to the public eye. I’ve found a few of them.

James McAvoy (pictured): Apparently, McAvoy found a red Sharpie somewhere back stage and made a spur of the moment decision to grab it and ask lots of his famous friends to sign his shirt. He Instagrammed about it and said he would find a way to sell the shirt for charity.

Trevor Noah: Twitter has been abuzz this morning with Mr. Noah’s inside joke. At the Oscar’s he told a story on stage, “Growing up as a young boy in Wakanda, I would see T'Challa flying over our village, and he would remind me of a great Xhosa phrase. He says 'abelungu abazi uba ndiyaxoka' -- which means, 'In times like these, we are stronger when we fight together than when we try to fight apart.'"  Of course, come to find out what the phrase actually means is, “White people don’t know I’m lying.”

Spike Lee: Perhaps my favorite “you didn’t see (or hear)” moment of the evening. Lee’s very first words upon taking the stage accepting his award for best adapted screenplay were, “Do not turn that mother f**king clock on!” Which is a reference to the time limit that winners are supposed to have. ABC, which broadcasts on a six second delay, cut the line from the live feed. Which means the live audience heard it but we at home never did.

As for the, downright coolest thing I didn’t know about and only found out about this morning - the CIA’s Reel vs Real series.  Which is a super fun exploration of technology you see in movies vs. how real and / or close to reality the movie technology is. The CIA even Tweeted about it live during the Oscars, offering their readers quizzes. It’s pretty great. And, also, I guess the folks at the CIA loved Black Panther because they seem to focus on the movie a lot.

Finally, if you took a bathroom break during commercials you may have missed the charming action Lion King Trailer or Serena Williams in that great Nike ad.

First of all, I’m not a fan of the Tucker Carlson Show; however, because of my job, I have to watch it on occasion. His show is typical conservative talking points without much depth and a whole lot of disingenuous propaganda. That being said, in the past few days I’ve read much about Carlson’s “meltdown” during his pre-recorded unaired interview with Dutch Historian Rutger Bregman. Imagine my disappointment when I found out the meltdown wasn’t much more than Carlson calling his guest a “moron” and telling him to go “f**k himself.”Before I spout my two cents, let me give you some context on just who the guest in question, Rutger Bregman, is.  

According to wikipedia:

“Rutger C. Bregman (born 1988) is a Dutch historian and author. He has published four books on history, philosophy and economics, including Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World, which has been translated into twenty languages. The Dutch edition of Utopia for Realists" became a national bestseller and sparked a basic income movement that soon made international headlines." His work has been featured in The Washington Post, The Guardian and the BBC. He has been described by The Guardian as the "Dutch wunderkind of new ideas” and by TED Talks as "one of Europe's most prominent young thinkers." His TED Talk, "Poverty Isn't a Lack of Character; It's a Lack of Cash," was chosen by TED curator Chris Anderson as one of the top ten of 2017.”

Okay, fair enough. He seems to be well educated and knows his stuff. But he, very recently, shot to viral fame when, in January he attended Davos and … well, told them off.

 

So … what exactly is Davos (besides being a town in the Swiss Alps)?

 

Well, basically Davos is the common name for a yearly gathering of an international organization called the World Economic Forum. Thousands of business, political and charity figures attend the week long event. It can, though does not always, lead to significant consequences for global affairs.

So, Bregman goes to Davos and basically says,

“This is my first time at Davos, and I find it quite a bewildering experience to be honest.

I mean 1,500 private jets have flown in here to hear Sir David Attenborough speak about, you know, how we're wrecking the planet. And, I mean, I hear people talking the language or participation and justice and equality and transparency, but then, I mean, almost no one raises the real issue of tax avoidance right? And of the rich just not paying their fair share. I mean, it feels like I'm at a firefighters conference and no one's allowed to speak about water, right?” 

Damn! I mean, he’s not wrong because as we all know, hypocrisy knows no bounds. Especially in the day and age where Netflix and Amazon pay zero $$ in taxes. I mean, two  gazillion dollar corporations pay - zero dollars in taxes. That is sickening.  

Anyway. Bregman’s full speech can be found here, he’s actually the first speaker so you won’t have to wait long. Okay, so now you’re all caught up.

 

What about the Tucker Carlson meltdown?

 

So, after the Davos speech in Jan, Carlson invites Bregman to pre-record an interview for the Tucker Carlson show to be aired at a later date. Bregman agrees. The interview happens. 

And the interview starts out benign enough, you know? I mean, Carlson seems genuinely happy to have Bregman on the show and gushes about the shellacking the Bregman gave the rich folks at Davos. It’s quite clear that Carlson is happy to have Bregman on the show - to talk about tax avoidance. 

Things go south quickly. Carlson wants Bregman to keep talking about tax evasion but Bregman clearly had no intention of letting Carlson lead the conversation. So Bregman just rolls over Carlson and says, “raise taxes on the rich” and to Carlson directly, “you’re a millionaire funded by billionaires, that’s what you are!” 

This all may be true but Carlson gets flustered and angry that Bregman keeps pushing the “raise taxes on the rich.” As you may or may not know, Carlson is rich. And it is NOT a Fox talking point to say, “raise taxes on the rich.” Which, to be honest, I think is kind of odd. I mean, the vast majority of Fox viewers are not rich. Far from it. You would think they would be fine with the idea of raising taxes on the rich. But, I guess not. I guess Bregman is correct when he points out to Carlson that he’s part of the problem, not the solution. The interview was never aired but Bregman had a feeling that would happen and so he had some folk record the video feed (on their end) which is how it made the light of day. 

Anyway, Carlson gets angry and finally calls Bregman a moron and tells him to “f**k off,” which, as far as I am concerned is nothing to write home about. I mean, he said, the “f” word? Why is this considered a melt down?  

If you watch the entire “meltdown” video it is true that Carlson becomes so flustered that he just can’t think of how to respond and so reverts to juvenile taunts like, “tiny brain” and “moron.” This might be proof that Carlson is not really the intellectual giant he believes himself to be, but I would hardly call it a meltdown.

Anyway. Tucker Carlson got his ass handed to him by the same guy who stood up in front of  a bunch of rich folks at Devos and … handed them their asses. Should anyone be surprised? 

 I guess, I wasn’t. It still wasn’t a meltdown, though.

%PM, %20 %880 %2019 %20:%Feb

Mexican scientist cures HPV (kind of)

Mexican researchers had a major breakthrough in treating HPV (Human Papillomavirus), the most common sexually transmitted disease. In fact, the CDC states that almost 80 million Americans are infected with HPV with approximately 14 million people becoming newly infected per year. Those are just the numbers in the U.S. alone.

 

What exactly is HPV?

 

HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses, named for the warts (papillomas) some HPV types can cause. Some other HPV types can lead to cancer. According to the CDC website:

 

“In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer.

Genital warts usually appear as a small bump or group of bumps in the genital area. They can be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower. A healthcare provider can usually diagnose warts by looking at the genital area.

 

HPV can cause cervical and other cancers including cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. It can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (called oropharyngeal cancer). Cancer often takes years, even decades, to develop after a person gets HPV. The types of HPV that can cause genital warts are not the same as the types of HPV that can cause cancers.”

 

According to, El Universal, a popular Mexican newsite, a research team at Mexico’s National Polytechnic Institute led by Eva Ramon Gallegos, was able to eliminate HPV in dozens of patients using a non-invasive photodynamic therapy. Which makes us all ask, what is photodynamic therapy? Well, according to cancer.gov:

 

“Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a treatment that uses a drug, called a photosensitizer or photosensitizing agent, and a particular type of light. When photosensitizers are exposed to a specific wavelength of light, they produce a form of oxygen that kills nearby cells.”

 

Sounds like science fiction to me but whatever works! Anyway, according to Ramon’s study, the team was able to eliminate HPV in 100 percent of patients that had no premalignant lesions and in 64.3 percent of subjects with lesions.

 

Now, I know that viral headlines all across the internet screamed the HPV has been cured but, um - not so fast. There are over 100 different kinds of HPV. Some cause health problems, some do not. Some, but not many, cause cancer. One of the reasons cancer is so hard to cure is because each type of cancer will require a completely different cure. Something that cures cervical cancer, for example, will probably not cure breast cancer. And something that cures type 6,11,16 and 18 (most of the problematic HPV types) types of HPV might not work on other types of HPV.

 

As pointed out by Liz Highleyman, the editor in chief at www.cancerhealth.com in her A Cure for HPV, not so fast…, there are too many forms of HPV to claim they have all been cured. Highleyman notes the Mexican  research only focused on two types of HPV. So, while the research is good news, it’s not exactly a full cure. From her article:   

 

It’s not clear how photodynamic treatment might eliminate HPV infection, which would seem to require some type of antiviral therapy. But there’s clearly something going on.  

Despite the unanswered questions raised by the recent reports, the findings from the Mexican study are good news for people with HPV-associated dysplasia. Photodynamic therapy is well tolerated and noninvasive. Using PDT instead of surgery to remove precancerous tissue could help preserve function in people with anal lesions and the ability to carry a pregnancy in women with cervical lesions.

 

The news also presents an opportunity to promote HPV vaccination. The new Gardasil 9 vaccine protects against several of the most common cancer-causing HPV types (16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58) and two wart-causing types (6 and 11). It is recommended for girls and boys around age 11 or 12, before they become sexually active. However, the FDA recently approved the vaccine for women and men up to age 45, meaning people who were not vaccinated as teens or young adults may still be able to benefit.”

 

Okay. So perhaps “cures HPV” is too strong a statement. But things seem to be heading in the right direction!

Too much insider chagrin, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ board of governors decided that four Oscar categories (Cinematography, Editing, Live Short Film, Hair & Makeup) would be announced during commercial breaks and not live for the telecast. Now, this general idea is nothing new as the entire Scientific and Technical Awards take place two weeks before the Oscar ceremony. From the Oscars.org website:

“The Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards honor the men, women and companies whose discoveries and innovations have contributed in significant and lasting ways to motion pictures. Honorees are celebrated at a formal dinner held two weeks prior to the Oscar ceremony. The Sci-Tech Awards presentation has become a highlight of the Academy Awards season.”

Okay. So we have minor precedent that some awards take place - well, off camera. And if you wanted to assign Hair and Makeup and maybe some of the technical awards for sound and visual effects to the Sci-Tech award dinner, there may (or may not) have been as much outcry.

But … cinematography? And editing? Are you kidding me?

Well, even though my stunned disbelief went unheard; the Academy was bombarded by negative press coming from all sorts of Hollywood bigwig insiders such as the American Society of Cinematographers, the Producers Guild and the Directors Guild.

The intent of the Academy’s decision was to yearly rotate different category winners to be “off camera” and then have the edited speeches quickly shown in montage format later in the show. This is all designed to save time as the Oscar ceremony tends to run more than three hours. And, I guess folks complain about that. Or, perhaps there is a contractual agreement to have the show in 3 hours or less. Either way, I find it odd. I mean, the ceremony is long. It’s always been long. Deal with it. Or, don’t watch it. Or, don’t contractually agree to make it less than 3 hours because it might be 3.5 hours. It usually is. Why feign surprise this year? You know?

Anyway. The change didn’t settle well with some big named celebrities who threw their Twitter weight around and drummed up enough bad press and negative social media buzz for the Academy to reverse course entirely with this press release:

“The Academy has heard the feedback from its membership regarding the Oscar presentation of four awards — Cinematography, Film Editing, Live Action Short, and Makeup and Hairstyling. All Academy Awards will be presented without edits, in our traditional format. We look forward to Oscar Sunday, February 24.” 

First there was the "Popular Film" category that everyone hated. So it was dropped. Then their was Kevin Hart as host, who the Academy dropped. And now the off camera awards - decision revesed.  

What's next, I wonder? 

I guess we'll find out on Sunday night. 

 

A complete list of the Oscar Nominations

 

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