Comedian Ian Cognito died during a stand-up act in which he joked about dying on stage and then fell silent while the audience continued laughing, thinking it was a joke.
“Imagine if I died in front of you lot here,” Cognito, 60, joked on stage during his set Thursday. Andrew Bird, who runs the Lone Wolf Comedy Club in Bicester England, told the BBC: “Everyone in the crowd, me included, thought he was joking. Even when I walked on stage and touched his arm I was expecting him to say ‘boo’.”
Audience members were mortified when they learned that had been chuckling at a man dying. “We came out feeling really sick, we just sat there for five minutes watching him, laughing at him,” said audience member John Ostojak. He added: “Only 10 minutes before he sat down he joked about having a stroke He said, ‘Imagine having a stroke and waking up speaking Welsh?'”
Fellow comedians extended their sympathies on Twitter after hearing the news of Cognito’s death, but commented that his demise was in some ways fitting.
“Died with his boots on. That’s commitment to comedy. I’ll never forget his kindness when I started out & how god damn funny he was,” said comedian Jimmy Carr.
Veteran stand-up comedian Ian Cognito has died on-stage – literally. The audience thought it was part of the act. Died with his boots on. That’s commitment to comedy. I’ll never forget his kindness when I started out & how god damn funny he was.
— Jimmy Carr (@jimmycarr) April 12, 2019
Comedian Mark Steel said Cognito had “expired in his natural home” and was “a difficult awkward hilarious troubled brilliant sort, a proper comic.”
Bird said that dying on stage would have been the way Cognito “would have wanted to go,” adding: “Except he’d want more money and a bigger venue”
There is a comedic tradition of dying on stage. In 1984, comedian Tommy Cooper suffered a heart attack in the middle of his set on live television.His assistants and viewers back home thought he was making a joke as he slumped over and then writhed on the ground.
Cognito, whose real name was Paul Barbieri, had been performing since the mid-1980s. He won the Time Out Award for Stand-up Comedy in 1999 but never really hit the big time.
Political consultant W. Samuel Patten, who pleaded guilty to illegally steering foreign money to President Trump’s inaugural committee, was sentenced to probation by a federal judge Friday, avoiding any jail time.
The investigation into Patten was a spin off of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said she considered Patten’s cooperation with the Mueller investigation in handing down a lenient sentence. In addition to the three-year probation, Jackson also sentenced Patten to 500 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine. The sentence is so far the most lenient sentence handed down to a guilty plea resulting from the Trump-Russia probe.
“I fully recognize the seriousness of my conduct and the crimes that I committed,” Patten said to Jackson just before the sentencing. “I behaved as though the law didn’t apply to me and that was wrong.”
Patten, 47, who worked closely with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was charged last year by federal authorities with failing to register as a foreign agent when he steered $50,000 from a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician to Trump’s inauguration. The complaint filed against Patten alleged that he worked as an unregistered agent from 2014-2018, violating the Foreign Agent Registration Act.
“None of them were minor and all of them were absolutely intentional,” Jackson said of the violations. “This isn’t a mere technicality and it wasn’t an oversight. You hid and misrepresented the true nature of the work on behalf of the Ukrainian party. I’m probably most troubled by that because it goes beyond the failure to register.”
The maximum sentence for his charge is five years in federal prison.
President Trump has made clear that a quick roll out of next-generation wireless networks, known as 5G, is a priority. On Friday, the Trump administration is set to back that push with real investment. As confirmed by several news outlets, the Federal Communications Commission is set to announce that both new slices of airwaves will be up for auction and that the administration will set up a “Rural Digital Opportunity Fund” that will put $20.4 billion over 10 years toward boosting connectivity.
That’s exactly what the administration should be doing. Investing in wireless infrastructure is key to facilitating the next generation of innovation that is likely to be the basis of future economic growth.
For an idea of how important that investment is, it’s worth considering Uber. Car sharing is not a novel idea (taxis have been around for quite some time), but allowing individual users with access to high-speed internet on their phones to connect and purchase rides is. That was only possible because of advancements in wireless technology. Even faster and better-connected networks are likely to yield similarly disruptive and economically beneficial innovations.
Trump is right to want the U.S. to be a leader in those innovations as the country as well as individual companies and consumers are likely to reap huge benefits. Building out networks to under-served areas and making available more airwaves which will underpin 5G capabilities are important steps and the Trump administration is right to invest in them.
That being said, these investments do little to push back on U.S. concerns about Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. That’s because despite putting money into infrastructure, no U.S. company currently manufactures the equipment needed for 5G networks. This is where Huawei has emerged as a major player and is well positioned to dominate the industry. Although other foreign companies such as Nokia, Ericsson, and Samsung, have also been focused on 5G equipment and benefited from government investments, the U.S. has not prioritized our own domestic development of 5G equipment.
If the Trump administration is serious about winning the race to deploy 5G while keeping the technology firmly in U.S. control, their next focus should be on ensuring that China’s Huawei faces real competition in the equipment market. For now though, Trump should be applauded for his announcement on Friday that will help lay the foundations for 5G capabilities in the U.S.
Democrats in the New York state Assembly recently voted down a bill that would have allowed hundreds of thousands of dollars in college tuition aid to family members of Gold Star families after passing a measure earlier last week to give $27 million in the same benefits to illegal immigrants.
“We set aside $27 million dollars for college for people that are here illegally … Apparently, $2.7 million is all that the families of soldiers who are killed, get. If you’re a child of a fallen soldier, you do not rank as high and you know that by the money,” said State Sen. Robert Ortt, a Republican from Niagara, on Thursday.
The bill proposed would have expanded a program that currently serves 145 students, who are relatives or dependents of military members served in combat zones. The bill would have expanded the program by allocating more funds for those military families that qualify.
Gov, Andrew Cuomo weighed in Wednesday saying he supported the bill his fellow Democrats blocked in the Assembly in a 15-11 committee vote.
Assemblywoman Debroah Glick, a Democrat from Manhattan, responded to Cuomo’s criticism Friday.
“Wonder of the Gov is aware of the existing program providing up to $24K a year to cover tuition, room & board & ancillary costs for the spouse & children of veterans killed or severely disabled in combat zones,” she said.
Wonder of the Gov is aware of the existing program providing up to $24K a year to cover tuition, room & board & ancillary costs for the spouse & children of veterans killed or severely disabled in combat zones.
— (((Deborah Glick))) (@DeborahJGlick) April 12, 2019
A spokesperson for the Assembly Democrats, Mike Whyland, said the vote led by Republicans was “purely political and it’s unfortunate that they are using children as pawns.”
Georgetown University students overwhelmingly voted to increase their tuition to pay reparations to the descendants of slaves once owned by the school. The move comes as reparations are increasingly being discussed on the campaign trail for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
The Georgetown University Student Association held the referendum this week, with students supporting the measure by a two-to-one margin. The fee would increase tuition at the nation’s oldest Catholic university by nearly $28 per semester for every student. The money would go into a fund for descendants of the 272 slaves the Jesuits sold in 1838 to keep the deeply indebted university open.
The vote is not binding, however. University leadership will make the final decision on whether to implement a mandatory fee for reparations.
The results of the referendum are as follows: 66.08% for yes (2541 votes), 33.92% for no (1304 votes). This means that the referendum passes.
— GUSA Elections (@GUSAElections) April 12, 2019
“There are many approaches that enable our community to respond to the legacies of slavery,” Todd Olson, vice president for student affairs, said in a statement. “This student referendum provides valuable insight into student perspectives and will help guide our continued engagement with students, faculty and staff, members of the Descendant community, and the Society of Jesus.”
Reparations have become a topic of debate in the race for the Democratic nomination for president. At least four White House hopefuls — Obama-era housing secretary Julián Castro, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke — support payments to descendants of slaves. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has ripped into his opponents for not doing enough to make reparations a reality.
Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders disagrees with the idea, however, saying that he would rather focus on the economic inequality that puts African Americans at a disadvantage.
Julian Assange was arrested in Britain on a single charge of conspiracy but that is almost certainly just the opening salvo by the United States as prosecutors draw up more serious charges that could well result in the WikiLeaks founder spending the rest of his life behind bars.
Former CIA officers point to the colossal scope of the classified information dumps perpetrated by the Australian national, 47, and argue that he was responsible for American deaths. Few people are more despised by the American intelligence and criminal justice communities. Using a single, straightforward, and relatively minor charge is a common legal tactic designed to speed up an extradition process.
Arthur Rizer, a former federal prosecutor and U.S. Army veteran, described Assange as an “information terrorist” and “intelligence mobster.” He told Washington Examiner: “There are a million things other this guy could be charged with. And I wouldn’t be surprised if one of things he’s charged with is espionage.”
Rizer, now a director at the R Street Institute, said that charges of manslaughter, obstruction of justice, and mishandling of classified material were possible. “He could also be charged with many different counts of the same thing, because he published so many things,” he added.
Charles Stimson, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs and a Navy reservist told the Washington Examiner, “I’m sure there will be superseding indictments. There’s no doubt in my mind as a prosecutor. They might have a superseding indictment that’s sealed already,” he suggested.
“It’s the practice of the DOJ in a lot of instances to bring forward a single count indictment at the beginning of a long and complicated case to start the proceedings.”
The plan for how to deal with Assange was probably drawn up by the Obama administration and honed under Trump, Stimson, a Heritage Foundation scholar, said. Who would be privy to it? “I suspect [former DOD general counsel and DHS Secretary] Jeh Johnson and the previous team at the Obama administration knows and that senior leaders in the Trump administration know too.”
Daniel Hoffman, a former CIA station chief in Moscow, said Assange was likely in further legal jeopardy, saying, “There’s the Chelsea Manning case and there’s the DNC hacking lawsuit brought against him.” It was also an open question as to “what aspects of the Mueller report fit in to all this.”
He rejected the notion that Assange could claim to be a mere journalist with free-speech protections. “WikiLeaks is more than just a repository for classified information, they’re actually out actively seeking it. And the question is whether Assange was enabling individuals like Chelsea Manning to steal classified information. That would make him a co-conspirator.”
While he doubted “there was a direct link between Assange and Russia” but he said “there may have been third party cut-outs — mutually trusted intermediaries — used by WikiLeaks and Moscow. That might make an espionage trail difficult for prosecutors to establish.
“WikiLeaks would get the information that the GRU [Russian military intelligence] hacked, but they wouldn’t get it from GRU but rather from GRU cut-outs. And that gives Assange a fig leaf of deniability,” Hoffman said. “The cut-out is designed to conceal the real collector … But it’s a distinction without a difference.”
Hoffman said that, although Assange himself did plenty of harm, “the ones who did the most damage were the ones who stole classified information — those who hacked the DNC and Chelsea Manning stealing military files.”
Bob Baer, a former CIA case officer in the Middle East who was the model for the character played by George Clooney in the movie “Syriana,” cast that Assange could be charged under the 1917 Espionage Act. He told the Washington Examiner: “I’ve yet to see anything proving that. And you can’t bring an espionage indictment against someone just based on suspicion. I doubt they take him to trial on something like that, unless they have the goods on him,” he said.
Pointing to infamous espionage cases like the ones involving former CIA officers Aldrich Ames and Harold James Nicholson and former FBI agent Robert Hanssen, Baer said, “They caught these guys in the act passing secrets and taking money. And I would assume those standards still apply on espionage.”
Baer said WikiLeaks inflicted major damage to U.S. national security: “Think about the damage that Chelsea Manning did to the State Department… People look at the State Department and think, ‘Who in God’s name is going to tell them anything?’ It effectively blinds the United States.” In the case of some information, the cost was direct: “Giving up the NSA [National Security Agency] stuff gets people killed.”
Stimson said: “WikiLeaks was exponentially harmful to personnel to people in uniform, it put incredible pressure on our relationships with our allies, and it was grossly damaging to national security. And it was intended to be that way.
WikiLeaks has defended itself as an opponent of government corruption and a champion of free speech. It tweeted that Assange was “a son, a father, a brother. He has won dozens of journalism awards. He’s been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize every year since 2010. Powerful actors, including CIA, are engaged in a sophisticated effort to dehumanize, delegitimize, and imprison him.”
The single-count conspiracy indictment against Assange that was unsealed in the Eastern District Court of Virginia carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The DOJ stated that “Assange engaged in a conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on U.S. Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network.”
It alleged Assange encouraged Manning to hand classified information to WikiLeaks: “These databases contained approximately 90,000 Afghanistan war-related significant activity reports, 400,000 Iraq war-related significant activity reports, 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs, and 250,000 U.S. Department of State cables.”
When it comes to the possibility of a sweeping infrastructure package, it’s all about the money. Despite some gridlock between the White House and Congress, lawmakers are hoping for a bipartisan infrastructure package sometime this year. What that package would look like, and more importantly what the price tag would be, is still very much up for discussion.
At a recent Democratic retreat, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., signaled hope for the prospects of Republicans and Democrats coming together to embrace some sort of sweeping bipartisan infrastructure package. She said Democrats are looking for up to $2 trillion in funding for the project.
“It has to be $1 trillion. I’d like it to be closer to $2 trillion,” Pelosi said.
That number is high, but lawmakers are exploring funding options, including the possibility of raising the federal gas tax, which sits at 18.4 cents per gallon and hasn’t been raised since 1993. There have been multiple reports that President Trump, behind closed doors, supports raising the federal gas tax by 25 cents, but he has yet to acknowledge those reports publicly.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao also said last month that “everything is on the table” when asked about the possibility of increasing the tax. A 25 cent increase is supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Since 2013, more than two dozen states have raised gas taxes in response to federal inaction on the matter.
As talk of an increase in the gas tax grows, some are pushing back. The conservative group Americans for Prosperity will begin running ads in April in 20 states, urging members of the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the House Ways and Means Committee, and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee not to push for an increase in the tax.
Another idea floated for increasing funding is a “vehicle miles traveled” tax. With that policy, motorists would be taxed based on how far they travel rather than on the gas their cars consume. This is an appealing idea to some, as cars have become increasingly fuel-efficient, further reducing revenue from gas taxes.
Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri, the top Republican on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has signaled support for a vehicle miles traveled tax, while acknowledging full implementation would be a long way off. During testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee on March 6, Graves called the tax “the most promising long-term solution.”
“A VMT has the potential to be a true user-funded program that captures everyone and gets the Highway Trust Fund back to where it needs to be to maintain our network and improve it,” Graves told the committee. However, he also acknowledged some trepidation about the idea, including privacy concerns about the data that would be collected in order to determine a vehicle’s miles traveled.
Joseph Kane, an associate fellow at the Brookings Institution, confirmed to the Washington Examiner that support for an infrastructure package is ultimately going to come down to funding.
“Funding is still the most vexing question for policymakers in Washington and throughout the country,” Kane explained. “A $1 trillion investment has been referenced in several previous proposals, and is likely to keep coming up — as a talking point if nothing else. But for Congress, the White House, and many other agencies and groups to actually act on such a proposal will take a level of coordination not seen up to this point.
“The energy and visibility are there, but there are still serious questions on where this money will come from and how it will be deployed effectively. The next few months will hopefully lead to more details on that front,” Kane added.
Despite lingering questions over funding, Democrats are determined to try to work with the president to build support for a plan. Pelosi said during the March 11 retreat that she would be personally reaching out to Trump on the matter. Having voiced her preference for a price tag between $1 trillion and $2 trillion, she said that she and the president would “talk about what the number would be.”
“Even if it isn’t 100%, there is plenty of area of common ground to move forward,” Pelosi said. “I think the president wants to do that, and I think the president needs to do that.”
Trump made rebuilding U.S. infrastructure a major pillar of his 2016 campaign, and now that special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe has concluded, the White House is beginning to look ahead to other issues.
Manufacturing is becoming too successful for its own good. The sector is growing so fast that it cannot find enough people to fill open positions, and that shortage is threatening to hurt the nation’s economy in the coming years.
One key reason why the jobs are unfilled — 450,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, up from about 100,000 during the recession — is that many of them need people from STEM fields: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Congress isn’t doing much to address the shortage. One thing that could fill the need, expanding high-tech immigration, is a no-go in the current climate.
“People tend to think manufacturing is blue-collar jobs, but you’re hiring rocket scientists and doctors and the like, too. That speaks to just how advanced manufacturing is now,” said Chad Moutray, economist for the National Association of Manufacturers.
The Trump administration, meanwhile, is putting its strongest effort toward expanding apprenticeship programs. That’s a good thing, the industry says. The mindset that college is the only path to a good career needs to be corrected, they argue, and the industry needs those workers. However, apprenticeships won’t address the STEM jobs shortage.
Nor is Congress doing much to expand the number of workers entering these fields. The few pieces of legislation relating to STEM that have been introduced involve trying to encourage groups such as minorities or veterans to participate.
“We have not seen legislation at this time which addresses this issue,” said Andrew Powaleny, spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, one of the industries that’s struggling to find workers.
Overall, manufacturing will need 4.6 million more workers over the next decade, Moutray estimated in a new report for the National Association of Manufacturers, but it will find just half of that based on current hiring trends. That will grind the manufacturing industry to a halt as companies are unable to expand due to the lack of workers, costing the broader economy $2.5 trillion over 10 years.
The study doesn’t address the wages being offered for the positions or whether higher pay would address the gap. A report last year by the group’s Manufacturing Institute argued that offering higher pay helped to attract talent but not retain it. STEM workers were often hired away by rivals.
“Manufacturing has moved up the skill ladder,” said Dan Griswold, senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. “The typical manufacturing worker has to be more educated. The manufacturing jobs that have disappeared over the last few years tend to be the lower-tech ones.” There are U.S. workers that can do these jobs, and they are being hired, but there just aren’t enough of them, he added.
Manufacturing doesn’t necessarily mean hard goods. Moutray found that the industry with the largest number of openings was pharmaceuticals, which accounted for 13% of the manufacturing jobs that were left open in the past year. The next sector most lacking workers is aerospace products and parts.
The administration has tried to address these shortages. President Trump set up a Committee on STEM Education at the National Science and Technology Council, an executive advisory agency. On the other hand, the latest White House budget proposed cutting Education Department spending by $7 billion from last year and the National Science Foundation’s budget by $1 billion.
One way that the government could ensure manufacturing finds more of the people it needs without having to spend more money, Moutray noted, would be increasing the number of visas available through the H-1B program for immigrants with specialized skills.
The visas are in extremely high demand. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced in the first week of April that it had already given away all of the 65,000 visas allotted for the year. The visas help the U.S. maintain a competitive edge over other countries, said Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas.
“If you’re coming here and getting an advanced degree, I don’t want you going to back to China, I don’t want you going to Canada, I want you staying here,” Hurd said. The congressman has not introduced legislation to expand the H-1B program, nor has anyone else in Congress. Bringing in foreign workers to take good-paying jobs is a tough thing to support.
That shouldn’t be a concern, argued Griswold, pointing to research that finds that every high-skilled immigrant hired results in five to seven workers added elsewhere in the industry.
The Trump administration has fiddled with the H-1B program but not to expand it. It altered the lottery process for the visas in January to favor immigrants with the highest levels of education and discourage bachelor’s degree-level education, a change that experts worried would result in fewer visas being given out. Ultimately, the allotted 65,000 were all awarded, the same number awarded each year for decades.
The new poll out from Siena College of New York’s 14th Congressional District shows that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is personally popular back home, sporting a 52% favorability rating.
But the poll also shows that her ideas and actions are not so popular — not even in a seat as heavily Democratic as hers. Any strong Democratic candidate with a bit of money and the right message should have a real shot at knocking her off in next year’s primary.
The first part of that message has to be about the Amazon deal. AOC was a minor player in blocking the business and the jobs it would have brought. But her outright opposition to Amazon is something that 57% of her constituents reject — I suspect the same is true of her longstanding opposition to building pretty much anything useful in the area. (It’s kind of amusing to see politicians treat Queens like it’s ANWR.) In fact, 58% of AOC’s constituents want Amazon to reconsider and come back over her objections.
This is, of course, the very issue on which to hit AOC hardest — she turned jobs away from the district she’s supposed to represent. After that, 40% already view her as too inexperienced to represent the district. Forty-three percent believe her views are “too far to the Left.” That can form another bit of the attack: She has these national and ideological ambitions, and her constituents’ interests come in a distant second, even in the event that she actually understands what they are.
As for AOC’s 52% favorability, it’s high, but it won’t take long to knock it down in a local campaign. Attack her actions in office and attack her extremism. Slam her as the camera-happy lightweight she’s proven to be so far in office. Ask if people wouldn’t rather elect someone who isn’t an embarrassment to her district and her party. Point to how AOC humiliated so many of the Democrats’ presidential candidates with her Green New Deal fiasco.
Conservatives would sorely miss AOC if she were to go down in a primary. They haven’t had anyone quite this fun to highlight and run against in some time — Nancy Pelosi doesn’t even come close. AOC has arguably made the careers of some YouTubers on the Right.
But nothing lasts forever. Politics abhors a vacuum, and New York’s 14th is looking pretty empty up there, if only the right person dares go for it.