First hotel in new Trump chain seeks Mississippi tax breaks

Published: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 6:45 PM
Updated: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 6:44 PM


            FILE - In this Monday, June 5, 2017 file photo, Suresh Chawla, left, of Chawla Hotels and Eric Danziger, CEO of Trump Hotels, are shown in New York, at a launch event for four new Trump hotels being built in Mississippi. Chawla Hotels, a Mississippi developer that has joined with the Trump Organization to open the first of possibly dozens of hotels in the U.S. president’s new mid-priced chain has applied for millions of dollars of state tax breaks. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
FILE - In this Monday, June 5, 2017 file photo, Suresh Chawla, left, of Chawla Hotels and Eric Danziger, CEO of Trump Hotels, are shown in New York, at a launch event for four new Trump hotels being built in Mississippi. Chawla Hotels, a Mississippi developer that has joined with the Trump Organization to open the first of possibly dozens of hotels in the U.S. president’s new mid-priced chain has applied for millions of dollars of state tax breaks. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

A Mississippi developer that has joined with the Trump Organization to open the first of possibly dozens of hotels in the U.S. president's new mid-priced chain has applied for millions of dollars of state tax breaks.

Chawla Hotels filed an application in December for a tax break with the Mississippi Development Authority worth as much as 30 percent of eligible construction costs, or roughly $6 million, CEO Dinesh Chawla said Friday.

The Trump Organization announced a deal with the hotel company in June as part of the rollout of two new chains, drawing complaints from ethics experts that government officials and local real estate partners might offer special favors to the president's business to curry favor with him.

President Donald Trump faces several lawsuits that allege he is violating the so-called emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution forbidding presidents from accepting gifts or payments from foreign or domestic governments.

In an effort to resolve conflicts of interest issues, Trump handed management control of his company to his two adult sons before he took office last year. Critics say that's not good enough, and that he needs to sell his ownership interest in his business to resolve what they claim as emoluments violations.

The president's lawyers have argued that normal business transactions don't fall under the emoluments prohibition.

Chawla said he's sees nothing wrong with his company applying for tax breaks, which were first reported by The New York Times.

"I'm not a legal scholar, but I'm an ethical business person," he said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I don't toss the word 'Trump' around. I don't ask anyone for favors."

Chawla said his company has already received abatements on city and county taxes.

The Trump Organization had no comment.

The Trump Organization, which is based in New York, announced its two new chains — the mid-priced Scion, and the budget-priced American Idea — with great fanfare last year. Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danziger said he expected dozens of Scions, for instance, in short order.

But the chains have gotten off to a slow start, with only Chawla Hotels agreeing to join up with the company so far.

Chawla said that he expects it will cost $20 million to build his Trump hotel, which will be a Scion. The hotel in Cleveland, Mississippi, will be the first in Trump's new chain.

Trending - Most Read Stories

Anthony Borges took bullets for classmates in Parkland school shooting

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 11:46 PM

People visit a makeshift memorial setup in front of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
People visit a makeshift memorial setup in front of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Anthony Borges is a hero, who put himself in the line of fire to protect his classmates when a gunman rampaged through their Parkland, Florida, school.

>> Read more trending news

Borges’ father and a friend who survived the massacre told ABC News that the 15-year-old Borges put the lives of others before his own.

“None of us knew what to do. So, he took the initiative to just save his other classmates,” Carlos Rodriguez, Borges’ best friend, told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

A soccer player at the school, Borges placed his body between the gunman and the students. Rodriguez said that he survived the shooting because of Borges’ brave actions.

When gunfire broke out at the school Wednesday, Rodriguez said that Borges and his classmates rushed to hide in a classroom. The gunman was firing randomly at students as he closed in on their position in the building.

>> Related: Florida gun owner surrenders assault rifle after Parkland high school massacre

Rodriguez said that Borges was the last of 20 students to enter the classroom to take cover and that, as he attempted to lock the door, he was shot. He held his ground, keeping his body between the gunman and the other students, all of whom survived without injury.

Borges took five bullets to the back and both legs but survived, his father, Royer Borges, told police.

He told “Good Morning America” that his son called him moments after the attack and described what had happened.

>> Related: NY state troopers fly friend of school massacre victim to Florida for funeral

“He just called me and says, ‘Dad, somebody shot me in the back and my leg, too,'” said Royer Borges, unable to hold back his tears.

The father said others who were inside the building with the gunman shared stories of his son’s courageous actions that might have saved the lives of other students. Royer Borges expressed pride in his son, saying, “He’s my hero.”

Anthony Borges is in stable condition after undergoing hours of surgery, his father said.

“I only ask that people pray for him,” Royer Borges said.

Trending - Most Read Stories

President Donald Trump endorses Mitt Romney in Utah Senate race

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 11:24 PM

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
George Frey/Getty Images
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)(George Frey/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump has apparently endorsed one-time adversary and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney as Romney runs for Senate in Utah to replace Sen. Orrin Hatch, who is retiring.

Hatch, the longest-serving Republican in Congress, announced his retirement in January. That left room for Romney to take the front-runner’s spot in the race for Senate; Romney announced his candidacy for Utah’s Senate seat on Friday February 16, choosing to delay his announcement for 24 hours “out of respect for the shooting victims and their families in Parkland, Florida.”

>> Read more trending news

Romney’s announcement video promised to bring “Utah values” to Washington D.C., boasting that “on Utah’s capitol hill, people treat one another with respect.” Those close to Romney say as senator he is less interested in direct combat with President Donald Trump than he once was and more interested in promoting Utah — though the man grew up in Michigan and has deepest political ties to Massachusetts.

In a tweet of thanks to Trump, Romney swiftly pivoted to Utah voters.

The tweets — and support — makes odd bedfellows of Trump and Romney, who have a long record of openly criticizing each other.

President Donald Trump has blasted Romney for losing the 2012 election to then-President Barack Obama, saying he “had his chance to beat a failed president but he choked like a dog.” Trump has also called Romney “one of the dumbest and worst candidates in the history of Republican politics” and a “dope.”

In a 2016 speech, Romney hammered Trump for a litany of abuses, calling him a “phony” and a “fraud.” He also jumped on Trump for his comments in the wake of the weekend of bloody race-fueled violence in Charlottesville and his endorsement of Roy Moore in the Alabama special election.

Trending - Most Read Stories

Trolls on Twitter make false claims of being assaulted at screenings of ‘Black Panther’

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 4:07 PM

Marvel's "Black Panther" Has Record Breaking Opening Weekend

As Marvel’s latest superhero movie, “Black Panther,” draws praise and rakes in millions of dollars at the box office, Twitter trolls have emerged across the country attempting to stoke racial division by spreading false reports about the film’s largely African American fans.

Over the last few days, users have posted false claims that they were attacked by blacks while going to see “Black Panther,” the first movie from Marvel Studios led by a predominantly black cast.

“It’s very unfortunate that a film that is poised to become a cultural icon is being marred by this fake news,” said Darnell Hunt, dean of social sciences at UCLA. “In the long run, it will not detract from the cultural significance of ‘Black Panther,’ but it does blunt some of the positive force it has as it opens. It is both surprising and not surprising.”

>> Chadwick Boseman says he drove past KKK rallies while filming 'Black Panther'

“Black Panther” is the story of T’Challa, played by actor Chadwick Boseman, who returns home to Wakanda, an isolated, technologically advanced African nation, after his father, the king of Wakanda, dies and T’Challa must take his place as ruler.

The movie, which took in an estimated $192 million over the weekend domestically — making it the highest February film debut ever — has been especially embraced by African Americans and blacks around the world. Many have been turning up at moviehouses in African garb or wearing all black in homage to the film. But the movie has given birth to an unusual movement — whites claiming they have been attacked by blacks while attempting to see the film.

Public information officers for police departments in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston contacted by The Times said they had received no reports that would match the assault claims appearing online.

>> Is the MoviePass subscription service worth it? Here's everything you need to know

In the tweets, the posters frequently blame “black youth” for the attacks, using images taken from various unrelated sources of bleeding and battered faces or images of blood in sinks and on towels.

“I was so excited to see #BlackPanther and a young black man at the theater shouted ‘you in the wrong place, cracker!’ And proceeded to bloody my face. It hurts so bad I can’t take it!” Twitter user @RobloxZionist wrote.

The image that accompanies the tweet is of actor Jensen Ackles, who plays Dean Winchester on the TV series “Supernatural,” with makeup and fake blood on his face from a fight scene filmed on the show.

A user named @sharkwheat attempted to claim that a photo of a man beaten outside a Dallas nightclub in 2013 was of his brother after being assaulted while seeing “Black Panther.”

“#BlackPanther this is my older brother Kenan. He was jumped just trying to see the movie. ‘This movie ain’t for you whitey’ was the last thing he heard before he was beat up by 2 black men, rupturing his eardrum. He didn’t even make it inside of the movie theater. Smh,” the tweet read.

>> ‘Black Panther’ actor Bambadjan Bamba comes out as undocumented

One user even pulled the image that Colbie Holderness, an ex-wife of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, shared when she wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post about the abuse she faced from Porter. The user claimed the photo of Holderness was an image of his wife after she was attacked when they went to see “Black Panther.”

Other Twitter users have been quick to call out trolls, noting where their images originally came from.

UCLA’s Hunt, a race, culture and media scholar, noted that the trolls’ posts were somewhat predictable, given the current political climate in the United States.

“We live in very polarized times,” he said. “There have been rumblings on message boards about white superheroes being reimagined as black superheroes. There is clearly concern from those who are worried about the changing demographics of the country.”

Trending - Most Read Stories

Do video games lead to violence seen in Parkland, other mass shootings?

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 11:41 AM

The Worst School Shootings in US History

One day after the mass shooting at a Florida high school, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin told a radio host he believes the “culture of death that is being celebrated” in violent video games and movies was the trigger for the violence that led to the deaths of 17 students and teachers.

Bevin, in an interview with radio host Leland Conway, said violent video games that glorify murdering people and even allow players to rack up points for showing less compassion was at the core of the increasing number of attacks on schools, churches and concerts.

>> Read more trending news

"There are video games that, yes, are listed for mature audiences, but kids play them and everybody knows it, and there's nothing to prevent the child from playing them," Bevin told Conway. "They celebrate the slaughtering of people. There are games that literally replicate and give people the ability to score points for doing the very same thing that these students are doing inside of schools, where you get extra points for finishing someone off who's lying there begging for their life."

It is not the first time Bevin has called out the makers of video games where players score points for killing. In January in Bevin’s own state, a 15-year-old boy killed two classmates and injured 14. After the shooting at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky, Bevin posted an 11-minute video on Facebook where he said violent videos were a “cultural problem” that sparked the incident.

"We are desensitizing young people to the actual tragic reality and permanency of death," Bevin said. "This is a cultural problem."

After the shootings at Marjory Stonehouse Douglas High School last week, Bevin stepped up his attack, calling out other cultural influences such as music, television and movies, slamming them for violent lyrics or plots.

"Why do we need a video game, for example, that encourages people to kill people?" Bevin said. "Whether it's lyrics, whether it's TV shows, whether it's movies, I'm asking the producers of these products, these video games and these movies, ask yourselves what redemptive value, other than shock value, other than the hope you'll make a couple of bucks off it. At what price? At what price?"

Bevin isn’t the only one speaking out against violent video games. Others have pointed to such games as inspiration for similar attacks. But is there evidence that links playing violent games with taking a rifle and shooting people at a high school or some other venue?

The psychological community is split. 

A study by researchers at the University of York in York, England, found no evidence that adults who play violent video games were any more likely to commit a violent act then those who do not play the games.

The study of 3,000 participants released in January showed the games do not “necessarily increase aggression in game players.

The York study also examined the realism of the games and whether that had an effect on the way players later acted. They looked at games that used characters that moved and reacted as a human would, not just an animated character. Researchers concluded that “there is no link between these kinds of realism in games and the kind of effects that video games are commonly thought to have on their players.”

The York researchers pointed out in their conclusions that the tests were conducted on adults. "We also only tested these theories on adults, so more work is needed to understand whether a different effect is evident in children players."

A 2015 study by the American Psychological Association contradicts the York study in part. The APA study found that playing violent video games is linked to increased aggression in players, but that there is “insufficient evidence” to link game playing with criminal violence or delinquency.

Those conducting the study stressed that while an increase in aggression was seen in the subjects of the study, the games’ effect on certain people with certain risk factors needs to be studied further.

“We know that there are numerous risk factors for aggressive behavior,” said Mark Appelbaum, the chairman of the task force that conducted the study. “What researchers need to do now is conduct studies that look at the effects of video game play in people at risk for aggression or violence due to a combination of risk factors. For example, how do depression or delinquency interact with violent video game use?”

A study of 105 Canadian teenagers – boys and girls – found that the teens that spent more than three hours a day playing violent video games were in danger of delayed emotional development .

Mirjana Bajovic, the author of the study, noted that not all the teens playing violent games showed a delay in emotional development, and that no correlation existed between the level of emotional development and those who played nonviolent games. Bajovic did note that the time spent playing those games was the main factor in influencing “empathic behavior and tendencies.

A study published in Psychological Science led researchers to conclude that for some, assuming an identity in a video game can have real-world impact.

Researchers asked 200 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to choose to be either a villain or a hero in a video game, and what they saw was an impact in levels of consideration in the students.

“Our results indicate that just five minutes of role-play in virtual environments as either a hero or a villain can easily cause people to reward or punish anonymous strangers,” said Gunwoo Yoon, lead author of the study.

The students were given the choice to serve chocolate sauce to a stranger or to serve hot chili sauce. Researchers found that those who chose to play the hero – in this case, cartoon character Superman – would serve chocolate to the stranger. Those who assumed the villain role – Voldemort from the Harry Potter novels – would serve the chili sauce. 

The choices from the students were measured after as little as five minutes of playing the games. 

 

Magaly Newcomb, right comforts her daughter Haley Newcomb, 14, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, at a makeshift memorial outside the school, in Parkland, Fla., Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old who had been expelled from the school, is being held without bail in the Broward County Jail, accused of 17 counts of first-degree murder. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)(Gerald Herbert/AP)

Trending - Most Read Stories