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Touring Michael Cohen’s New York

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Last week, “an adviser close to” Michael Cohen told the Washington Post that Cohen’s guilty plea (to eight counts of campaign-finance violations, tax evasion, and bank fraud) represented a chance to rewrite his legacy. Cohen would morph, in the eyes of history, from bit player best known for statements like “What I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting” to saviour of the republic. One imagines future tourists signing up for a tour of Michael Cohen’s New York, as they do for other city legends, like Biggie Smalls and Alexander Hamilton.

The other day, a test run was attempted. First stop: the town of Lawrence, near J.F.K. Airport, where Cohen grew up, the son of a nurse and a surgeon who had emigrated from Poland after the Holocaust. His street, Rolling Hill Lane, is a lush cul-de-sac with two-story houses and the odd McMansion. Cohen’s home, which has been renovated since he lived there, has beige siding, white windows, and a bright-red door with a shiny gold handle. The side yard contains a jungle gym and a trampoline. Over the course of twenty minutes, eight low-flying planes roared overhead: Delta, Finnair, Etihad Airways, more Delta.

Next stop: Yellow Cab SLSJET Management Corp., in Long Island City, Queens, the headquarters of a Ukrainian émigré named Simon Garber, who is known as the Taxi King. Cohen met Garber in the nineteen-nineties, after earning his J.D. from Thomas M. Cooley Law School, in Michigan (recently ranked by a watchdog group as the “least-selective law school in America”). They went into business together, and a report by the podcast Trump, Inc., noted that, for a time, Cohen practiced personal-injury law out of Garber’s taxi office.

It’s a squat brick building with a yellow awning and a sign advertising “lease a medallion.” Inside, the walls are yellow with black-checkered borders. A motivational poster reads, “Synergy.” A middle-aged woman typing in a cubicle looked up and said, “No Michael Cohen here.”

Outside, mechanics and drivers milled around parked yellow taxis. One driver, Nessiem Salem, had very nice things to say about Garber. “He treats me exactly like a brother,” he said. “Very good looking. Blondie. Russian. Jewish.” He was less keen on Trump: “I love America. I don’t love Trump. But he’s not America.” He’d never heard of Cohen.

“Michael Cohen,” another driver said. “He’s in trouble, right?”

From Queens, the tour might proceed to the Pierre hotel, in Manhattan, where Cohen was married to Laura Shusterman, the Ukrainian-born daughter of a taxi entrepreneur, or to Freds, the restaurant at Barneys, where the Niçoise salad costs thirty-eight dollars. A frequent patron said that he sees Cohen there often, and that the two had an encounter during Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign. “He came in and sat down at the next table,” the man recalled. “I said, ‘Well, Michael, what are you looking for out of this?’ And he said, ‘Oh, I’m going to be chief of staff if Donald wins.’ ”

A few blocks away, the Friars Club, where Cohen has been a member for at least four years, was quiet. Alan Zweibel, a longtime member, said, of Cohen, “I’ve never seen him at the club. But I pray he isn’t on the finance committee.”Around the corner, the entrance of Trump Tower was swarming with tourists taking selfies. Cohen went to work there in 2006, picking fights with media outlets that crossed his patron. (In 2013, he demanded that the Onion remove an “absolutely disgusting” article about Trump, entitled “When You’re Feeling Low, Just Remember I’ll Be Dead in About 15 or 20 Years.”)

Next stop: the Loews Regency hotel, on Park Avenue. F.B.I. agents raided Cohen’s room there on April 9th. (Cohen was staying at the hotel while his apartment was under renovation.) The lobby was full of men in suits with pocket squares.
“I’m not asking you for charity. I have sixty-five thousand dollars already,” a man in a navy suit said to the man beside him. “I’m not a fool.”

“I didn’t call you a fool,” the other man, who was wearing a purple tie, said. “You called yourself a fool.”

A bellhop said, “I haven’t seen Michael Cohen here in a while. I saw him walking down the street last week, with his wife or girlfriend or whatever. You see him around this neighborhood.”

The tour of Cohen’s New York ends back in the outer boroughs: in Mill Basin, Brooklyn, at the El Caribe country club, which is reportedly owned by Cohen’s uncle, Morton Levine. (Cohen sold his stake in the business after Trump won the Presidency.) In the early eighties, the club was known as a meeting spot for Evsei Agron, the mafia boss of Brighton Beach. Nowadays, it mostly hosts weddings. Last Thursday night, blue spotlights on the building’s exterior created a casino effect. Inside the main banquet hall, a wedding was under way. The guests gave the couple a standing ovation.

Source: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/09/03/touring-michael-cohens-new-york

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SELF-DRIVING CAR DEVELOPERS SHOULD PUT PEDESTRIANS FIRST

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Since march, when an autonomous vehicle killed a pedestrian in Arizona, forecasts for AVs have been decidedly less optimistic. But autonomous vehicle promoters are undeterred. AI entrepreneur Andrew Ng contends that self-driving cars will be safe for pedestrians when walkers and cyclists conform to their limitations. “What we tell people is, ‘Please be lawful and please be considerate,’” he told Bloomberg.

Has Mr Ng ever walked for as much as an hour in a city? If so, he should realize that consideration of pedestrians’ needs—and motorists’ compliance with the few laws that protect pedestrians—are so deficient that any pedestrian who values their time (as drivers do) must improvise. And in fact, such improvisation can even make pedestrians’ journeys safer.

To be fair, Mr. Ng’s mistake is a common one. From a driver’s point of view, pedestrians’ behavior may appear erratic, lawless, and even suicidal. The solution, then, is to train pedestrians to do better, or to restrict them. In actuality, most pedestrians are much smarter than the dumb systems that are intended to control them—far smarter than signals, and even smarter than self-driving cars. A pedestrian who is on the right side of the street and wants to turn left at the next intersection may cross early, at mid-block. What may appear to some as selfish and dangerous rule-breaking may actually be safer and less disruptive to vehicular traffic. In one study of pedestrians aged 65 or older, for example, researchers found that the risk of a pedestrian-motor vehicle collision was 2.1-fold greater at sites with marked crosswalks, particularly those with no traffic signal or stop sign.

In the 1970s, research teams led by William H. Whyte filmed pedestrians on busy sidewalks as they walked around New York City. Walkers filtered past each other with extraordinary efficiency, coming within inches of each other but almost never touching. Such performance requires human intelligence. No one would propose putting pedestrians on autonomous Segways as a way to keep them from colliding with each other. Either traffic would slow almost to a stop, or collisions would increase.

Autonomous vehicles are frequently touted as safer and more efficient alternatives to conventional cars. But if safety and efficiency are indeed primary values, then cities should not deter walking by making it harder, but invite more walking by making it easier. This would entail, among many other things, urging drivers to be more lawful and considerate about pedestrians.

Indeed, the success of self-driving cars depends upon a rise in walking as a practical means of getting around. AVs cannot deliver on their own promises of safety and efficiency if they deter walking. Safety matters because we care about human health. Sedentary living is already inducing health conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes; public health can only worsen if an autonomous future compels people to ride in cars for every mobility need. And self-driving cars will not be more efficient if we negate their per-mile efficiency benefits by increasing the total miles each person spends in the car.

Smart traffic signals can increase streets’ vehicle capacity by shepherding cars safely through intersections without compelling them to stop. But we don’t yet know how they’d work for cyclists and pedestrians, those who make the most efficient use of street space, use the least energy, and cause the least danger to others. Either they will have to be equipped with devices that incorporate them into signal systems, or smart signal systems will have to get much better at detecting and tracking them. The social and technical complications of either alternative are substantial.

In the meantime, we have access to innumerable low-tech possibilities. Traffic calming—design features that slow vehicles down—can make select streets much safer for everyone. Planners in the Netherlands, for example, apply humans’ smartness, instead of trying to suppress it, by designating certain streets “bicycle streets”; though drivers can still use them as “guests,” they must defer to cyclists. By conventional U.S. standards, this method is considered dangerous because it depends too much on human judgment. But the traffic safety record in the Netherlands should compel us to reconsider. In 2013, there were 3.4 road traffic deaths per 100,000 people in the Netherlands; the figure for the U.S. was 10.6. Extravagant promises about the driverless future too often distract us from implementing effective, inexpensive, low-tech improvements today.

To succeed on their own terms, AV developers will have to do much better by pedestrians. Bloomberg reports that AV developers are looking into “distinctive sounds—much like the beeping noise large vehicles make when reversing—to help ensure safe interactions between humans and autonomous vehicles.” This technique, in the form of the klaxon or car horn, is well over a century old. Honking was then attacked as a public health menace. Today, such noises can only make the walking environment less inviting, relative to the quiet, climate-controlled interior of a vehicle. For pedestrians who can’t afford this alternative, walking will be less pleasant than ever.

Too often we hear extravagant promises for self-driving cars, or warnings that “the AV future is coming; we have to get ready.” But the saw does not use the carpenter; the carpenter uses the saw. AVs are a tool. We humans have to decide if and how we want to use them. Despite the public relations, AVs will not, on their own, deliver safety or efficiency. We have to put them to work for the purposes of our choosing.

Source: https://www.wired.com/story/self-driving-car-developers-should-put-pedestrians-first/

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Chinese electric vehicle maker Nio closes 10 per cent up in New York IPO debut

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In one of the year’s largest Chinese public offerings in the US, Nio, an electric-vehicle maker backed by the Chinese technology giant Tencent, debuted on the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday and closed up nearly 10 per cent.
Nio stock opened below range at US$6 a share, and had a mixed reception on a day when the Dow Jones Industrial Average was flat. After dropping to a low of US$5.35, however, shares recovered to close up at US$6.58.

Nio raised US$1 billion and has a goal to turn profitable within three to four years.

Founded by Chinese entrepreneur William Li in 2014 and based in Shanghai, Nio is regarded as China’s answer to Tesla, with its ES8 pure-electric, seven-seat sport-utility vehicle being compared to Tesla’s Model X.

Like Tesla, Nio continues to report a loss, posting a net loss of US$502.6 million in the first six months of 2018 on revenue of US$6.95 million, according to the company. Nio which is still at the outset of production, has sold 2,100 vehicles so far.

“We are aiming to turn a profit within three to four years by focusing on the Chinese market before going global,” Nio Chief Financial Officer Louis Hsieh told the South China Morning Post on Wednesday. “China accounts for about 60 per cent of the electric vehicle market in the world.”

The IPO comes as China continues to push into the electric-vehicle market. About 375,000 vehicles were manufactured by China in 2016, counting for about 43 per cent of total production globally, according to McKinsey & Company.

Nio, formerly known as NextEV, is backed by Tencent Holdings, along with other high-profile corporate investors including the tech giant Baidu, private equity firm Hillhouse Capital and Temasek, a holding company owned by the government of Singapore.

All the early investors have kept their stakes in the company at the time of the IPO, said Hsieh, indicating their faith in Nio’s prospects.

In the immediate future, however, uncertainty is building as trade disputes between the US and China continue to escalate.

“Tariffs currently help us for now because they make US cars more expensive,” Hsieh said. “But this is something we are monitoring closely as situations evolve.”
While acknowledging the comparison between Nio and Tesla, he said that Nio regards other high-end brands such as Mercedes and Audi as competitors as well.

“We are catering to the premium car buyers in China who want bigger cars like SUVs and that is how we design the cars,” said Hsieh said.

Source: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/2163970/chinese-electric-carmaker-nio-slumps-us-debut

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USS New York sailors pause to honor 9/11 victims, first responders

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The sailors of Mayport-based Naval ship USS New York remember the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks every day.

Seven and a half tons of steel remains from the World Trade Center towers literally helped build their ship, reminding those on board daily of the sacrifices of the first responders.
The hat of a fallen police officer and the helmet of a fallen firefighter are displayed inside the ship, and a surviving fireman’s jacket hangs in the ship’s bridge, always standing guard as the crew’s “12th man.”

On the 17th anniversary of the worst act of terrorism on U.S. soil, hundreds of sailors gathered Tuesday for a brief but emotional ceremony at Naval Station Mayport.

Capt. Brent Devore spoke about the 9/11 memorial items throughout the ship, which is one of only three Navy ships with items from the World Trade Center.
“We constantly say that every day is 9/11 and that we have to constantly remind ourselves we’re surrounded by the heroes,” Devore said. “We know that Trade Center steel is baked into the ship. We have memoirs throughout the entire ship that remind us of the first responders and all of the families who gave the sacrifice.”

News clips showing the planes hitting the Twin Towers had sailors holding back tears during the remembrance ceremony as they listened to the screams and cries of people on the ground that day.

As the video played, smoke was released from one of several areas of the ship that includes steel from the World Trade Center, serving as a reminder of what New York City residents and first responders saw for weeks, even months after the attacks — a plume of smoke that made losing thousands even more difficult.

Shivanane Harry, a sailor from New York City, said the attacks affected his career path.

“It will be in the history books. It’s one of those things that’s going to be there — remember the people that passed,” Harry said. “I’m here, and that’s one of the reasons why I joined the military.”

Source: https://www.news4jax.com/news/military/uss-new-york-sailors-pause-to-honor-9_11-victims-first-responders

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