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Noah Smith, Mud Moats and the Two Paper Rule

I think this one year old brilliant as usual post by Noah Smith is well worth another read. I googled [noah smith mud moats] when I ran into a mud moat in a comment section flame war.

Click the link but I will attempt to summarize. First a very very common debating trick is to argue that the other guy really has to read the vast literature produced by some school of thought before daring to critique it. The vast literature gets critics bogged down, the brilliant metaphor is that this is like a mud moat around a castle which got attackers bogged down. The standard response is to refuse to read the literature and to abandon the discussion. This is not good.

Noah’s brilliant proposal is to demand that those who mention a vast literature cite two valuable articles in that literature. Reading two articles is not too burdensome. If the articles are weak, the literature can be dismissed as weak and weaker or the interlocutor can be dismissed as someone who hasn’t mastered the vast literature that he uses as a mud moat.

Noah says there are vast literatures which arenàt worth reading. He gives an example. He says there was a vast pre-Lucas critique macro literature which is now obsolete. You know where this is heading ?

In fact, I think the pre-Lucas macro literature is very valuable. For one thing, I think Lucas correctly made only very weak claims of originality in his paper “Econometric Policy Evaluation: A Critique”. He said (and with citations showed) that most leading macroeconomists were well aware of the problem. I think the revolution consisted of brilliant rhetoric setting up a straw man. I think the vast pre-Lucas macroeconomics literature is anything but a mud moat.

You know where this is going right ?

I now have to name two papers which will demonstrate that this is a vast valuable literature which should be read by all macroeconomists.

Clearly one is simple. The seminal paper which started the literature most directly critiqued by Lucas is Analytical “Aspects of Anti-Inflation Policy” Paul A. Samuelson and Robert M. Solow
The American Economic Review Vol. 50, No. 2, Papers and Proceedings of the Seventy-second Annual Meeting of the American Economic Association (May, 1960), pp. 177-194

I am on record saying it was a decade ahead of Lucas 1973 (really 13 years). See also the much better title and edited down version Robert Waldmann: Policy-Relevant Macro Is All in Samuelson and Solow (1960)

I have to think about the second paper. I am sure the author is James Tobin. I guess his AEA Presidential Address is an OK place to start (pdf warning). Actually best to start with Tobin Was Right (Implicitly Wonkish)

Two paper challenge accepted. Now I think Noah should re-read them.

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SOCIAL SECURITY TRUSTEES REPORT OUT TODAY… or was it yesterday?

by Dale Coberly

SOCIAL SECURITY TRUSTEES REPORT OUT TODAYor was it yesterday?

Ho Hum.  The 2019 Social Security Trustees Report was released yesterday.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget published its usual half truths (also known as “lies”):. “We are all going to die!”

The Reporters and Columnists Who Cover Them ™ reported the half truths as the whole story:  “We are all going to die!”

The “Progressives”  demanded the “rich pay their fair share”  and “expand Social Security” to pay for everything

Angry Bear ignored the whole thing.

 

The whole truth would have pointed out that while there is a funding problem projected for sixteen years in the future,  it’s a small problem and the Trust  Fund is NOT the problem.

If the future arrives as expected, Social Security will not be collecting enough “taxes” to pay the “promised”  benefits at that time. (The payroll tax is not really a tax.  It’s an insurance contribution… a way for workers to save for their own retirement.  They get the money back with interest when they need it most.)

Social Security WILL be able to pay benefits that are about 80% of promised.  That will be more in real value than benefits are today.

Those benefits COULD be redistributed so they continued to provide enough help to the poorest retirees (and widows and orphans) at the expense of the richest.

But it would be better to just raise the payroll “tax” about 2% for each the worker and his employer and continue to pay the benefits as promised.

No one would miss the 2% out of his paycheck,  and he would get the money back in the form of a more comfortable retirement, which he will need and want MUCH more than whatever he would have spent that 2% on today.  The 2% is not lost to some government black hole:  the workers get their money back plus “interest” when they retire.

It would be still better to raise the “tax” gradually… about one tenth of one percent per year.
(This is about a dollar per week per year.) This would not only not be missed, it would not even be noticed.  And it would create a full Trust Fund which would provide enough interest to lower the needed “tax” by about one percent.  It would also avoid the government having to pay back the money it has borrowed FROM Social Security.  That money would become just a paper debt acting as a reserve to smooth over periods of recession.

The importance of this approach is that it would preserve Social Security as worker paid insurance for workers…  something Roosevelt insisted upon so that SS would not become “the dole” just another welfare program subject to the political manipulations of the rich and influential (“we have the will but not the wallet”).

Under Social Security as designed the rich do pay their fair share.  They pay exactly what the insurance is worth to them,  and their “excess” payments are what provide the money to supplement the benefits received by the poor. (“Excess” in the sense that if you don’t have a fire, your insurance payments were “excess.”)

The Trustees Report this year was actually “better” than it was last year if you take the date of the “death of the Trust Fund” seriously, which you shouldn’t. 

Sadly,  this is not a ho hum moment.  The opportunity to pay for the needed raise in the “tax” gradually will begin to expire next year.

And while it would still be possible to pay, say, an extra one percent now and the other one percent later,  or even to pay the whole two percent in about 15 years,  it would be much better to go for the gradual increase and avoid all the hysteria that will come when “Social Security is Broke!” ™

but you won’t.

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USMCA, the International Trade Commission, and Kevin Hassett

USMCA, the International Trade Commission, and Kevin Hassett

Tracey Samuelson of Market Place writes:

USMCA would slightly boost U.S. economy, says ITC report – On Thursday, the International Trade Commission released its assessment of the projected economic impact of USMCA, President Trump’s proposed replacement for NAFTA. The report shows the new deal is projected to boost the U.S. economy by .35% when fully implemented.

I will to read this report after I get over laughing at the latest from Menzie Chinn who quotes Kevin Hassett:

Two-thirds of U.S. CFO’s expect a recession by summer of next year, but White House Council of Economic Advisers Chair Kevin Hassett believes the economy shows no signs of slowing down. “There’s so much momentum right now,” he told FOX Business Stuart Varney on Friday. “It just seems almost impossible that there would be a recession by the summer of next year.”

You should watch what turned out to be a really stupid interview on Fox Business covering not only on the alleged impossibility of a recession and how Hassett fluffed off Trump pressuring the FED to lower interest rates. Hey Kevin – if it is impossible for there to be a recession, why lower interest rates? Never mind that for now and listen to how Hassett declared USMCA to be the best trade deal and how it would increase GDP by $100 billion in the first year. Did the ITC really say that? Update: The report can be found here. It does say on page 37:

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Nailed it!

Nailed it!

Three weeks ago I wrote No, the Meuller report ***DID NOT*** “find no collusion!” in which I lambasted and parsed Barr’s conclusory snippet of the Mueller report, to wit, that “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

I pointed out that:

 … the bracketed [T] in Barr’s quote of Mueller is doing a lot of work. Because it means that there was a first part of the sentence that was omitted. Put that together with the fact the Mueller’s quote then specifically references that “the investigation did not establish …” and there is compelling evidence that the first part of the actual sentence was a qualifier. …. Almost certainly the first part of the sentence is something like “Although…’” “Since …’” or “Despite …” followed by “the investigation…”,  or a formulation like “The grand jury’s work is incomplete, and so the investigation …”

(Emphasis added)

Now that we have (most of) the actual Mueller report, we know that the complete sentence reads:

Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

(Emphasis added)

Exactly as I thought, and said. The first part of the sentence Barr quoted severely qualified the portion he chose to highlight.

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A Woman’s Right to Safe Healthcare Outcomes

Married male with children, who was asked to write on three different subjects concerning women’s healthcare by the ConsumerSafety.Org . Although I have worked in the healthcare product industry, I am not a doctor.

All three of the healthcare issues I discuss scream for solutions as to what has been done, what should have been done, and how they impact women. I have no doubt if these problems impacted men as much as they do women, a Congress made up mostly of men would have addressed each issue far sooner.

 

Clinical Trials

Fact: Women make up over half of the U.S. population.

As reported by the GAO, women have been underrepresented in NIH supported clinical research which lead to unidentified differences in treatment results between men and women when incurring a disease. There have been instances of women experiencing different and also adverse effects to medications and treatments than what was experienced by men in NIH Clinical trials. It is thought the NIH’s Inclusion Policy established requirements governing women’s inclusion in its clinical research may have led to this issue.

Some study examples:

The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging started in 1958 did not include women until 1978 in its study even though women lived 6 years longer than men. 1000 men were initially in the study and no women. Another study, the Physicians Health Study concluded in 1989, the taking of low-dose aspirin might lower your risk for heart disease. It included 22,000 men and zero women. A study investigating the possible interactions between the libido-boosting drug Flibanserin (also known as “female Viagra”) and alcohol used a study group of 25 participants which included twenty-three men. It raises the question, why and how would we ever know the impact of drugs on women if only men are used in trials?

Why the Under Representation?

The driving factor for the lack of women in tests is not necessarily driven by bias as much as a lack of knowledge of the biological differences determining how disease symptoms may present in each gender. A broad-based assumption was made of the test findings of men. The results could also apply to women? The testing of men is simpler as men are not subject to the hormonal fluctuations of women. As sound(?) as this reasoning may be in minimizing the number of trials, this appears to be more of a financial decision.

Reports of birth defects from the use of Thalidomide during the 1950s and 60s lead to FDA guidelines excluding potential child bearing women from participation in Phase 1 and 2 clinical studies until reproductive toxicity studies were conducted and evidence of effectiveness and safety was available. The FDA guide lines were misinterpreted and applied to all clinical study phases even though it was not intended to exclude women.

Dangers of Under Representation

Assumptions from an 11 year NIH study on moral development in children using only boys concluded little girls are morally inferior to little boys. Females are simply different and arrive at conclusions different than men and just as moral. Eight of 10 approved drugs were pulled from the market due to health risks for women which were not risky for men. More women than men used four of the drugs and for 4 other drugs women and men used them equally. The differences in men and women between the two sets revealed itself in the later set of 4 with women experiencing serious side effects more often than men. Hence, emphasizing the need to have women equally represented in clinical studies. “Excluding women makes a difference: If women had been included before 1978, the link between osteoporosis-calcium-estrogen and progesterone would have been discovered in time to help their mothers”.

Resolution

In 1993 the Health Revitalization Act was passed which incorporated the use of women and minorities in NIH clinical studies. In 2000, Congress asked the GAO to assess the progress of the NIH. While progress was made to include women and minorities in trials, the GAO recommended the NIH to improve reporting format. Later years the GAO again assessed the NIH recommending the NIH improve the consistency of reporting by sex so as to allow researchers to “identify potentially important sex differences that may ultimately affect patient care.”

Globally the representation in 43% women and 57% men in clinical trial representation. In the US, the representation has improved to 49% women and 51% men. There is still work to be done. Most recently, the 21st Century Cure Act was passed with one of its intents being to move new drugs to market faster through testing in the public sector. “Without detailed clinical trials and studies, there is effectively no way to determine the extent of potential side effects and other issues the current detailed trials and studies provide.” Numbers predicting probability versus clinical trial experience, we will have to see how this plays out.

 

Essure

In November 2016, the FDA issued a “boxed warning” for the permanent female sterilization device Essure device after reports of it causing perforation, abdominal pain, and serious complications. A “boxed warning” is a type of warning appearing on the package insert for certain prescription drugs or devices. The Food and Drug Administration specifies the warning be formatted with a box or border around the text and is done when there is reasonable evidence of a serious hazard when used. It is the strongest warning the FDA requires.

Essure is a permanent female sterilization device consisting of metal coils which eventually embed into a woman’s fallopian tubes creating scar tissue blocking sperm access to a woman’s eggs. It is reversible only through surgery. In February 2016, the FDA designated Essure to have a “boxed warning” which is meant to alert doctors as to hazards of the device.

In February 2018, a group of women calling themselves the E-Sisters met with former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. The E-sisters believe Essure has caused themselves and tens of thousands of others health problems, from bleeding, bloating, and pelvic pain to more obscure symptoms such as rashes, tooth loss, joint pain and fatigue associated with an allergic or autoimmune reaction. They brought with them a photo album of other E-Sisters who had suffered because of Essure and also Madris Tomes, a former FDA analyst. Ms. Tomes’s software company tracks adverse medical events reported to the FDA and had logged 26,000 events caused by Essure.

Asking whether a ban might be possible, Commissioner Gottlieb confirmed anything is possible. On March 7, 2018, Gottlieb confirmed Essure would remain on the market. In its history, the FDA has only banned two products.

The original manufacturer Conceptus put Essure through a Level III approval process and presented its data to a FDA advisory committee “touting its near-perfect effectiveness in preventing pregnancy and its high levels of satisfaction among women.” Later studies challenged the initial studies and effectiveness. A Yale study challenged the rigor of the Level III process. a JAMA study reported 5% of all women using these devices required follow up surgery, and a third study claimed women using Essure were 10 times more likely to require surgery.

After November 2017, the U.S. was the only country in the world where Essure was still available after new owners Bayer removed Essure from every other market for “commercial reasons” and not because of safety. Bayer announced in July 2018, it would also remove the device from the US market after December 31st, 2018 due to declining sales.

 

Maternal Mortality

Healthcare for women Maternal mortality is an important indicator of a nation’s overall quality of healthcare.

Even though maternal mortality worldwide dropped 44% between 1990 and 2015 830 women ; die every day from causes related to pregnancy and while giving birth of which much is preventable. 99% of all those maternal deaths occur in developing countries. WHO has launched an initiative to meet the needs of women in developing countries by addressing access to and the quality of reproductive, maternal, and newborn healthcare services. Everyone would agree the effort is necessary in developing countries.

One would think the maternal rate of death in a highly developed nation such as the US would be lower when compared to other and similar nations. Why not? With the advent of the PPACA, many preventative healthcare measures were put in place for women and Medicaid was expanded in many states. US citizens spend far more for healthcare and have greater or similar access to healthcare. And yet every year in the U.S, 700 to 900 women die from pregnancy, or birth-related causes, and an approximate 65,000 almost die due to complications. Contrary to what healthcare should be, the US ranks low in providing maternal healthcare in the developed world.

Even with the PPACA, expanded Medicaid in place; and when compared to their Canadian sisters, American women are three times more likely to die from the start of a pregnancy up till one year after the birth of a child (defined by the Centers for Disease Control). The death rate for American women is 26.4 deaths per 100,000 as opposed to 7.3 deaths per 100,000 in Canada (Chart). The ratio worsens when compared to Scandinavia countries as American women are six times as likely to die as Scandinavian women.

There are two stories, one for economically secure women and another for minority, native American, rural, and lower income women. The statistics worsens for women of color with their being more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth and are nearly four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. In high-risk pregnancies, African-American women are 5.6 times more likely to die than white women. Amongst women diagnosed with pregnancy-induced hypertension (eclampsia and pre-eclampsia), African-American and Latina women were 9.9 and 7.9 times in danger of dying than white women with the same complications. Native American and Alaskan Native women experience similar discriminatory care. Half of all U.S. births are covered by Medicaid and covers women up to two months past delivery leaving a substantial gap after child birth when other issues can arise.

Barbara Levy, vice president for health policy/advocacy at the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; “We worry a lot about vulnerable little babies and we don’t pay enough attention to those things catastrophic for women.”

The emphasis has been on safe baby care and safe birthing which lead to a significant decline in baby mortality. As reported in a Propublica, NPR report, the difference in “maternal mortality numbers contrast sharply with the impressive progress in saving babies’ lives.” Maternal death rates while giving birth and up to one year later has increased by an approximate 10 deaths per 100,000 since 2000 till 2015 or greater than the 9.2 deaths per 100,000 in the U.K, (Chart).

The problems occur before, during, and after delivery.

Mary D’Alton, chair of ob/gyn at Columbia University Medical Center and author of papers on disparities in care for mothers and infants. “The training was quite variable across the U.S., there were some fellows that could finish their maternal-fetal medicine training without ever being in a labor and delivery unit. When I had my own child I realized, ‘Oh my goodness. That was completely insufficient information.'”

And doctors fail to heed the warning signs women are alerting them too.

Elizabeth Howell, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai Hospital; “The way that we’ve been trained, we do not give women enough information for them to manage their health postpartum. The focus had always been on babies and not on mothers.”

With 39 weeks of a good pregnancy, the expectant mother went to the hospital to induce labor. Inducing typically ends up with a cesarean delivery. 23 hours later, the mother delivered normally a healthy baby girl with the only occurrence being sharp pains in the kidney area alleviated with more epidural. In 20 hours, a healthy mother before the birth of her daughter died.

The pain came back 90 minutes after the birth. Upon her doctor husband questioning the ob/gyn, he was told it was acid reflux, and a common reaction after birthing. The pain increased, her blood pressure spiked at 169/108, and her husband asked the OB whether this could be preeclampsia.

Her blood pressure upon admission was 147/99, she experienced similar readings during labor, and for one period of 8 hours no readings were made. All eyes were on the health of the baby, not on the mother, and what could be coming to pass. For a woman with normal blood pressure such as this young mother, a blood pressure reading of 140/90 would be indicative of preeclampsia.

Her husband reached out to another doctor, he anxiously relayed the symptoms, and she quickly diagnosed what the young mother was suffering from . . . a disorder called HELLP syndrome or Hemolysis, (a breakdown of red blood cells); Elevated Liver enzymes; and Low Platelet count. A disorder if not treated quickly leads to death.

This is only a brief recital of the tragedy which befell Lauren Bloomstein and her husband Larry. With additional delays in finding a surgeon, Lauren began to experience bleeding in her brain which would lead to paralysis. She knew she was dying before her husband’s eyes. A neurosurgeon was called in to relieve the pressure and stop the bleeding. Since her platelets were low he could not operate, the hospital did not have an adequate supply, and by the time additional supply arrived it was too late. She was brain dead and was allowed to pass on after her daughter was placed next to her one last time.

The warning signs of life-endangering problems were there and were missed (pain in the kidney area) or ignored (abnormal high blood pressure for Lauren), excuses for pain (reflux) were made, and pain killers administered to dull the pain and other symptoms (blood pressure) not explored while she deteriorated in front of her husband who suspected preeclampsia. The missing part of this was the protocol to diagnose early on and prevent Lauren from slipping into late stages of preeclampsia. This is not an isolated incidence as the deaths of women giving birth keep increasing as evidenced in the attached chart.

This is but one story as told by NPR and Propublica. There are many more stories of tragedy which go untold.

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The Extreme Limits of Human Dishonesty and Stupidity

This is a follow up on my post on joy and sorrow. I feel great joy at having found the ultimate abyss of idiocy, but I fear Monday, October 30, 2017 Mysterious Ways

The competition for worst possible argument was provoked by the fact that former White House counsel Don McGahn told Mueller’s team that (sadly) current President Donald Trump twice told him to get Mueller fired and then told him to deny that “fake news” when it was reported.

Rudolf Giuliani attempted to surpass his previous accomplishments in dishonesty and idiocy by quibbling about an immaterial difference in wording

“I would ask, which of the three versions is McGahn standing by?” Giuliani told CNN’s Jake Tapper in response to McGahn’s lawyer’s statement, before listing several versions of the story.

[skip]

For example, while The New York Times used the word “fire” in its January 2018 report on the initial conversations between Trump and McGahn, McGahn himself did not use that word in interviews with Mueller’s team. Yet, Giuliani implied to Tapper that McGahn had used the word, citing the page number of Mueller’s report on which the New York Times article is described and saying: “The first version that he says is, ‘The President told me to fire him because he’s upset about conflicts of interest, and I told him I’d resign.’”

But there’s no such quote credited to McGahn in the redacted Mueller report.

It is impressive idiocy to base one’s case on the inconsistency between saying “Mueller has conflicts and can’t be the Special Counsel.” and “‘The President told me to fire him because he’s upset about conflicts of interest,” but it is truly outstanding idiocy to notice the difference in wording between McGahn’s testimony and a New York Times paraphrase of a leak.

One might expect that Giuliani’s denouncing someone for an immaterial difference between the words Giuliani put in his mouth and the words which actually came out of it would stand as the nadir of dishonest idiocy forever, or at least one day.

I put the following words in Kellyanne Conway’s mouth “hold my beer”.

She argued that we can tell that McGahn committed perjury for no compelling reason because

Don McGahn is an honorable attorney who stayed on the job 18 months after this alleged incident took place, and that if he were being asked to obstruct justice or violate the Constitution, or commit a crime, help to commit a crime by the President of the United States, he wouldn’t have stayed,”

Yes she said we know he is a felon who broke the law for no good reason, because we know he is honorable.

I really can’t even imagine dishonest idiocy which could top that, so I guess I will have to wait at least a day for Trump to outdo his minions.

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Sales rebound from government shutdown-induced “mini-recession;” March housing lays an egg

by New Deal democrat

Sales rebound from government shutdown-induced “mini-recession;” March housing lays an egg

While March retail sales rose strongly, total business sales for February – also released yesterday – which includes manufacturers’ and wholesalers’ sales in addition to retail sales, continued to languish. This adds to the evidence that there was a “mini-recession” for several months likely brought about by the lengthy government shutdown, and there has been a rebound since (including blockbuster new lows in jobless claims).

This post is  up at Seeking Alpha.

But I’ve been reluctant to conclude that the slowdown this year is off. This morning’s housing permits and starts for March were solid evidence in support of that position, showing that the recent decline in mortgage rates hasn’t filtered through to new housing construction yet. Housing may be bottoming, but it’s at near-recessionary levels.

I have a post in the queue at Seeking Alpha on that as well. Once it is posted, I’ll put up a link.

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That One Sentence

That One Sentence

On March 25, Matt Taibbi wrote in Rolling Stone:

On Sunday, Attorney General William Barr sent a letter to Congress, summarizing the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The most telling section, quoted directly from Mueller’s report, read:

[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.

That one sentence should end a roughly 33-month national ordeal (the first Russiagate stories date back to July 2016) in which the public was encouraged, both by officials and the press, to believe Donald Trump was a compromised foreign agent.

“That one sentence” unexpurgated:

Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through the Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.

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What Is The “Collusion Delusion”?

What Is The “Collusion Delusion”?

The Trump crowd has long claimed that there was “no collusion, ” repeatedly in many venues.  Somehow the MSM picked up on this screed, and so it is out there that indeed that the Mueller Report  declared that there was “no collusion,” a phrase that somehow Trump himself long put out there for his followers long before the Mueller Report came out.

But, in fact up front in the Mueller Report they made it clear that they were not  investigating “collusion.” They only briefly discussed the term, but the bottom line was that there exists no legal definition of this term. The final point in the report was that “collusion” is not even a “term of art” in the  legal system  Therefore, they simply ignored thereafter in the inquiry.

Bottom line is that there is massive evidence for collusion, that legally undefined form of half-baked cooperation that never got the level of coordination and conspiracy.  They were massively colluding, but never ccould get it together to engage in an organized mutually benefiicial operation to influence the election.  They were too incompetent to put  it together, although they made great efforts to do so, The obvious example was the meeting in Trump Tower in June 2016. The Russsians wanted certain Putin-related cronies exempted from the Magnitsy law, while the Trump people wanted more dirt on HRC than the Russians were willing to give then, although soon after they delivered the goods.

Barkley Rosser

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