Your Wednesday Briefing: Trump Organization Convicted in Tax Fraud Scheme

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The Donald Trump family’s real estate company was convicted yesterday of tax fraud and other financial crimes, a notable rebuke of the former president’s company and what prosecutors describe as his “culture of fraud and deceit.”

The conviction on all 17 counts, after more than a day of jury deliberations at the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, was the result of a long-running scheme that saw the Trump Organization hand out off-the-books luxury perks, such as luxury apartments and luxury cars, for some executives.

While prosecutors did not prosecute the former president, they relied on his name during the month-long trial, telling jurors that he personally paid for some of the benefits and even approved a crucial aspect of the plan.

Analysis: The conviction on charges of tax fraud, fraud, conspiracy and falsifying corporate records is hardly a death sentence for the Trump Organization. The maximum penalty it faces is $1.62 million, a rounding error for Trump. Still, the verdict represents a very public reckoning for the Trump Organization.

precipitation: The company’s conviction — coupled with the prosecution’s claim that Trump was “explicitly punishing tax fraud” — could reverberate during the 2024 presidential race and lay the groundwork for a broader criminal investigation into Trump’s business practices.

At a funeral ceremony yesterday, China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, paid tribute to the late former president Jiang Zemin, who died on Nov. 30. the two leaders.

The event was attended by thousands of officials, soldiers and dignitaries, who sat in the audience wearing masks — a visual reminder of the coronavirus pandemic controls that have sparked protests across China.

Background: Jiang was a tough leader at times, especially when he cracked down in 1999 against the Falun Gong, a spiritual movement that the Chinese Communist Party saw as a threat to its power. But many in China remember him more for pushing market reforms, securing China’s accession to the World Trade Organization and tolerating more open debate than is currently possible.

Analysis: The mourning implicitly marked the end of an era in which Jiang and other party elders remained powerful players in the back room. After Jiang stepped down from his last major position in 2004, his protégés continued his influence in politics. But his influence has waned over the past decade, as has that of his successor, Hu Jintao. At a party convention in October, Xi swept aside Hu’s remaining protégés and installed loyalists as top leaders.

Protests: The government has begun easing some of the pandemic measures that have fueled public anger, even as coronavirus infections continue to rise. Beijing said yesterday residents would no longer have to show negative Covid test results to enter supermarkets, shopping malls, the city’s main airport and other public places.

Indonesia’s parliament passed a major overhaul of the country’s penal code, which bans extramarital sex and defamation of the president and sharply expands blasphemy laws in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.

Opponents said the rules, passed unanimously by parliament yesterday, pose significant risks to religious minorities by silently targeting critics of Islam.

The criminalization of extramarital sex also targets the LGBT community, as same-sex marriage is illegal in Indonesia. The new laws may also curtail freedom of speech and assembly.

Context: After the fall of dictator Suharto in 1998, Indonesia prided itself on becoming a thriving democracy. But more recently, conservative Islam has gained ground in the country, and now some fear its influence is growing, even as its supporters remain a minority in parliament.

Background: In 2019, the government tried to pass a similar law, but President Joko Widodo shelved it after tens of thousands of young people protested. This time, activists said they were blindsided when lawmakers suddenly announced on Nov. 30 that they were submitting a draft to parliament for ratification.

  • The Taliban said Afghan girls will be allowed to take their high school finals this week, even though they have been banned from classrooms since last year. That reports the Associated Press.

  • Demonstrators in Mongolia tried to storm the parliament building in the capital Ulaanbaatar on Sunday as they demonstrated against inflation and corruption. That reports Reuters.

A new study found that swear words sound similar in several unrelated languages: They are less likely to contain the consonant sounds L, R, W, or Y than other words. And more family-friendly versions of swearing often added these sounds, just like the R in “shirt” or “fork.” The finding suggests that some underlying rules may link the world’s languages.

Holiday music has long been big business. In 2018, Billboard estimated it was worth $177 million a year in the US alone. But streaming has given it a boost.

In the week leading up to Christmas last year, holiday songs accounted for 10 percent of all music streams in the US. And on Christmas Eve, Amazon’s Alexa smart speakers received 35 million voice requests around the world for seasonal music.

This week, streaming helped 28-year-old Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, topped only by Taylor Swift’s latest “Anti-Hero.” “Getting on the major algorithmic stations is really everything,” says Andrew Woloz of the music company Concord. Carey’s hit has appeared on TikTok 12 million times and has racked up more than 1.2 billion streams on Spotify.

In an interview with my colleague Ben Sisario, David Foster, a gold-edged producer who has worked on hit Christmas albums, shared three rules of the Christmas music game.

No. 1: The public prefers the old classics and is not so interested in new songs.

No. 2: Singers should not stray too far from the melody.

No. 3: “You can’t be too corny at Christmas. You get a completely free pass.