All posts by Al Sharpton

US Blames Iran for Recent Attacks on Oil Tankers in Gulf of Oman

Thursday saw two oil tankers- one Norwegian, the other Japanese- attacked in the Gulf of Oman. Crew members rescued from the Japanese vessel said, “that the ship was attacked by a flying object”. These fresh attacks come after four vessels were targeted a month ago.

The US have blamed Iran for the attacks, claims the Iranians deny. It is thought the Iranians are seeking to disrupt international shipping in one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. US-Iranain relations have deteriorated recently. The US have sent an aircraft carrier in response to the heightened threat from Iran in the region.

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The working witches of Los Angeles just want you to be your best self

The working witches of Los Angeles just want you to be your best self
Amanda Yates Garcia, also known as “The Oracle,” is a working witch. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

The Oracle of Los Angeles was feeling frazzled.

It was already 2 p.m. and she hadn’t had time to prepare lunch, much less wipe the ash from her altar. A tarot card client had just left her yellow Craftsman house in West Adams, evidenced by the smell of incense still lingering in the air. Within an hour, she was scheduled to meet with another client who was struggling to complete a PhD thesis.

In the meantime, she still had to prepare for her weekly podcast, create a purifying ceremony for a new business–and get her nails done for a reality TV appearance. Any downtime would be consumed with writing. The second draft of her memoir was due to her publisher in a week.

The Oracle, who also goes by Amanda Yates Garcia, is a former arts educator with a master of fine arts in writing, film and critical theory from California Institute of the Arts. For the past eight years she has made her living as a professional witch, performing “energetic healings,” “intuitive empowerment sessions” and the occasional exorcism, while also teaching workshops on the art of magic online and at her home, independent stores, and sites like the J. Paul Getty Museum.

The Oracle understands the value of marketing, so she also devotes several hours each week to outreach: writing newsletters, updating her website and sharing tips on social media on topics such as how to break a curse using the ”disruptive energy of a lunar eclipse.”

“If you think being a witch is just sitting around doing spells all the time, you think wrong,” she says. “Half my business is being on Instagram.”

What do you think of when you hear the word “witch”? Pointy black hats? The Salem witch trials? The free-spirited members of the pagan religion Wicca?

Today’s working witches, whose prominence is growing thanks to social media, primarily see themselves as healers. They help clients who are struggling to cope with life’s hurdles — heartache, aging, misogyny, work stress — and who find that more culturally accepted remedies, such as therapy and meditation, aren’t enough.

They want to help you be your best possible self, or as the Oracle puts it, “My contribution is to … cultivate beauty and love in my clients and help them thrive.”

There’s no official list of job duties for witches, no state licensing board that notes educational or training requirements (which means clients proceed at their own risk). Services run the gamut, from herbal workshops to love spells to communing with spirit guides; some witches charge up to $200 an hour for their time.

Sara Benincasa, a comedian and writer who started seeing the Oracle last August, says the sessions feel like “part therapy, part religious ritual.”

“I would say she’s doing spiritual coaching,” Benincasa says. “You can go to see her the way you might see a rabbi or pastor.”

(Yates Garcia is quick to note that “people should not use magic as a way of avoiding their problems,” adding: “Sometimes clinical help with a therapist, social worker, medical doctor, or financial adviser is really what they need.”)

If you think all this witch-talk is fringe thinking, it isn’t.

A 2017 survey from the Pew Research Center that examined New Age beliefs in America found that 40% of respondents believe in psychics and another 40% believe that inanimate objects like mountains and trees are imbued with spiritual energy.

It also found that 33% of Americans believe in reincarnation, 29% believe in astrology, and 60% say they hold at least one of these New Age beliefs.

Anecdotal evidence seems to indicate the number of people who call themselves witches is growing.

“Interest in witchcraft waxes and wanes, but it is waxing, again, particularly among young women,” says Helen Berger, a professor at Brandeis University who has been studying witches and pagans for 30 years.

At least half a dozen books on witchcraft have been released in the past six months alone. Museums and universities like LACMA, UCLA, UC Berkeley and Smith are inviting witches to lecture and lead workshops on their campuses.

And there are more places than ever to buy crystals, candles, incense and other tools of the witch trade — both online and in stores. Here in Southern California, the magical supply shop House of Intuition opened in Echo Park in 2010. In the last few years it has expanded into a full-fledged chain with storefronts in Pasadena, Long Beach, Santa Monica, Highland Park and West Hollywood.

Instagram has also helped spread the word. Search the hashtag #witchesofinstagram and you’ll find 2.6 million posts including spiritual affirmations, Gothic selfies, and a substantial sprinkling of cats.

“Instagram has been a huge way to make magic and mysticism accessible for everyone,” says Bri Luna, who goes by the name “Hoodwitch” and has 420,000 followers on the social media site. “Old witches try to dismiss it, but the internet has made it possible for black people, brown people and trans people to be part of this community and this movement, too.”

Sabina Magliocco, an anthropologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, says the growing interest in magic and witchcraft is a natural response to a cultural moment in which many people feel marginalized and silenced.

She says a loss of faith in institutions, particularly the government, and organized religion has led large swaths of the population to feel unmoored — like the world no longer makes sense.

“Studies have shown that people turn to magic and ritual in high-risk and high-stress situations,” Magliocco says. “And that describes the world for a lot of people right now. People are flipped out.”

The queer witch, or bruja, who goes by Loba Loca specializes in herbalism and traditional massage. However, much of Loba’s work involves simply talking with clients — “pure counseling.”

Loba Loca
“This is the only way I support myself,” says Loba Loca, whose work is often simply talking with clients. Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times

Loba, who uses the pronouns they/them, grew up in Peru and Chile, and now lives in a first-floor apartment near MacArthur Park with a sprawling garden in front. Inside their dimly lit living room, dozens of jars of dried flowers and leaves are stacked on metal shelves. Some of these go into the scrubs, moisturizers and facial sprays Loba sells on their website.

Loba learned their craft from peers, and on trips to Mexico and South America, talking to family members and healers. They see their work — teaching and supporting mostly queer people of color — as feminist, antimisogynist and political — all things they believe have long been associated with the practice of witchcraft.

“I do a whole workshop on how the people who were burned as so-called witches in Europe were actively participating in dismantling the government,” Loba says.

They try to keep prices low, charging $45 for an hourlong consultation on gardening or sexual health or $150 for traditional bodywork and massage.

“This is the only way I support myself,” Loba says. “When I first started, I was charging basically nothing because I was living in a garage and I didn’t have to pay much rent; but as I’ve grown up and had to spend more money on living, I’ve had to pump up my prices.”

For most of history, “witch” has been associated with malevolence — especially malevolent women. Witches are condemned in the Old Testament. Ancient Norse and Roman laws forbade magic for nefarious purposes.

The rise of Christianity prompted vigorous prohibitions against witchcraft (and many denominations continue to denounce it). Historians estimate that at least 50,000 people were tried and either imprisoned or executed for witchcraft in Western Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Up to 80% of them were women.

Europeans who colonized the New World brought a fear of witches and witchcraft with them, a fear that culminated in colonial Massachusetts. In a span of about 15 months, starting in February 1692, 15 women and four men were hanged after accusations of witchcraft reached a frenzied pitch in the town of Salem.

Even today, witches can still inspire fear and anger.

“It makes people very nervous, the possibility that witches do have powers,” Berger says. “If witches have the power to heal you, do they also have the power to harm you?”

Top photo: Altar of Amanda Yates Garcia, also known as The Oracle. Bottom photos: Collection of herbs and tinctures from the bruja known as Loba Loca.

In recent years, people who brand themselves as witches have had an easier go of it — especially in Southern California — where they have joined a thriving community of empaths, energy workers and other healers. They’ve also encountered — and been influenced by — people who brought their belief in magic from other regions and cultures around the globe. In some cases this has prompted accusations of cultural appropriation.

In addition to being the targets of skeptics, cynics, atheists and certain religious denominations, people who promote themselves as magical practitioners sometimes attract the attention of law enforcement.

In January, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office released a warning about a blessing scam in which victims, many of them seniors in immigrant communities, were told that a terrible misfortune would befall their family unless a blessing ceremony was performed on their valuables.

One senior put more than $70,000 in cash and jewelry in a bag for a blessing. She was told not to open the bag for two days. When she finally did, all she had was a bag full of newspaper.

“There are always people who might be charlatans,” Berger says, “but in my experience most people who call themselves witches believe they are helping clients, and their clients believe they are being helped. Whether you think it’s ‘real’ or not, there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Aja Daashuur
Aja Daashuur has been a witch for five years. Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times

On a recent Wednesday, the witch and spirit medium Aja Daashuur was preparing her home for a magical workshop that would be attended by 10 women, including her assistant.

The candles were lit. Dozens of long-stemmed pink roses were arranged in a circle in the center of the room. Meditative music played softly in the background. Her final task? Sweep the negative energy out of her 100-year-old A-frame house high in the hills of northeast Los Angeles.

 As she pushed the broom an inch above the wooden floors, she murmured a prayer under her breath:

Only light and love may walk through this door.  

Protect it from negative energy, psychic attacks and lower vibrational energy.  

I ask the sun and the moon, as I am a daughter of both…  

Daashuur is a former musician and celebrity stylist who now earns her living channeling spirits and sharing their insights with her clients.

She calls herself the Spirit Guide Coach.

Over the past two years she has seen private clients several times a week in a small pyramid-shaped space on the grounds of her home. The 75-minute sessions cost $200.

Daashuur and her clients begin with an offering to the spirits — candles, flowers, sage, chocolate — and a meditation. Then, she says, she goes into a light trance and starts to communicate with the spirit guides.

“I kind of picture it like we’re all sitting around an old ’70s kitchen table,” she says. “We have a chat.”

The Oracle of Los Angeles likes to say that magic does not defy the laws of physics.

“It’s not like you wiggle your nose and your life is completely different,” she explains. “We work incrementally. If you want to win a Grammy, but you haven’t written a song yet, we have a lot of work to do.”

The Oracle
Amanda Yates Garcia, known as the Oracle, works with magic as a way to focus energy, not to defy laws of physics. Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times

She tells her clients that magic is a way of taking the stuff we all have swirling around in our minds and getting it out into the material world where we can see it and deal with it.

That might mean writing down a painful memory on a piece of paper and then burning it or throwing a piece of jewelry into the ocean to release the emotions associated with a difficult relationship.

Yates Garcia usually gives her clients “labors” that she expects them to do on their own time.

“If you want to build more confidence, then you will have tasks that you are going to do, like maybe taking a public speaking course,” she says.

This may sound more like practical advice than witchcraft, but Magliocco says that’s how magic traditionally works: “I think when people sneer at ‘magic’ it’s because they don’t understand how people are using it. It works on the parts of you that are nonverbal, that are pre-verbal, that respond to images, smells, metaphors and stories.”

Yates Garcia put it this way: “Magic and ritual is a way of focusing your energy.”

Then she looked at her phone. A client was supposed to arrive in a few minutes. Her memoirs needed work. The Instagram DMs were piling up.

The Oracle of Los Angeles had to get back to work.


Revelation 18

Revelation 18 King James Version (KJV)

18 And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.

And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.

For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.

And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.

For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.

Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.

How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.

Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.

And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning,

10 Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.

11 And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:

12 The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble,

13 And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.

14 And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all.

15 The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing,

16 And saying, Alas, alas that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!

17 For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off,

18 And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city!

19 And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate.

20 Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.

21 And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.

22 And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee;

23 And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.

24 And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.

Facebook lawyer says users ‘have no expectation of privacy’

A lawyer for Facebook argued in court Wednesday that the social media site’s users “have no expectation of privacy.”

According to Law360, Facebook attorney Orin Snyder made the comment while defending the company against a class-action lawsuit over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

“There is no invasion of privacy at all, because there is no privacy,” Snyder said.

In an attempt to have the lawsuit thrown out, Snyder further claimed that Facebook was nothing more than a “digital town square” where users voluntarily give up their private information.

“You have to closely guard something to have a reasonable expectation of privacy,” Snyder added.

Although Snyder said that the social media site would be focusing more on privacy in the future, U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria reportedly pushed back on Facebook’s argument.

“What you are saying now sounds contrary to the message that Facebook itself disseminates about privacy,” Chhabria said, according to

The Daily Dot reached out to Facebook for comment but did not receive a reply.

Synder’s statement came just hours before Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told company shareholders during their annual meeting Thursday that Facebook would become a “privacy-focused social platform.”

The meeting, held at Hotel Nia in Palo Alto, California, was also met with protest by civil liberties groups calling for the CEO’s firing.

A proposal at the meeting to have Zuckerberg step down as CEO was voted down, however, given that the Facebook co-founder currently controls the majority of voting shares.


Serial subway saboteur caused nearly 750 delays since March: report


The emergency-brake-yanking scoundrel who has been scuttling subways during rush hour is responsible for hundreds of commute-crushing train delays since March alone, according to a report.

The rail reprobate, who sources say has been using an MTA master key to sneak into conductor cabs and grind trains to a halt, has caused 747 delays or cancellations in the last three months, Jalopnik reports.

His subway-stopping antics caused bottlenecks that rippled through the system and caused delays on other trains, the report said.

The MTA is investigating “dozens of incidents” since the beginning of the year, officials confirmed to The Post.

In some instances, he was able to delay more than 100 trains in a single spree, Jalopnik reported.

Incident reports shared with The Post show just how nefarious the subway saboteur can be.

In one instance, on May 15, he managed to personally cripple two trains within two minutes of one another, the papers show.

At 9:10 p.m., he slinked aboard a southbound No. 2 train at Brooklyn’s Winthrop Street station, unlatched security chains on the back car and popped open the storm door to gain entry to an empty conductor cab, where he pulled the emergency brake and scampered off.

While the train’s conductor and motorman were scratching their heads over the inexplicable stop, the rogue was tearing over to a northbound train at the same station — which he halted at 9:12 p.m., records show. The M.O. was the same: He unchained a back door, cracked it open and yanked the brake before vanishing.

Regular service resumed 10 minutes later, but the damage was done.

Police released security footage of the suspected delay-causer Thursday showing the man — wearing a black shirt with red and white letters that read, “SWAG DON’T COME CHEAP” — riding on the outside of a northbound No. 2 train near 14th Street and 7th Avenue on Tuesday night that was later delayed when he pulled the e-brake.

The NYPD is investigating the pattern, and NYC Transit chief Andy Byford on Wednesday pledged: “We’re going to hunt them down. We intend to nail them.”


Manhattan Homes Linger on Market, Forcing Sellers to Cut Prices

Many sellers across New York City cut prices on their homes this February as winter brought a chill to the sales market. In Manhattan, more than 1 in 10 homes had their prices cut, and inventory increased by 11.7 percent from last year. With inventory levels and the share of price cuts high across the borough, prices cooled, too. The StreetEasy Manhattan Price Index [i] dropped 4.3 percent to $1,119,183, its lowest level since July 2015.

Even with prices down and an abundance of inventory, buyers continued to hesitate to make deals. Manhattan homes spent a median of 117 days on the market — up 27 days year-over-year, and the highest level in seven years. This trend appeared in all areas and price points across the borough. Downtown Manhattan [ii] saw the largest increase in median days on market — up 31 from last year, to 117 days total.

“With a strong economy and home-shopping season right around the corner, plenty of New Yorkers are well-positioned to buy this spring. However, many are willing to walk away from deals that just aren’t financially attractive and continue renting instead — creating a market poised to punish sellers who don’t price their homes sensibly,” says StreetEasy Senior Economist Grant Long. “When the inevitable wave of new inventory hits the market this spring, interested buyers should expect to see an uptick in price cuts as the market forces ambitious sellers to accept reality.”


NYC is the most financially distressed city in the nation

New York City is officially the most financially distressed metropolis in America, according to local debt counselors and financial analysts.

The city’s credit card delinquency rates and level of bad personal debt are the highest in the nation, which saw household debt and credit soar by $219 billion, or 1.6 percent, to $13.51 trillion, in the third quarter of 2018 — a record $837 billion more than its previous peak in 2008.

Facing an environment of mounting personal bankruptcies and financial meltdowns, unprecedented numbers of local residents are just one paycheck away from total monetary disaster.

The latest surge in toxic debt is blowing a huge hole in New Yorkers’ personal finances, these experts say. Forty percent of Americans recently said they could not cover a $400 emergency — and that proportion may be even higher in New York City, analysts say.

“It’s really bad right now,” Kelly Figueroa, a consumer debt counselor in New York at GreenPath, a national nonprofit, told The Post.

“Like the rest of the nation, most New Yorkers are living paycheck to paycheck,” she added. “But in New York, the situation is even worse because of the city’s higher — and rising — cost of living.”

From low-income to highly paid consumers, Kelly says, local clients’ unsecured distressed household debt ranges from an average of $20,000 per individual to as high as $100,000.

Credit card debt troubles in particular have jumped in New York City, from 30 percent of client caseloads at GreenPath to 40 percent in the past few years, even as housing and mortgage stress cases stemming from the financial crisis have ebbed.

New York City is now its No. 1 metro market, followed by Atlanta and Los Angeles, as measured by the sheer volume of distressed consumers seeking assistance and relief, according to Money Management International, a nationwide credit-counseling network.

“New York has the second-most expensive housing market in the US; rents are rising along with interest rates and credit card and other debt, including auto loans,” said Thomas Nitzsche, a consumer debt expert at Money Management International, citing some of the nonprofit’s latest findings.

A large population with average wages well above the national average — and a low unemployment rate — can give residents the courage to take on large credit card balances and debt, analysts say.

However, since 2010, rents in New York City overall have jumped 31 percent — and even as much as 45 percent in some neighborhoods, according to the StreetEasy Rent Indexin late 2018.

This may explain why many city consumers are sinking in card and other debt, say analysts.

A New York Fed study shows average credit card balances alone in Manhattan hit $7,400 by 2016, compared with the nation’s $5,400.

Credit card delinquency rates for holders 90 days late on payments reached a stunning 15.1 percent for the Bronx and nearly 10 percent citywide, compared with 8.3 percent nationwide.

Analysts figure those balances and delinquency rates have since ticked up further in New York.


Billionaires sail into Cannes on mega-yachts for film festival

Billionaires sailed into Cannes for the French film festival.

David Geffen’s $200 million Rising Sun has been seen near Antibes, and boats of Russian rich guys — Roman Abramovich’s Eclipse and Alisher Usmanov’s Dilbar — have also been spotted.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ yacht, Bravo Eugenia, named for his wife, is also on the Riviera. Jones got the $250 million boat in December, and it includes a helicopter pad and a “beach club,” according to Forbes.

The publication, which keeps tabs on big boats in the area, reports Sailing Yacht A, a $500 million superyacht designed by Philippe Starck, and owned by Andrey Melnichenko, is also headed toward town.


Alyssa Milano calls for- No abortion rights, no sex!

No abortion rights, no sex!

Alyssa Milano is calling on women to abstain from sex amid a flurry of bills aimed at curtailing abortion.

“Our reproductive rights are being erased,” the actress tweeted Friday. “Until women have legal control over our bodies we just cannot risk pregnancy. JOIN ME by not having sex until we get bodily autonomy back. I’m calling for a #SexStrike. Pass it on.”

The tweet from Milano, a former child star who was instrumental in sparking the #MeToo movement, followed recently passed legislation to restrict abortion in Georgia and similar proposals in Ohio, Alabama and other states.

The tweet had more than 10,000 likes and 4,000 retweets overnight, and #SexStrike was trending on the social media platform early Saturday.


Hollywood Writers Sue Talent Agencies In Escalating Battle Over Packaging Fees



David Simon is among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Hollywood’s four biggest talent agencies. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

A Hollywood screenwriters’ union and eight of its members sued the four largest talent agencies, escalating a dispute over what are known as packaging fees.

The Writers Guild of America is demanding damages and repayment of illegal profit from the four agencies, according to a copy of the complaint filed Wednesday in state court in Los Angeles. The plaintiffs include Meredith Stiehm, creator of “Cold Case,’’ and David Simon, creator of “The Wire.’’

The writers want the agencies stop collecting fees for putting multiple clients in a project. Many have already fired their agents, alleging they and their firms enrich themselves at the expense of clients through such fees. The median pay for screenwriters has slipped in recent years, with the writers blaming the agencies’ expansion into new lines of business.

“Why in the world would my agents make $75,000 per episode on my show,’’ Stiehm said at a press conference. “Agencies don’t work on shows. They make deals at the beginning and that’s it.’’

The four companies are Creative Artists Agency, William Morris Endeavor, ICM Partners and United Talent Agency. They either declined to comment or couldn’t be reached. The guild said it plans to submit thousands of letters from writers dismissing their agents.

Stiehm recounted a story about “Cold Case,’’ which was produced by Warner Bros. and aired on CBS. Stiehm said she was unaware that her representatives, Creative Artists, were collecting packaging fees until she negotiated the budget for the show’s seventh season. CBS asked her to cut $500,000, requiring her to reduce the planned spending for music.

“It adversely affected the quality of the show, but we needed savings,’’ she said.

Stiehm later discovered that CAA was collecting $75,000 per episode. When she asked Warner Bros. if CAA would take a cut, she was told that number was fixed. She estimated that her agents collected 94 cents for every $1 in income she received from the program.



New York City’s rich are getting hit with record tax bills

Rich New Yorkers are getting hit hard with record tax bills — unquestionably among the nation’s steepest, according to tax preparers and planners.

The tab is so high that analysts see the tax shock propelling the flight of wealthy New York residents to states with lower taxes, and a much cheaper cost of living.

“Many are selling securities in order to pay their tax bill,” John Graziano, an accountant and financial planner who handles returns for numerous New York City residents. “Some have discussed moving to a so-called lower-tax state.”

And while none of his tax-choked clients have yet loaded up the moving truck, many are mulling whether purchasing a second home in Florida now makes financial sense, as the reality of local and federal laws finally take a deeper bite. Last year was the first full year of the federal tax reform, which limited state and local tax deductions, or SALT, to a $10,000 maximum.

“A self-employed New York City businessperson client who earned about $1 million in 2018 now owes the Federal government $48,000 more this year than last,” Graziano told The Post. “Those who were getting $5,000 to $10,000 back are now getting less than $5,000.”

Other preparers report similar large surges in tax bills for rich Gotham clients filing their returns this year on 2018 income. And while some middle-class residents may be ahead when their previous 2018 tax payments on salary and the like are factored, many preparers are not holding their breath.

“A lot of otherwise well-off people who were used to getting $4,000 to $5,000 back, are now scrambling to pay their tax bill,” said financial adviser Gary Schwartz of Madison Planning Group. “They’re tapping savings and/or borrowing from wherever they can.”

By contrast, taxpayers in a nationwide survey — likely underlining the stark regional differences in taxation outcomes by state — are sounding almost chirpy.

Of the 74 percent of US adults who’ve filed taxes in 2019, 2 in 5 are “happy with the outcome,” and an additional 25 percent “are neither happy nor unhappy,” according to the survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE). Thirty-three percent are “unhappy.”

“The results don’t seem to align with what we’ve been hearing anecdotally about people’s feelings of filing taxes under the new tax law,” said Billy Hensley, president and CEO of NEFE. “Despite a perceived unhappiness, the good news is the largest proportion of people say they’re satisfied with their tax filing outcome,” he added. “More good news is that people continue to report they are doing positive things with their refunds, like building savings and paying down debt.”

According to the NEFE survey, a mere 7 percent of filers paid more on their federal taxes this year than they typically paid in the past.

Put many New York City and State residents in the unhappy category. “Since the tax code was changed so quickly, many were caught off-guard and are complaining that their taxes are subsidizing corporations,” said Schwartz. “It’s a double whammy when you factor in the impact of the SALT cap.”


Original Article

NYC Can No Longer Test For Weed When Hiring Or Probation Folks

The NYC Council announced that they just passed bills prohibiting marijuana testing being required as part of the hiring process in New York City, and banning the City from requiring marijuana testing for people on probation.

‘This bill will close one trap door that trips people up,” said the council’s Public Safety Committee chair Donovan Richards. “Too many people come out, they are trying to do better, and they get busted for marijuana and go back into jail or prison. This sets them back.”

The city conducts hundreds of such tests each year.

Elton John Biopic ‘Rocketman’ Poised for Cannes Bow

The official announcement for the 2019 Cannes Film Festival is 10 days away, but Paramount’s Elton John hybrid biopic-musical — starring Taron Egerton as the iconic British singer-songwriter — is poised to descend on the south of France, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. Paramount declined comment.

The film’s addition to the lineup had been widely speculated given its official release on the very Cannes-friendly date of May 24 (the fest is set to run May 14-25). Its screening — and any potential parties — will likely be among the hottest tickets at Cannes, which is also set to feature Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

The news comes just days after a six-minute montage of Rocketman — directed by Dexter Fletcher, who stepped in to finish Bohemian Rhapsody after Bryan Singer’s departure — drew loud applause at CinemaCon in Las Vegas. The footage spanned John’s days as a child at the Royal Academy of Music to his early career, including his first U.S. concert at the Troubadour in Los Angeles and how after he grappled with fame and addiction before transforming into a global superstar.


New York City is edging toward financial disaster, experts warn

New York City is careening closer to all-out financial bankruptcy for the first time since Mayor Abraham Beame ran the city more than 40 years ago, experts say.

As tax-fleeced businesses and individuals flee en masse, and city public spending surges into the stratosphere, financial analysts say Gotham is perilously near total fiscal disaster.

Long-term debt is now more than $81,100 per household, and Mayor de Blasio is ramping up to spend as much as $3 billion more in the new budget than the current $89.2 billion.

“The city is running a deficit and could be in a real difficult spot if we had a recession, or a further flight of individuals because of tax reform,” said Milton Ezrati, chief economist of Vested.

“New York is already in a difficult financial spot, but it would be in an impossible situation if we had any kind of setback.”

De Blasio has detailed $750 million in savings for the preliminary fiscal 2020 budget, but that won’t be enough to stave off a bloodbath if New York’s economy is hit by financial shocks — including a recession, which some see on the horizon — analysts warn. Gov. Cuomo’s preliminary budget has $600 million in city cuts in the coming year.

But city spending, up some 32 percent since de Blasio took office — triple the rate of inflation — may need to be cut deeper, these analysts add. The city’s long-term pension obligations have escalated, as well, as its workforce has soared by more than 33,000 in the last five years.

Other startling indicators:

  • New York state — and city — are ranked No. 1 nationwide in state and local tax burden.
  • Property taxes, almost half of the city’s revenue, is rising faster than any other revenue source — squeezing businesses and forcing homeowners, already hit by federal property tax deduction changes, to relocate to lower-tax states.
  • The top 1 percent of New York City earners pay some 50 percent of Big Apple income tax revenue.

“New York City could go bankrupt, absolutely,” said Peter C. Earle, an economist at the American Institute for Economic Research.

“In that case, the city would get temporary protection from its creditors, but it would be very difficult for the city to take on new debt.”

Original Article