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Billionaires like Peter Thiel get citizenship abroad so they can run from the problems they create

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Silicon Valley power broker Peter Thiel plays the all-American patriot when he’s schmoozing with his good friend Donald Trump. But it turns out that even a member of Trump’s inner circle needs an escape plan.
Last week, the New Yorker reported that Thiel was among the clients of a New Zealand real estate agent catering to the rich. Further investigation revealed that Thiel had acquired a New Zealand estate on scenic Lake Wanaka, worth an estimated $10 million, in 2015. Local journalists started to wonder: How did an American citizen bypass rules requiring foreigners to gain special permission to buy protected land?
It turned out that Thiel didn’t need permission at all: the Pay Pal co-founder became a citizen of New Zealand in 2011.

We don’t know the exact details of Thiel’s naturalization yet, but it’s hard to imagine that his exorbitant wealth didn’t help. New Zealand offers residence permits to rich investors—the hacker Kim Dotcom, who’s facing extradition to the United States, bought his way there by investing millions of dollars—and grants citizenship in special circumstances to people who don’t meet the five-year residence requirements.
In these discretionary cases, New Zealand’s immigration minister has to personally approve the petition and deem it “in the public interest because of exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian or other nature.” (Thiel does not appear to have won any prizes for his humanitarian efforts.)

Thiel’s opinions will affect some 300 million Americans, most of whom who do not have a backup passport—or indeed, even the funds for a plane ticket abroad.

More and more countries are adopting special citizenship laws to let in extraordinarily rich or talented people, whether it’s athletes, experts, or entrepreneurs. As I note in my book, The Cosmopolites, for your average billionaire, having a Plan B country has become practically de rigueur. Citizenship-by-investment is estimated to be a $2 billion a year business. A half-dozen countries, from tiny specks in the Caribbean like Antigua to EU member states like Malta, openly sell their passport to wealthy individuals so long as they are not known criminals. Even the US effectively sells green cards through its EB-5 investor program.
It’s one thing for a wealthy private citizen to buy herself options to make traveling, living, and working abroad easier. Hypocrisy among Trump’s inner circle—and indeed, in all contemporary American politics—is hardly breaking news. And the irony of a Trump confidante revealing himself to be a rootless globalist is admittedly delectable. It’s also not all that surprising: Trump’s pick for trade secretary, Robert Lighthizer, has attended the Davos World Economic Forum 15 times.

The fact that Thiel can easily run away from the very rules and regulations he’ll be helping Trump shape, however, is not funny in the least. Thiel is in a position of immense power as Trump’s advisor. His opinions will affect some 300 million Americans, most of whom who do not have a backup passport—or indeed, even the funds for a plane ticket abroad. The ease with which Thiel can opt out of American society speaks to the very concerns that conservatives themselves have voiced about the denationalized “Davos man” for decades. When Samuel Huntington worried in 2004 that America’s elites were “seceding,” he could have easily been talking about Thiel—or any number of Trump’s cabinet appointees, for that matter.

It is the current system of passports and nations and states, along with moralistic attitudes about patriotism, that enables the rich to opt out.

On the surface, there seem to be immense contradictions between the nationalist, populist, protectionist rhetoric that Trump spouts and the acquisitive globalism of a Peter Thiel type. But these twin ideologies coalesce in a mutually supportive way. Trump said in a December speech that there is no world currency, no world flag, and no world passport. That’s true. But the continued primacy of the nation-state is precisely why the practice of “sovereignty hacking” or “jurisdiction shopping,” as exemplified by citizenship-by-investment programs and offshore tax registries, has become so prevalent among those who can afford it. Picking and choosing residencies, citizenships, and tax regimes helps the wealthy exist as though the world had no borders at all, which means they can throw their support behind nationalist policies that will close off options to everyone else. It is the current system of passports and nations and states, along with moralistic attitudes about patriotism, that enables the rich to opt out.

Thiel knows this world very, very well. In fact, Thiel apparently found the concept of hacking sovereignty so compelling that in 2008, he gave his personal and financial support to the Seasteading Institute, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco that promotes the creation of artificial floating nations in international waters. The political philosophy behind seasteading can be summed up as follows:

Governments are bad

Governments have a monopoly on sovereignty

Governments would be less bad if they had to compete on the open market with each other for capital, companies, citizens, and ideas

No one can compete with governments because governments control the world’s land

The only spaces that aren’t controlled by existing governments are in international waters
Creating lots of new countries in international waters will increase competition and make all governments better

Or, to quote a forthcoming book on the subject by the institute’s founders: “a market of competing governments, a Silicon Valley of the sea, would allow the best ideas for governance to emerge peacefully” (they call it Seavilization.) Thiel’s friends the seasteaders, then, are literally in the business of creating flags and passports to compete with existing flags and passports. An early slogan of the movement was “let a thousand nations bloom.” That doesn’t sound much like “America First.”
Thiel’s libertarianism is crucial to understanding his involvement in this world, the appeal of opting out, and the trendiness of second passports. At the time of his investment, the institute was run by Patri
Friedman, the son of libertarian writer David Friedman and the grandson of the free-market guru Milton Friedman.

I interviewed the youngest Friedman in 2012. He talked about his interest in buying a second citizenship, and he told me he’d considered sinking $100,000 on a Dominican passport some time ago. (He didn’t go through with it; he preferred the sound of Singapore, or Switzerland.) At the Seasteading Institute’s conference that same week, I met several other techies who had thought about or were in the process of buying another citizenship. The notion that sovereignty was something that could be bought and sold seemed like a perfectly normal element of free-market capitalism. In Thiel’s world, if you can buy another passport, you do it. Patriotism is no issue.

Friedman and I also talked about Blueseed, a project that then aspired to put up foreign entrepreneurs on a cruise ship off the Californian coast, outside the boundaries of U.S immigration law. (It has yet to launch.) The goal was to allow these engineers to work for and found US tech companies without submitting to the onerous process of applying for a visa: an immigration hack. Perhaps Trump should consider a wall there, too.
The Seasteading Institute has tried hard to shake off its associations with hardcore libertarian ideologies, and it would be unfair to accuse them of being solely political. The group is actively researching aquaculture, floating hospitals, and how to use the oceans as sources of sustainable energy, among other things. Whatever they end up doing is up to them, not Trump or Thiel. But the foundational principles of their project—the principle that Thiel presumably bought into—is how important it is to “vote with your feet.” And Thiel seems to have taken that to heart. He’s already got one foot in New Zealand.

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Della Reese, ‘Touched by an Angel’ Star and R&B Singer, Dies at 86

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Della Reese, the vocal powerhouse who segued from pop and jazz singing stardom in the ‘50s and ‘60s to a long career as a popular TV actress on “Touched by an Angel” and other shows, died Sunday night at her home in California. She was 86.

“She was an incredible wife, mother, grandmother, friend, and pastor, as well as an award-winning actress and singer. Through her life and work she touched and inspired the lives of millions of people,” actress Roma Downey, Reese’s co-star on “Touched by an Angel,” said in a statement announcing Reese’s death. “She was a mother to me and I had the privilege of working with her side by side for so many years on ‘Touched by an Angel.’ I know heaven has a brand new angel this day. Della Reese will be forever in our hearts.”

Actress Della Reese arrives for the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Sunday, March 8, 1998, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

CBS, home of “Touched by an Angel,” also hailed Reese’s legacy as an entertainer who focused her career on uplifting her audience.

“For nine years, we were privileged to have Della as part of the CBS family when she delivered encouragement and optimism to millions of viewers as Tess on ‘Touched By An Angel,’ ” CBS said. “We will forever cherish her warm embraces and generosity of spirit. She will be greatly missed. Another angel has gotten her wings.”

Reared in gospel, Reese became a seductive, big-voiced secular music star with her No. 1 R&B and No. 2 pop hit “Don’t You Know” in 1959. The 45, her first single on RCA Records, was a ballad drawn from an aria from Puccini’s opera “La Boheme.”

She ranged through a series of releases that showed off her mastery of standards, jazz and contemporary pop through the early ‘70s, and over the course of her career she received four Grammy Award nominations.

By 1969 she had launched her TV show “Della” – the first talker hosted by an African-American woman – and had begun a move into an acting career that would take her to even greater national prominence.

Speaking of her TV and film work with the Associated Press’ Bob Thomas in 1997, she said, “I had good training for it. I was always a stylist, a lyricist. I became acquainted with the words in order to convince you I must believe in what I’m singing. That’s what acting is: believing. It was just like one thing flowing into another.”

After a number of guest appearances, Reese broke into TV full-time with a starring role in the hit 1975-78 Jack Albertson-Freddie Prinze comedy series “Chico and the Man.” Roles on “It Takes Two,” “Crazy Like a Fox,” “Charlie & Co.” and (opposite her good friend Redd Foxx) “The Royal Family.”

She also took starring roles in the features “Harlem Nights” and “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate” and appeared in 20 made-for-TV pictures.

Her greatest popularity came as co-star of the inspirational CBS show “Touched by an Angel.” Though the show was axed during its debut 1994-95 season, a letter-writing campaign convinced execs to bring the series back, and Reese prevailed as the heavenly samaritan Tess for a total of nine seasons, winning seven consecutive NAACP Image Awards as best lead actress in a drama and collecting two Emmy nominations and a 1998 Golden Globe nod.

Though she continued to make TV guest appearances and took the occasional film role in the new millennium, she returned to her religious roots as the founding pastor of her own Los Angeles-based church, Understanding Principles for Better Living (or “Up”). In later years, she was frequently billed as Reverend Doctor Della Reese Lett.

She was born Delloreese Patricia Early on July 6, 1931, in Detroit. She began singing in church as a six-year-old; the glamorous black vocalist-actress Lena Horne was one of the film stars she admired as a girl. By her teens, she was working as a singer in gospel luminary Mahalia Jackson’s unit.

After graduating from Detroit’s Cass Technical High School (later attended by Diana Ross), she briefly attended Wayne State University, but soon moved into music professionally, taking Della Reese as her pro handle.

Her greatest popularity came as co-star of the inspirational CBS show “Touched by an Angel.” Though the show was axed during its debut 1994-95 season, a letter-writing campaign convinced execs to bring the series back, and Reese prevailed as the heavenly samaritan Tess for a total of nine seasons, winning seven consecutive NAACP Image Awards as best lead actress in a drama and collecting two Emmy nominations and a 1998 Golden Globe nod.

Though she continued to make TV guest appearances and took the occasional film role in the new millennium, she returned to her religious roots as the founding pastor of her own Los Angeles-based church, Understanding Principles for Better Living (or “Up”). In later years, she was frequently billed as Reverend Doctor Della Reese Lett.

She was born Delloreese Patricia Early on July 6, 1931, in Detroit. She began singing in church as a six-year-old; the glamorous black vocalist-actress Lena Horne was one of the film stars she admired as a girl. By her teens, she was working as a singer in gospel luminary Mahalia Jackson’s unit.

After graduating from Detroit’s Cass Technical High School (later attended by Diana Ross), she briefly attended Wayne State University, but soon moved into music professionally, taking Della Reese as her pro handle.

Like homegrown R&B superstar Jackie Wilson, Reese received prominent exposure during an engagement at Detroit’s Flame Show Bar; her style reflected the influence of such jazz precursors as Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.

Signed to Jubilee Records, the indie New York label that launched the doo-wop acts the Orioles and the Cadillacs, Reese scored her first chart success with the 1957 ballad “And That Reminds Me,” which reached No. 12 on the U.S. pop chart.

That song secured her a contract with RCA. She secured the biggest hit of her career out of the box with “Don’t You Know,” and followed it up in 1960 with the similarly styled “Not One Minute More” (No. 16 pop, No. 13 R&B). Her top-charting LP was “Della,” which climbed to No. 35 in ’60.

Though other major chart hits eluded her, Reese recorded prolifically – frequently in a jazz style, and frequently in a live club setting – for RCA and ABC through the ‘60s. She was a popular attraction on the Las Vegas Strip during this era.

Reese got her first acting break from casting director Reuben Cannon, who offered her a guest shot on the youth-oriented cop show “The Mod Squad” in 1968. Roles on such skeins as “Police Woman,” “The Rookies” and “McCloud” followed.

The first series to show off her tart style to full advantage was “Chico and the Man,” in which she portrayed star Albertson’s landlady. The hit NBC show reached an abrupt end with co-star Prinze’s suicide in January 1977.

She subsequently was a familiar player on such successful series as “Welcome Back, Kotter,” “The Love Boat,” “The A-Team” (on which she guested as star Mr. T’s mother), “Night Court,” “MacGyver,” “Designing Women” and “L.A. Law.”

However, it was “Touched by an Angel” that cemented her TV stardom. With co-star Roma Downey, Reese, portraying the acerbic, Cadillac-driving supervising angel Tess, ministered to the spiritual needs of her earthbound “search and rescue cases.” Reese also performed the show’s theme song, “Walk With You.”

After receiving its first-season cancellation reprieve, the unique family-oriented show maintained a devoted audience of fans for nearly a decade, and spawned the spinoff “Promised Land.” Following its final 2002-03 season, it enjoyed syndicated runs on Ion, Hallmark Channel, Up and Me-TV.

By the time “Touched by an Angel” moved into reruns, Reese, an ordained minister since the early ‘80s, was increasingly focused on her religious work, with TV and film appearances largely restricted to guest shots. She announced her retirement from performing in 2014.

Throughout her long career, Reese proved indomitable in the face of serious health crises. In 1979, she suffered a brain aneurysm during a taping of “The Tonight Show,” and weathered two brain surgeries. She collapsed on the set of “Touched by an Angel” in 2002, and later announced she suffered from type 2 diabetes.

Reese’s four marriages included a brief, annulled union with Mercer Ellington, son of jazz great Duke Ellington.

She leaves behind children James, Franklin, and Dominique, as well as husband Franklin Lett. She was predeceased by daughter Deloreese.

“On behalf of her husband, Franklin Lett, and all her friends and family, I share with you the news that our beloved Della Reese has passed away peacefully at her California home last evening surrounded by love. She was an incredible wife, mother, grandmother, friend, and pastor, as well as an award-winning actress and singer. Through her life and work she touched and inspired the lives of millions of people,” her costar Roma Downey confirmed to PEOPLE in an exclusive statement.

“She was a mother to me and I had the privilege of working with her side by side for so many years on Touched by an Angel. I know heaven has a brand new angel this day. Della Reese will be forever in our hearts. Rest in Peace, sweet angel. We love you.”

 

Source: CBS News and ABC News

By LeNora Millen            11-20-17

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HBCU.vc trains students become venture capitalists

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There are very few black and Latinx investors, with only 2 percent of investment team members at VC firms identifying as black and just 1 percent identifying as Latinx, according to the National Venture Capital Association. This is where HBCU.vc comes in.

HBCU.vc, a pivot from HBCU to Startup, aims to diversify the white, male-dominated world of venture capital. HBCU.vc’s program works with students attending historically black colleges and universities to teach them the fundamentals of venture capital and entrepreneurship.

The goal of the remote-based program is educate underserved communities about VC and to build the next generation of venture capitalists and entrepreneur.

“We haven’t seen racial diversity in venture capital and realize how it has a huge impact on the overall tech ecosystem,” HBCU.vc founder Hadiyah Mujhid told TechCrunch. “What currently happens is investors invest within their network — people they know. Those people then turn around and hire people they know within their network. There are these systematic structures in place that, by design, have locked out people of color.”

Through the program, students are paired with a VC mentor, work as interns at a venture capital firm and act as investors in their local college communities. The year-long program teaches students how to identify investment opportunities, conduct market research and make real funding decisions. HBCU.vc mentors include Lo Toney of Google Ventures, Carolina Huaranca of Kapor Capital, Monique Woodard of 500 Startups, Richard Kerby of Venrock and others.

HBCU.vc’s first batch includes 11 students from three universities: Fisk, Florida A&M and Prairie View A&M. Students were not required to have any type of past experience in the startup and venture capital ecosystems. Instead, Mujhid said she “wanted to see a natural curiosity and passion around learning the industry.”

For this academic school year, the students have internships at firms like Cross Culture Ventures, Indie.VC, Kapor Capital and 500 Startups. Their internships entail doing a lot of the work an associate VC would do, Mujhid said. That means researching startups and trends, providing analysis and bringing more startups into the firm’s portfolio.

“We seem them as an extension of the funds they’re working with in their local communities,” Mujhid said. “We want to empower them as mini VCs to support entrepreneurs.”

Down the road, the plan is to get to 100 associates. Next year, HBCU.vc is aiming to be at 12 universities with 40 students and then the following year get to 20 universities with 100 students.

“The model is going to change and we’re currently investigating what it looks like for us to have our own independent venture fund and work directly through our venture fund as associates,” Mujhid said.

The program, which is totally free to students, is currently supported via a $100,000 grant from an organization that Mujhid was not able to disclose to me. HBCU.vc, a non-profit organization, also accepts donations through its website.

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