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Archive Monthly Archives: December 2017

28-year-old blogger Michelle Schroeder-Gardner earns $100,000 a … – CNBC


28-year-old blogger Michelle Schroeder-Gardner earns $100,000 a …
Blogger Michelle Schroeder-Gardner of Making Sense of Cents paid off her student loans, quit her day job and now gets to do what she loves.

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Week 13 playoff rooting guide for the Cowboys fan – Blogging The Boys (blog)

Blogging The Boys (blog)

Week 13 playoff rooting guide for the Cowboys fan
Blogging The Boys (blog)
As we outlined a few days ago, the Dallas Cowboys chances of making the playoffs are not optimal. In fact, most publications put the Cowboys chances of making the playoffs at under 5%. So you're saying there's a chance? We'll bite. If you still believe
Five questions with Blogging Dirty: Minnesota Vikings vs Falcons in Week 13The Viking Age
Three Ways the Minnesota Vikings Could Exploit the Atlanta FalconsBlogging Dirty (blog)

all 412 news articles »

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Apps are getting millennials interested in money – but can they be trusted?

Young people are using fintech for financial help, but shunning big banks and embracing new businesses doesnt mean youre removing risk from the equation

Its official: the vast majority of millennials would rather go to the dentist than listen to anything that a bank wants to tell them about a new product or technology.

In fact, given that this demographic group came of age, found jobs and began trying to make ends meet in the midst of and the aftermath of the financial crisis, Im surprised that any millennials responded to a survey by confessing a preference for spending time with a banker than a dentist. Maybe they have exceptionally bad teeth?

But millennials still make money and still need financial services: someone has to offer them a way to address their lending, savings, credit and investment needs. Stuffing dollar bills in the mattress is so 19th century.

If millennials have completely lost faith in the conventional banking world after witnessing the events leading up to the crisis of 2008 and watching the banking bailout that followed they have found a refuge of sorts in the world of financial technology. Nearly twice as many Americans (of all ages) trust technology companies such as Google, PayPal and Amazon offering financial products, as trust big banks such as Bank of America, Citibank and JP Morgan Chase. And millennials would far rather deal with the offerings in increasingly crowded financial technology (aka fintech) space than with the banks.

And thats just fine: its easy to go bank free by opening an account at your local credit union and looking around at the ever-proliferating universe of financial apps for tools that you can use to supplement the credit unions bare-bones offerings. By some calculations, investment in fintech startups is growing at an annual rate of 46%. Some backers have called valuations completely insane and mutterings about bubbles are heard constantly.

But the fact that you shun the big banks and embrace these new businesses doesnt mean youre removing risk from the equation, however. Nor is the risk that youre taking simply the chance that some of these startups will go poof when/if any bubble deflates or pops.

Some of the most popular startups have been in the crowdfunding arena. Its hard to think of an investment concept that is more anti-bank than online portals allowing early investors the chance to make early investments in startup ideas, real estate ventures or loan portfolios. The problem is that its an area that is perilously full of misunderstanding and, yes, fraud.

Consider Oculus Rift, the virtual reality company that Facebook paid $2bn to acquire in 2014. The startup was crowdfunded on Kickstarter, and when its founders sold out, those early investors got zip or at most, a T-shirt or an early prototype of the headset. Certainly, they didnt get a cash return on the investment. Their cash investments actually were donations something that most of the angry millennials who felt short-changed clearly hadnt understood.

There also are a growing number of reports of outright fraud on the part of companies who promise either some kind of reward or a stake in the company, and then fail to deliver, according to Consumer Reports.

Heres what you need to remember before embracing fintech: each and every one of these businesses is precisely that: a business, seeking to make a profit from its users, in the same way that the big banks seek to make money from their customers. Whether they are disrupting the stock market by launching a crowdfunding platform or banks formal lending business by opening a peer-to-peer online company, the bottom line hasnt vanished from the equation.

The business models of the fintech startups may sound more altruistic, since they involve disrupting the inefficiencies of the existing financial system. They may prove to be more altruistic, in practice, since they do a better job of serving groups of customers, such as millennials, that the big banks have done a lousy job of serving, that dont care about or that are overlooked altogether. But their goal is to make money lots of money while doing it. Thats why these companies raised $7.4bn last year alone. And that means that you should be just as cautious of how you approach them as you are with any other company that seeks to make money from you as a customer.

Consider millennials liking for instant online credit, a market dominated by companies such as Affirm (backed by Khosla Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and Lightspeed Ventures) and Klarna AB, a Swedish unicorn with a valuation that tops $2.25bn (and Sequoias Mike Moritz on its board), dominate the landscape, alongside PayPal. It seems tailor-made for this demographic, a majority of whom dont have credit cards at all. These handy apps make it possible for them to make large purchases online, while Affirm, for instance, uses everything from social media signals to your zip code to assess your ability and willingness to repay what you owe on what its founder described as a digital charge card.

These companies will talk a lot about the services they provide, and certainly what millennials using Affirm and Klarna need most is affordable credit and the ability to build a credit history. What they can end up with, however, is high-cost debt that doesnt contribute to boosting their credit score to levels that will help them qualify for mortgages or other loans down the road. Neither company, as yet, reports the payment history of responsible borrowers to credit bureaus (though Affirm says it will move in that direction.) And the cost? Well, base interest rates start at 20% and climb to as high as 30% or more, more than double the rate on the average credit card. In many cases, you might be better off with a conventional credit card.

A rival, Splitit, offers consumers the option of dividing payments between existing credit cards. The borrower doesnt pay interest on the payments, but the bank makes up for this by collecting a higher fee from the merchant in exchange for the sale. Founder Alon Felt argues that over time the population of millennials without credit cards will diminish. In the meantime, we can help them make the best use of unused credit and prevent them from applying for credit in the form of store cards, which has a negative impact on their credit rating.

But even so, if you think youre getting rid of the big banks altogether, youll have to think again. Splitit, like many other fintech startups, received assistance from banks in getting launched, having been part of Citibanks accelerator program, and Felt himself has worked for banks, as have many other fintech executives.

Indeed, bankers from the biggest institutions including some who were involved in causing the events of 2008 are among those funding and organizing fintech innovation. Vikram Pandit, CEO of Citigroup during the crisis, is backing a peer-to-peer lending group called Orchard; John Mack, erstwhile CEO of Morgan Stanley, is supporting a rival model, Lending Club. BlackRock, the worlds largest asset management firm, is a big fintech investor. Lesser luminaries rank and file bankers who saw more potential to make money in fintech than in the contracting banking industry populate this universe, working alongside the geeks.

Look for more banks not only to provide startup funding and support to these startups, but to acquire them, too. That doesnt mean theyll become integral parts of those institutions, though: the big banks are smart enough to know that their potential millennial customers want no part of their brands.

Spains BBVA, and its 2014 acquisition of Portland, Oregon-based Simple, an online bank, are a perfect example of what may lie ahead. Simple still operates with a completely independent brand. Instead, the site is full of testimonials, such as Once a day I get a comment about how cool my @Simple card is. I tell them its only half as cool as the bank that gave it to me. You can find BBVAs name on the website, but only if you hunt for it, and you know to look for it. Dwolla, a digital payments company, teamed up with BBVA last year.

Millennials may want to flee banks, but embracing every disruptive fintech offering simply because it doesnt come from a bank would be foolish and potentially as risky as taking out a subprime mortgage with no money down.

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DeStorm Power’s message to politicians: Tune in

(CNN)For politicos profusely consuming the latest polls and presidential candidates spending countless hours on the trail, it is easy to forget that at this stage in the game, many Americans don’t even know who’s running for president. More than half of Americans didn’t even know the first GOP presidential debate had occurred, according to one poll.

“If everybody can sit down and ask the average 16, 17 or 18 year-old who’s running for president, they’ll say Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They wont be able to tell you the others,” the social media innovator and hip-hop YouTube star DeStorm Power told CNN.
And this is the bucket of cold water that Power wants to pour on the 2016 presidential candidates.
    “[Clinton and Trump] are the people that are reaching out to them through Instagram, Vine, YouTube and Twitter. It’s almost like a high school popularity contest,” Power said.
    The Baltimore rapper, comedian and Vine innovator, who rose to fame on YouTube, learned the power of social media firsthand. His videos have aired on outlets like MTV, BET, VH1 and have led Power to secure countless business deals, endorsements and hosting gigs on shows like BET’s “Punk’d.” Power has also performed with hip-hop artists like Snoop Dogg and Talib Kweli.
    “I think young people are tuning into us because we entertain them,” Power said. “Every young person has a phone in their hand. I think that’s where they get their entertainment from, so they scroll through things like Vine and YouTube and I think all the politicians need to get their asses in there.”
    He’s got a point. In politics, social media is “a force multiplier to whatever you already have going” CNN Political Commentator Van Jones said, and Clinton and Trump, who have been known to the American public decades before social media ever existed, are effectively utilizing outlets flooded with young people like Instagram and Twitter “to build on that massive headstart.”
    “Donald Trump has developed his natural talent for provocation and entertainment through reality television and he’s now applying that to social media,” Jones said. “Donald Trump is able to accomplish, with laser focus and business-like proficiency, what it takes Hillary Clinton a whole team to pull off, but what they have in common is they both recognize that it’s worth the effort.”
    And Power’s advice to candidates who don’t have a strong social media presence? “Get your numbers up!”
    Get a dose of Power’s humor in the video above and check out more from the series.

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    Did Jason Garrett just save his job with a blowout over the Redskins? – Blogging The Boys (blog)

    Blogging The Boys (blog)

    Did Jason Garrett just save his job with a blowout over the Redskins?
    Blogging The Boys (blog)
    Many will shake their heads and remind us about mediocre seasons, but he managed to keep the Cowboys competitive while enduring some substantial dead money hits. Over his first five years, the Cowboys averaged $20 million in dead money. Think about

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    Cowboys defense created a mirage for the offensive effort on Thursday night – Blogging The Boys (blog)

    Blogging The Boys (blog)

    Cowboys defense created a mirage for the offensive effort on Thursday night
    Blogging The Boys (blog)
    The Cowboys 38 points is great and made us feel good, but was it for real? by RJ Ochoa@rjochoa Dec 2, 2017, 3:00pm CST. tweet · share · pin · Rec. Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Much has been made about how ineffective the Dallas Cowboys had been

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    Jodie Foster on Wall Streets Rigged System, Mel Gibson, and Stars Right to Privacy

    The director of Money Monster, starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts, opens up about the financial crisis and why she will always support her controversial pal Mel Gibson.


    Almost five years to the date after releasing her last movie as director, two-time Oscar winner Jodie Foster returns behind the camera onMoney Monster, a Wall Street thriller starring George Clooney as an egocentric cable finance news host whos taken hostage on-air by a disgruntled young investor.

    Of course, even someone of Fosters caliber had a bit of a rough go the last time around.

    One of the most recognizable names in Hollywood thanks to a nearly five-decade career that began at age 3 and includes films like Taxi Driver, The Accused, The Silence of the Lambs, Panic Room, and Little Man Tate, her first foray as a director, Foster had to hold it down on the press tour for 2011sThe Beaverwhen the controversial personal troubles of her star Mel Gibson turned America off of the film en masse.

    Looking back now, Foster reflects on the public stand she took for her longtime friend. Ive known him for 20-something years, and hes someone that I really love and I really care about, she told The Daily Beast on a recent afternoon in Beverly Hills. I obviously cant condone his behaviorhis private behavior. What do I know about his private behavior? But Idoknow the man I know, who is an extraordinary artist. I know the experiences Ive had with him and thats really the only thing I can attest to.

    I think if someone you love is struggling, you dont disown them and run in the opposite direction, she added. I think you try to be compassionate, and try to understand their struggle. Try to help them.

    For her next directorial effort afterThe Beaver, Foster sought just the right project. She boardedMoney Monsterin 2012, choosing the story of a flawed and unlikeable male celebrity whose public ugliness is exposed as America watchesand whom the audience is then asked to give the chance to regain his humanity as the film progresses.

    Foster confirms the unintentional parallels between Gibson and herMoney Monsterantihero: And I have real feelings about whats public and privateand a real sense of loyalty to the people who are struggling, trying to survive a public life. I think you feel terribly alone, and I guess Im out there saying, Youre not alone. Whether its him or other people that have gone through similar situations.

    But Mel is an extraordinary director, and I have to say, I think hes the most loved actor Ive ever worked withnot just by me, by all the technicians and everybody whos worked with him, she added. Thats just the truth, and obviously we all have complicated truths that come with us.

    Money Monsterarrives after the Academy Awards triumph of another financial wake-up call to America, ParamountsThe Big Short, put the twisty legalities and deliberately confusing jargon of Wall Street on display to shocking effect. But rather than finger the real-life figures culpable for the nations financial instability, the script by Alan DiFiore, Jim Kouf, and Jamie Linden charts a more traditional fictional route through taut crime-thriller territory. Its more like, say, Inside Man, the 2006 hit Foster co-starred in for Spike Leeonly set against the chaotic backdrop of the country rebuilding itself after the housing crisis.

    The mortgage crisis was fresh in our minds, and a lot of regulation has happened since then to try to sort of stump up the tide, Foster said. Wall Street is really back to business as usual with these regulations, which have created shorter margins for people. So they have to find new creative ways to make more amounts of money because its harder to make money now.

    Thatswhere things get dangerous, she noted, and that was the inspiration for the plot of the movie. What are people going to have to do now that banks are closing, that the federal government has closed some of these loopholes? Where are they going to start pulling their money from?

    The system is engineered specifically and the rules are written by the very few people who could ever understand the rules, so that they could benefit from them. It is a rigged system. We all know that, and weve accepted that. Its a system that was engineered to create middlemen so that the middlemen could take money from both sides. Like scalpers! And at some point there will be an implosion, because they have to keep finding more margins of benefit.

    The incident that sparks working-class New Yorker Kyle Budwell (Jack OConnell) to sneak into the TV station where Lee Gates (Clooney) is broadcasting live to his audience of investment-hungry fans about a massive overnight loss of $800 million that trading fund Ibis Clear Capital blames on a glitch in their algorithm.

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    There have been a lot of glitches, said Foster. Knight Capital lost $440 million in 30 minutes, and then went bankrupt that day. And it was a glitch. They didnt find out for a very long time what happened. It took them yearsand they still dont know. They believe it was whats called a fat finger, that somebody pushed a button on a zero and left it on there too long.

    There was a crash not too long ago, a glitch crash that originated out of Chicago, and they still dont really understand it, she continued. Thats the problem. Technology has created these systems; weve created these computer systems and mathematical equations that are responding to each other. We dont control them, and now they are corresponding.

    Its no coincidence that the men of Money MonsterClooneys unwittingly complicit Gates, OConnells desperate Budwell, and Dominic West as the CEO of Ibis Capitalare the ones whose collective hubris and need to find self-value in money initiate ruin for everyone around them. Gatess saving grace is his producer Patty Fens (Julia Roberts), who stays behind as the station is hijacked by a gunman and helps guide Clooneys self-centered talking head toward something resembling heroism.

    Its a sad fact that all of these guys feel so bad about themselves, said Foster. I think thats an interesting part of the male psyche, that they are always looking for their value in other peoples eyesespecially the strong women that are disappointed by them. And in this film, we have three incredibly strong women that are dealing with babies, really.

    Foster also happens to be issuing her warning shot to Americas financial institutions in a climate of looming doom and gloom, thanks to an all-too real circus thats mutated into something stranger than fiction: Novembers presidential election.

    I couldnt make up whats happening right now! she laughed. I mean, itsabsurd. Its absolutely absurd. If I had put it in a movie they would have thought I was crazy. They would have said it was satire.

    Its a really interesting time in history. And its symptomatic, I think, of people being just mad. People are mad, and they dont even know why. They just know that they dont want it to be the way it was, meaning that they dont want the status quo, and they want things to change. They also have this thirst for entertainment. They expect to be entertained 24-7.

    Blame the never-ending news cycle that spits out figures like the fictional Gates to info-tain the nation every morning. Foster admits she was once much more of a newshound before the unrelenting stream of news became overwhelming.

    For the first five years of that 24-hour news cycle you go, This isfantastic. I can turn on the news any time! And after a while, you dont want any more news, she smiled. Foster considered the paradox of modern existence: interacting with just about anyone these days when you, like her, have chosen to live a life unglued from your screens, your devices, and your television sets.

    I dont really know whats going on, very much. Everybody else seems to. Like, Imsureyou saw that thing on YouTube But no! I dont know whats going on. I barely watch TV. Im never plugged in. Im not doing anything, thoughits not like Im getting a Nobel Prize for all the work Im doing in physics. Or reading, you know, Ulysses.

    How do these people have all the time to know the things that they know? She searched for the answer to her own question, and smiled. I think Im just not Im not a fact person. I dont really care about facts. I dont even really retain them and I find them anxious-making. I likeideas.

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    Friday Cat Blogging – 1 December 2017 – Mother Jones

    Mother Jones

    Friday Cat Blogging – 1 December 2017
    Mother Jones
    Last week I was looking out the window and noticed that the sun was shining brightly on my neighbor's bougainvillea plant. Then one of the cats walked by on the top of the fence. I went out with my camera and immediately realized that a picture of a

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    Bond Managers Who Can Go Anywhere May End Up in the Wrong Place

    Leon LaBreque, a financial adviser from Troy, Mich., was wowed back in 2011 when he heard the pitch for the Goldman Sachs Strategic Income Fund. It was a new kind of fixed-income portfolio whose managers had the freedom to buy just about anything. Along with bonds, they might bet on emerging-markets currencies or lend U.S. dollars to Japanese investors—and they could draw on the global expertise of Goldman Sachs. “The story was so compelling, and the people were so smart,” LaBreque says. “I thought, how could it not work?”

    He wasn’t the only person looking for this kind of fund, and Goldman Sachs wouldn’t be the only company to offer one. By the early 2010s, bonds had been in a decades-long bull market, and the Federal Reserve’s benchmark interest rate was near zero, with nowhere to go but up. Because bond prices fall as rates rise, a nasty turn in the U.S. bond market seemed inevitable to many. That made the idea of a fund with the flexibility to make other kinds of bets more appealing. “This portfolio has a shot at making money in any rate environment,” said Mike Swell, co-manager of the Goldman Sachs fund, in a December 2013 interview with Bloomberg. Over the next several years, many other mutual fund companies introduced “unconstrained” bond portfolios with a similar pitch.

    With strong initial returns, the Goldman Sachs fund grew to an impressive $26 billion in assets by 2014. But its performance deteriorated, the result of mistimed calls on interest rates and the strength of corporate credit. In 2014, for example, the managers had positioned the fund to take advantage of rising U.S. rates. Instead, rates fell sharply. Over the past three years, its annual average return has been slightly negative. LaBreque grew disillusioned and withdrew his clients’ money, part of a redemption wave that has cut the fund’s assets down to $6.6 billion.

    Other nontraditional bond funds have done better, returning an average of 2.45 percent annually over the past three years, according to Morningstar Inc. Many benefited from the continued rally in plain-vanilla U.S. corporate bonds, which also helped regular intermediate-term bond funds earn 2.19 percent per year. Over five years, nontraditional and intermediate-term funds are neck-and-neck, with an average return of 2.14 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively.

    Unconstrained funds will have a shot at pulling ahead if U.S. rates start a steady march upward, but there’s no guarantee a manager with such a broad mandate will time the shift correctly. Fidelity Investments—one of the biggest money managers, with $2.13 trillion in assets—says this is why it never opened an unconstrained fund. “One of our investment beliefs is that predicting interest rates is extremely challenging and that very few people have been able to do it consistently,” wrote spokeswoman Sophie Launay in an email.

    Rate forecasting “works if you have a crystal ball,” says Jeffrey Klingelhofer, one of the managers of the Thornburg Strategic Income Fund, which invests in a range of corporate securities but isn’t considered unconstrained. “But a lot of investors forget that none of us do, which we’ve been humbly reminded of time and again.”

    Swell acknowledges that the Goldman Sachs fund’s performance has been “lackluster,” but he remains committed to its go-anywhere style. Many bond funds, he says, have benefited from the “free money” the world’s central banks provided in the aftermath of the financial crisis, lifting everything, including Treasuries, mortgages, and corporate bonds. But as the Federal Reserve begins to return to a more normal policy, that era could be ending.

    Although Swell isn’t predicting when rates might swing in his favor, he says there’s likely to be more volatility and tougher times for assets that have done well up until now. “A lot of people have gotten rich being lazy long in credit,” he says, referring to investors who have done well by sticking to a bullish stance on bonds. Swell says the best chance to make money now is through trades that play off differences in currencies, interest rates, and yield curves around the world. “We think the more balls you have in the air, the better,” he says. “Diversification is key.”

    Michael Rosen, chief investment officer at Angeles Investment Advisors LLC in Santa Monica, Calif., remains skeptical. As a group, he says, unconstrained bond funds have yet to prove they can add value for investors. “They asked for fewer constraints so they could make bets and show how smart they are,” he says. “It turns out they are not that smart.”

      BOTTOM LINE – Unconstrained funds aim to deliver returns whether bond markets are rising or falling, but sometimes they miss out.

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      Will Ivanka’s role in the White House pay dividends for her business?

      (CNN)As the President got ready to sell his latest executive order to the American public, an overhaul of the H-1B skilled worker visa program, under his “Buy American, Hire American” slogan, Ivanka Trump appeared to be busy protecting the real emerald of the Trump family’s vast business empire: China.

      On April 6, hours before she and her husband dined with the Chinese President and his family, Ivanka’s company secured provisional approval for three new trademarks to sell her brand’s jewelry, bags and spa services in the world’s second-largest economy.
      Though there is no direct evidence linking her trademark approval to the dinner or any other meeting with the Chinese government, the story does draw attention to the fine line the Trump White House is walking when it comes to maintaining its family businesses.
        All the Trump family knows is how to make and close business deals. However, now that they are in politics — representing America on the world’s stage — they cannot use the White House to make money for the Trump family brand. And they certainly should avoid any appearance of impropriety.
        The trademarks are just the latest in a string of international trademarks the Trump family has secured since Donald Trump won the presidency. And despite all the boycotting efforts and attempts to curtail the sale of Ivanka’s brand, business is booming.
        The brand, which is still owned by Ivanka, who now also holds an official White House role, not only hit record sales this year, but saw its US imports, most of which came from China, increase 166% in 2016.
        According to China’s Trademark Office, Ivanka Trump Marks LLC has 16 registered trademarks in China and 32 pending applications ranging from cosmetics to leather handbags to clothes to spa and beauty services.
        Although not all the applications were filed after Trump won the White House, some were, including five filed last December after Trump’s electoral victory and another four earlier this year after Trump’s inauguration.
        Ivanka’s company said she did not sign off on the new trademark applications, adding that the trademarks are not “not necessarily an indication that the brand is planning to launch a category or a store in a specific territory.”
        However, all this creates the appearance that Ivanka is still intent on maintaining her business portfolio and potentially even pursuing lucrative business deals under the shadow of her father’s White House.
        We have to remember that despite divesting some of her assets and selling $36.7 million in assets to comply with ethics rules, Ivanka still owns her clothing and jewelry brand. And like her father, Ivanka retains her ownership role in her massive global business empire.
        Her lawyer, Jamie Gorelick noted that Ivanka resigned from running the business and put it in trust, adding, “Ivanka has had no involvement with trademark applications submitted by the business.”
        Unlike her father, Ivanka is subject to federal rules that prevent her from participating in matters in which she has a financial interest now that she works in the White House in an official capacity.
        Despite ethics experts raising red flags for months over conflicts of interest between the Trump presidency, his businesses and his family, the unprecedented and unfamiliar nature of Trump’s political landscape is proving to be too convenient for the Trumps, especially Ivanka.
        Now that she is serving in the White House in an unprecedented position, Ivanka is benefiting from loose or nonexistent accountability mechanisms.

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        After all, who wouldn’t want to do business with the President of the United States’ daughter, especially one who holds an office in the West Wing, and all the perks that come with that position?
        And her clothing line isn’t even the only asset of Ivanka’s that we need to worry about. There is also her father’s Trump International Hotel down the street from the White House, in which Ivanka is a multimillion dollar stakeholder, despite ethics experts urging her to stay away from the hotel while holding a government job.
        Will Ivanka Trump be an advocate for women’s rights, climate change or paid family leave? Or is she making it appear she is more interested in pursuing potential business opportunities?
        From what we’ve seen so far, it pays to be the President’s daughter.

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