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CFO: "The Deficit Matters, but Don’t Lose Sight of Other Priorities"

11/15/2016

CFO: "The Deficit Matters, but Don’t Lose Sight of Other Priorities"

. . . What should the Trump administration and Congress be doing? writes Philip G. Cohen, a retired vice president for tax and general tax Counsel for Unilever United States who is currently an associate professor of taxation at Pace University’s Lubin School of Business. There are, among other priorities, a need to focus on rebuilding our military and infrastructure, as well as creating good employment opportunities for the American people. Medicare and Social Security fiscal issues both need to be dealt with. These all require funding, and the deficit problem can’t simply be ignored long-term — even if it is politically expedient to do so. Politicians never want to tell us to drink the awful tasting medicine even if it will make the country better.

The Trump administration and Congress should be giving serious consideration to things like eliminating the wage cap on old age, survivors, and disability insurance. It should take a close look at notions that Social Security be fully taxed to wealthy recipients; that earnings of American companies outside the United States be taxed immediately, but at a somewhat lower rate than domestic source income; that all business income, not just C corporations, be subject to tax at the entity and owner level, but with some integration offset; that the loopholes in the anti-inversion rules be closed.

They also need to consider a value-added tax.  This does not mean that I’m espousing not cutting the corporate tax rate. I believe the corporate tax rate should be reduced — but responsibly, with offsetting revenue.

The foregoing ideas will be unpopular with many influential constituents, as will other revenue generators.  Are we, however, better off as a country if our political leaders use tricks like sequestration to ignore vital national priorities, play ostrich with respect to the national deficit, or promise voodoo economics that will allow everyone to enjoy tax cuts and at the same time all our problems will be magically solved? I don’t think so. The Trump administration and Congress must give serious attention to the issues we face, including the deficit. Taking the bad- tasting medicine will be good for the country in the long run.

Read more here.

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Pace University Scholars: the “Environmental Voice of Youth” will Save NY Harbor

11/14/2016

Pace University Scholars: the “Environmental Voice of Youth” will Save NY Harbor

From Digital Platforms to Mock Hearings, University-Level Education Comes to New York City Schools

NEW YORK CITY — Environmental abuse long ago obscured New York Harbor’s bragging rights as the world’s oyster capital, but middle and high school students are the force that can return that ecological luster back to New York City, according to scholars at Pace University in Manhattan.

With funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Pace University has launched the next phase of its Smart and Connected Communities program where “university faculty will bring to underserved city schools the research tools and field training to design a new future for New York Harbor,” according to Dr. Lauren Birney, a professor in the Pace School of Education, and principal investigator under the NSF grant.

“Our goal for city students is an educational experience usually confined to universities,” Birney said. “If the future of the harbor and the national urban environment are in the hands of the experts and decision makers of tomorrow, that means the environmental voice of youth today is essential. The time to begin their training is now.”

The new Pace initiative uses STEM-C – a cutting-edge curriculum of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math combined with Computing – as the organizing principle for a program of citizen science, ecological restoration and civic engagement. “New York Harbor is an excellent living classroom, but not accessible to every student,” said Birney. “With our online tools and our CCERS Digital Platform, students will conduct field monitoring expeditions, gather data using analog and digital instruments, develop independent research proposals, and broadcast and share their results in real-time – not only with other city students, but with students anywhere in the world.”

Transforming this technical information into a policy model for restoring the Harbor is another hallmark of the Pace program. “Students will also receive training at the hands of our best legal and policy experts,” said John Cronin, Pace’s senior fellow for environmental affairs in the Dyson College of Arts and Sciences. “And through innovative techniques such as virtual town halls and mock public hearings they will develop and present a student-generated vision and plan for restoring the Harbor.”

“All the marine waters of the city are held in a public trust belonging to the people, and that includes students,” said Jason Czarnezki, Associate Dean of Environmental Law Programs at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. “This well-founded, ancient principle of law is the centerpiece of a legal education that will empower students to claim the ecological inheritance that is the birthright of their community. This principle, combined with scientific, technical and computing skills, will make our students a potent force for the future of the urban environment.”

BACKGROUND

“A networked city is not just a grid of communications and sensors. It is a vision of city governments “engaging with citizens in acts of co-creation.” –Peter Hirshberg (Bollier, 2016 from the Aspen Institute, 2016).

This thought and overall vision continues to serve as our motto in creating opportunities for underserved students that may have never existed. We look to engage our youth in environmentally meaningful activities that are pertinent to their education. New York City middle school students are in desperate need of exposure to STEM industry fields, research and data collection at the Harbor’s edge and training on the use various technological innovations. This grant will create these opportunities for students, citizen scientists, STEM Industry professionals, research faculty and community members to work in unison on achieving a “smarter and more connected community”!

“Expanding Access and Deepening Engagement: Building an Open Source Digital Platform for Restoration-Based STEM Education in the Largest Public School System in the United States” NSF DRL 1643016/PI Lauren Birney, Director of the STEM Collaboratory NYC, Pace University

Principals

The CCERS leadership team consists of Samuel Janis, Program Manager Billion Oyster Project Schools and Citizen Science, Jonathan Hill, Dean of Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems, Robert Newton, Research Scientist at Columbia Lamont Doherty Observatory, Meghan Groome, Senior Vice President of Education at the New York Academy of Sciences, Nancy Woods, Director of Technology and Engineering at the NYCDOE, Peter Malinowski, President Billion Oyster Project and Murray Fisher, President of the New York Harbor Foundation and is led by Principal Investigator Dr. Lauren Birney, Assistant Professor and Director of the STEM Collaboratory NYC Pace University.

Project Goal

The foundational goal of the Curriculum and Community Enterprise for Restoration Science (CCERS) model is to build a “Smart and Connected Community” of students, educators, scientists, and engaged community members all working to restore New York Harbor and improve the quality of STEM-C education and long-term outcomes in low-income urban public schools. To do this, we are building an open source educational-scientific web platform which can be replicated anywhere. The connectivity provided by this technology allows communication, education, business, STEM industry professional to work seamlessly together while expanding their research on a global scale.

The CCERS Digital Platform

The CCERS Digital Platform, co-developed with Fearless Solutions, is more than just a website for student-led citizen science, citizen policymaking, and teacher-to-teacher curriculum sharing. The CCERS supported Billion Oyster Project schools web platform is a digital space for students to conduct field monitoring expeditions, gather data using both analog and digital instruments, analyze results using multivariate statistics and GIS, develop independent research proposals, broadcast, and share results in real-time with the broader NY Harbor/CCERS community of scientists, STEM professionals, and volunteers. The digital platform is also a replicable model of restoration based science education for other settings and other species, with its underlying technology and source code freely available through standard open source licensing agreements.https://platform.bop.nyc/

CCERS – Curriculum and Community Enterprise for Restoration Science

This proposal focuses upon the expansion of the existing “Curriculum and Community Enterprise for the Restoration of New York Harbor in New York City Public Schools” NSF DRL 1440869. This project is recognized locally as “Curriculum and Community Enterprise for Restoration Science,” or CCERS. CCERS is a comprehensive model of ecological restoration based STEM education for urban public school students. Following an accelerated rollout, CCERS is now being implemented in 23 Title 1 funded NYC Department of Education middle schools, led by two cohorts of 33 teachers, serving more than 3000 students in total. Initial results and baseline data suggest that the CCERS model, with the Billion Oyster Project (BOP) as its local restoration ecology-based STEM curriculum, is having profound impacts on students, teachers, school leaders, and the broader community of CCERS participants and stakeholders. Students and teachers report being receptive to the CCERS model and deeply engaged in the initial phase of curriculum development, citizen science data collection, and student-centered STEM learning.

References:

http://csreports.aspeninstitute.org/documents/CityAsPlatform.pdf

Funding for these Projects has been provided by the National Science Foundation Education and Human Resources (EHR) DRL 1440869 and DRL 1643016.

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U.S. News: "Law Schools Experiment With Partially Online Learning"

11/14/2016

U.S. News: "Law Schools Experiment With Partially Online Learning"

. . . Some programs also have courses taught primarily online. Jason Czarnezki, associate dean and executive director of environmental law programs at Pace University's law school, plans to co-teach one next semester with Michael Pappas, a University of Maryland law professor, bringing renowned environmental law experts from around the world to students' computer screens to discuss climate change.

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Houston Chronicle: "Coal, renewables and the election"

11/14/2016

Houston Chronicle: "Coal, renewables and the election"

It might be safe to assume that Donald Trump's core voter base - older white men - are not fans of renewable energy or the initiatives that local, state and federal governments have launched to support it.

But after Trump's stunning victory on Tuesday, energy policy analyst Karl Rabago unearthed data to back that up. In 2003, just after Texas implemented a deregulated energy market to create competition among electricity providers, a Colorado consulting firm surveyed Texas residents and their feelings about renewable energy. And there was one group that was staunchly against it: 55 to 65 year-old white men, the demographic that largely carried Trump to victory. While a future Trump administration can do a lot to dismantle clean energy initiatives, public support of renewables is likely to remain strong, added Rabago, executive director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center at Pace University in White Plains, N.Y.

Read more here.

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Daily News: "Trump supporters continue threatening opponents, after mogul presses for unity following divisive campaign"

11/10/2016

Daily News: "Trump supporters continue threatening opponents, after mogul presses for unity following divisive campaign"

President-elect Donald Trump may have used his victory speech early Wednesday to reassure a fragile, shocked and divided nation that he would unite it, but many of his key supporters appeared to have not received the memo.

... David Caputo, president emeritus and professor of Political Science at Pace University, added that historically, "individuals often behave differently after they assume the presidency," but that seems unlikely for Trump.

"His most partisan supporters will expect him to pursue his opponents. If he can resist that and not give in to his usual behavior, he could make some progress … but is he able to do that?"

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/trump-backers-threatening-foes-mogul-vows-unity-article-1.2866567

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Los Angeles Times: "Mergers create hotel giants, but few are complaining"

11/08/2016

Los Angeles Times: "Mergers create hotel giants, but few are complaining"

On Century Boulevard near Los Angeles International Airport, travelers can pick among 14 hotels, ranging from budget lodging to a stylish three-diamond inn.

In reality, the choices are more limited.

All the hotels clustered on the busy thoroughfare are owned, managed or licensed by just six companies, led by Marriott International Inc., the world’s largest hotel company after its recent $13-billion takeover of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc.

Nationwide, nearly half of the 53,400 hotels are linked to the six hotel giants — Marriott, Hilton Worldwide, Intercontinental, Wyndham Worldwide, Choice Hotels and Best Western Hotels & Resorts.

Despite a few murmurs of concern in the corporate travel world, Marriott swallowed Starwood with no opposition from antitrust watchdogs around the world. And the dominance of a handful of hotel companies hasn’t sparked the kind of protest seen in the airline, telecom, bank and insurance industries.

“It hasn’t been a top concern until now,” said Diana Moss, president of the American Antitrust Institute, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit think tank that focuses on competition and consumer choice.

The institute, which has opposed several airline mergers on antitrust grounds, is looking more closely at the increasing merger activity in the hotel industry.

“Hotels tend to fly under the radar,” Moss said. “They don’t get a lot of attention.”

The merger of Marriott and Starwood — creating a hotel behemoth with 5,800 hotels in more than 100 countries — was just the latest hotel deal to concentrate the industry in the last few years.

In 2015 alone, France’s AccorHotels bought the Toronto-based parent company of the luxury Fairmont, Raffles and Swissotel brands for $2.7 billion; Intercontinental Hotels Group acquired Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants for $430 million; Marriott acquired Delta Hotels & Resorts for $135 million; and a Wyndham Worldwide subsidiary acquired Dolce Hotels & Resorts for $57 million.

Before the Marriott and Starwood deal, the series of acquisitions did little to reduce competition in the hotel industry, but the latest transaction might be “a game changer,” according a report by CWT Solutions Group, a consultant to the travel industry.

“With daily room rates and occupancy levels at all-time highs in many major markets, basic economics dictate that less competition will only lead to even higher prices,” the report said.

In Los Angeles, Marriott and Starwood account for nearly half of corporate travel spending, among the highest percentages in major market where those companies operate, CWT said.

Marriott spokeswoman Felicia McLemore rejected suggestions that the company’s greater girth cuts into the choices available to travelers.

“The lodging industry continues to be very fragmented compared to other travel-related businesses, such as airlines, with robust competition from numerous lodging brand companies and independent operators,” she said.

Some hotel analysts predict little fallout from the increasing clout of the top six hotel companies. 

Among the reasons: A big share of those brand hotels are simply licensed to carry a franchise name but are owned or managed by local hoteliers, who can set the nightly rates based on local demands.

Also, most major hotel giants oversee a range of brands, from cut-rate to high-end, giving consumers more options.

“The industry is very segmented,” said Andrew Coggins, a management professor at New York’s Pace University. “If you look at any big hotel company, they manage different brands. The brands appeal to different segments of the market.”

For example, the New Yorker, a Wyndham hotel in Manhattan, offers rooms for more than $400 a night. Meanwhile, the Travelodge in Jersey City, N.J. — another Wyndham hotel — rents rooms for as little as $70 a night.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hotel-giants-20161105-story.html

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The Wall Street Journal: "Donald Trump’s Loyal Numbers Man"

11/08/2016

The Wall Street Journal: "Donald Trump’s Loyal Numbers Man"

Shortly after he appeared on an episode of the his boss’s reality television show, “The Apprentice,” Trump Organization finance chief Allen Weisselberg took a call from an old college buddy.

“That was your 15 minutes of fame,” said his friend, Marty Weinbaum, an accountant in Florida. The two of them chuckled.

Mr. Weisselberg’s quarter hour of stardom seems destined to stretch on, regardless of the Nov. 8 presidential election.

As CFO, Mr. Weisselberg maintains a coveted spot as one of Donald Trump’s longtime confidants. That has tied him to some of his boss’s most sensitive dealings.

When the New York attorney general’s office draws up a witness list as it investigates payments and a political donation made by The Donald J. Trump Foundation, Mr. Weisselberg will likely be on it, said a person familiar with the situation. The 69-year-old Brooklyn native is also treasurer of the troubled nonprofit.

In 2000, Mr. Weisselberg was named a vice president at Mr. Trump’s Atlantic City, N.J. casino company following an accounting scandal that resulted in it eventually agreeing to a Securities and Exchange Commission cease-and-desist order.

And he served on the board of at the Miss Universe Organization, the pageant on which Mr. Trump lavished attention, after buying it in 1996. Although the Trump Organization sold it last year, the candidate’s spat with a former winner was front-page news.

Insiders call Mr. Weisselberg key to the enterprise. “He plays an integral part in the Trump Organization’s growth and continued financial success,” wrote Ivanka Trump in an emailed statement. “He is deeply passionate, fiercely loyal and has stood alongside my father and our family for over [three] decades.”

Mr. Weisselberg declined to be interviewed for this article.

Despite Mr. Weisselberg’s position, he keeps an under-the-radar profile, partly a function of what experts call the Trump Organization’s “command-and-control” leadership culture, with Mr. Trump on top.

“Even though he hires very good people, they are comfortable taking their lead from him,” said William Klepper, a management professor at Columbia Business School. Command-and-control leaders like Mr. Trump promote themselves and eschew consensus-building, he said.

Former Trump employees say Mr. Weisselberg fades into the background. “He fits in with the wallpaper,” said one of them. “That’s how he’s survived.”

Mr. Weisselberg’s reticence is nevertheless unusual, with Mr. Trump campaigning largely on his business bonafides. The CFO remains unknown to even close Trump associates, despite his decadeslong service.

“I don’t even recall the name Allen Weisselberg, and don’t believe we ever spoke or met,” wrote Andrew Beal, head of Beal Financial Corp., in an email. Mr. Beal’s Dallas bank once held $486 million in liens on casinos owned by Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., a publicly traded company that in 2009 filed for bankruptcy. He was named to Mr. Trump’s economic advisory team in August.

Mr. Weisselberg is a contrast to his boss. He is quiet and, say former colleagues, eats salads and tuna sandwiches in the lunchroom or at his desk in a 26th floor office overlooking Madison Avenue. Mr. Weisselberg has been married to the same woman, Hilary, for 46 years.

He is also an outlier among modern CFOs, who are strategic partners with their bosses, communicating with bankers, suppliers and employees. “No big transaction is going to happen without the other party being comfortable with the CFO,” said Jack McCullough, founder of the CFO Leadership Council, a network of financial professionals.

Instead, Mr. Weisselberg is a throwback to when they acted as functionaries. At a business meeting last year, Mr. Trump reflexively solicited his CFO for his opinion.

“Isn’t that right, Allen?” Mr. Trump asked.

“One thousand percent,” Mr. Weisselberg responded.

One former employee used to joke about the symbiotic relationship, “If Donald had a cold, he [Allen] would sneeze.”

Mr. Weisselberg performs due diligence on properties, reviews leases on asset acquisitions, and deals with real-estate firms that might be interested in marketing a property using the Trump name.

However, Mr. Weisselberg seldom signs checks on behalf of the Trump Organization above a certain amount, saving those for Mr. Trump, a former colleague said. The CEO is wont to withhold final payment to contractors whose work he is dissatisfied with, according to former employees.

Many of Mr. Trump’s personal transactions are handled by Mr. Weisselberg, including payment of household expenses, as well as the purchases of boats or planes, said an ex-Trump executive. He also dealt with Mr. Trump’s stockbroker, the late Bear Stearns Cos. Chairman Alan “Ace” Greenberg.

Allen Howard Weisselberg attended Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn where he served on the student patrol, according to the 1965 yearbook. His future occupation: accountant.

He graduated from Pace College, now Pace University, in 1970 with an accounting degree.

Mr. Weisselberg started off working for Mr. Trump’s father, Fred, and by the late 1980s was controller of the Trump Organization. In this role Mr. Weisselberg worked under CFO Stephen Bollenbach, who was hired in 1990.

Read more: http://blogs.wsj.com/cfo/2016/11/05/donald-trumps-loyal-numbers-man/

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Daily News: "LOVETT: Donald Trump interested in keeping Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara on the job if he wins election"

11/08/2016

Daily News: "LOVETT: Donald Trump interested in keeping Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara on the job if he wins election"

ALBANY — Donald Trump, if he wins the election on Tuesday, is seriously considering asking crusading Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara to stay on, a senior campaign official told the Daily News.

"He has a very high regard for him," the official said. "Obviously it's caught his attention what (Bharara's) done in New York. It's the same approach Mr. Trump would like to bring to Washington."

Bharara, since being appointed by President Obama in 2009, has made public corruption a key focus, bringing down elected officials from both parties, including former state Assembly Democratic Speaker Sheldon Silver and ex-state Senate GOP Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

He currently has ongoing investigations into the administrations of Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio.

The next president will have to decide whether to keep or replace the current crop of U.S. attorneys across the country.

"Mr. Trump is seriously considering it and has thought about it ... but you don't make those decisions until you know you have the authority to do it," the Trump official said of asking Bharara to stay.

Trump's Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, demurred when asked directly in April by the News what she thought about Bharara's performance and whether she would keep him on.

While Bharara has said publicly that he loves his job, he has not indicated whether he wants to stay on under the next president.

But some political insiders question whether Bharara will stick around — or even have the chance. With probes into the Clinton Foundation and her emails at the State Department, Clinton, if elected, would likely clean house in the Justice Department like her husband, Bill, did when he became president.

Others agree he's likely gone, but say it's more because it's time.

"He's been there eight years; that's a long tenure for a U.S. attorney," said former federal prosecutor Bradley Simon. "Whoever comes in is going to appoint their own person. I don't think he'll be replaced because people are not happy with him. Incoming presidents typically appoint their own people."

Pace Law School professor Bennett Gershman agrees.

"It's customary to pick your own people," he said.

Meanwhile, the controversy over the last-minute announcement that the FBI probe into Clinton's emails is being reopened coupled with the release with days to go before the elections of the files regarding Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich has some political and legal insiders saying it could fairly or unfairly taint federal probes, including Bharara's into the Cuomo and de Blasio administrations.

"You have to view everything now through a political lens," said one political operative.

Gershman said that in announcing the reopening the investigation of Clinton's emails less than than two weeks before Election Day, FBI Director James Comey violated a policy of many prosecutors of not interfering, or giving the appearance of interference, with an election.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/lovett-trump-bharara-job-wins-election-article-1.2861009

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San Francisco Chronicle: "Clinton or Trump? What to watch for as election results roll in"

11/08/2016

San Francisco Chronicle: "Clinton or Trump? What to watch for as election results roll in"

One of the longest and nastiest presidential election campaigns in memory ends Tuesday night, with Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump each looking to win a four-year, all-expenses-paid stay at the White House.

But even before the first polls close at 4 p.m. Pacific time, it’s clear what the candidates need to do and what indications to watch for through the night to see whether Trump or Clinton is on track for victory.

For Clinton, the key is her blue firewall of six swing states: Colorado, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. Those states, which have a recent history of voting Democratic, would combine with solidly Democratic states like California and New York to give the former secretary of state just more than the 270 electoral votes she needs to become president.

But if Trump can crack that firewall by stealing one or more of those swing states, election night becomes much messier for Clinton, who then will have to win a toss-up state like Nevada, North Carolina or Florida.

Trump, though, has a narrower path to victory. He has to not only hold all the GOP-leaning states, but also virtually sweep the close races.

“Trump has to win all the battleground states,” said Jack Citrin, who runs UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies. “It would help if he could grab a state not thought to be close.”

But if Clinton can win traditionally Republican states like Arizona, Utah and possibly even Texas, “we’re looking at a landslide,” he said.

Viewers should watch for any early signs that either Clinton or Trump is doing worse than expected in their targeted states because, in elections, bad news tends to be contagious.

Here’s what to look for as the polls close across the United States. All times are Pacific Standard Time.

Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
4 p.m.: Virginia is the first battleground state to close. It was trending Democratic even before Clinton picked Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate. Democratic strength is in the cities and the Washington, D.C., suburbs, which tend to report their votes late.

While Indiana and Kentucky are Trump territory, they can give an early look at the evening’s trend, said David A. Caputo, a political science professor at Pace University in New York.

“People should look to see if there’s a surge in support for Trump,” he said. “In Indiana, if (Democratic Senate candidate) Evan Bayh is close or winning, that’s good news for Clinton.”

Read more: http://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/Clinton-or-Trump-What-to-watch-for-as-election-10599642.php

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Wall Street Journal: "Raising a Trilingual Child"

11/02/2016

Wall Street Journal: "Raising a Trilingual Child"

The Striuli family is trilingual. Pilar Guzman, foreground, usually speaks Spanish with her daughters, including 7-year-old Maite, foreground right. Stefano Striuli, center, usually speaks Italian with the girls, including 10-year-old Letizia, background, right. Photo: Maura Friedman for The Wall Street Journal

... Before elementary school age, children usually can learn a second, third or even fourth language without much formal instruction, says Xiao-lei Wang, acting dean at the School of Education, at Pace University, in New York City, and author of a book, “Growing Up With Three Languages.” In many trilingual households, the unwritten rule is each parent speaks only one language to the children and encourages the children to reply only in that language, she says.

Read more here.

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