News

California City Files Lawsuit Against Chevron, Others For Climate Damages

deSmog - 2 hours 6 min ago
Chevron logo on gas truck

The city of Richmond, California is the home of oil giant Chevron’s domestic headquarters. It also happen to be the ninth city in the United States to file a lawsuit against fossil fuel companies for their contributions to global climate change.

The lawsuit filed by the city lists Chevron as the lead defendant, but 28 other oil, gas, and coal companies are listed in the suit as co-defendants. Richmond joins eight other municipalities in the United States in filing similar climate-related charges against fossil fuel companies. All but one of the communities are in the state of California.

Tags: chevronOil CompanylawsuitliabilityLegalCorporateNewsCurrent EventsrefineryfireTom ButtMayorRichmondcaliforniaclimate changeglobal warmingsea level rise
Categories: News

Rail Workers Acquitted in Trial on Deadly Lac-Mégantic Oil Train Disaster

deSmog - 2 hours 48 min ago
Aerial view of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, after the oil train explosion and fires

The train engineer and two additional rail workers who faced charges for the deadly July 2013 oil train accident in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, were acquitted on Friday after the jury deliberated for nine days. If convicted of all charges, they potentially faced life in prison. 

The end of the trial of these three employees for their role in the Canadian oil train disaster that resulted in 47 deaths and the destruction of much of downtown Lac-Mégantic appears to have brought some closure to residents of the still-recovering town — although most are still waiting for justice.

As the trial began, the BBC reported the sentiments of Lac-Mégantic resident Jean Paradis, who lost three friends in the accident and thought the wrong people were on trial.

Tags: Lac-MeganticBomb TrainsBakkenoil by rail
Categories: News

How to investigate companies found in the Offshore Leaks Database

Global Muckracker - 5 hours 41 min ago

This is the final of a three-part series on ways to search our Offshore Leaks Database that now includes more than 680,000 entities from 55 secrecy jurisdictions. The first installment was How to search the Offshore Leaks Database by location. The second looked at the networks and metadata in the database.

The Offshore Leaks Database is a starting point for investigating activities offshore. ICIJ has published data on more than 680,000 entities as well as 600,000 directors and shareholders. More data will be added in the coming weeks. (Sign-up to make sure you’re the first to know!) Yet, in order to to investigate comprehensively you might need to do research outside the database.

ICIJ partners often run matches on the data in order to find interesting leads. For example, crossing a list of EU current and former commissioners with the Bahamas Leaks data led us to the undisclosed Bahamian company of the EU’s former commissioner for competition policy, Neelie Kroes.

Former EU commissioner Neelie Kroes i Photo: AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert Former EU commissioner Neelie Kroes 1. Download and reference the data

One way to search further is to download the data from the database, then cross reference it with other lists such as the Forbes 500 list or a list of elected officials, using tools such Open Refine or Excel’s Fuzzy Lookup add-on (available only for the Microsoft version of Excel).

This will show you which names appear in both the list you selected and the Offshore Leaks Database. Those tools also compare series of characters to find names that are similar but not exactly the same. It would identify as similar “John Doe,” “John R. Doe” and “Doe, John” for example, a handy feature given names can sometimes be written differently or be misspelled.

This will show you which names appear in both the list you selected and the Offshore Leaks Database. Those tools also compare series of characters to find names that are similar but not exactly the same. It would identify as similar “John Doe,” “John R. Doe” and “Doe, John” for example, a handy feature given names can sometimes be written differently or be misspelled.

Related articles 2. Check for false positives

There could, of course, lead to false positives, meaning an individual or company with the same name but that is not, after verification, the same company or person. The more common the name – Maria Rivera for example – the more likely it is that the director or shareholder you have spotted is not the person you were looking for.

In order to check those results you can go back to the Offshore Leaks database and search for that name. That way, you will find other companies that person is connected to and also expand the nodes connected to those companies by double clicking on them.

By clicking on this orange “node” you are able to see all of the connections a person has in the data. The Duchy of Lancaster - Node from Offshore Leaks Database

Are the other shareholders and directors family members? Can we link them to the person we are searching for using external sources such as news articles or corporate websites?

3. Get more information from company registries

You might also want to use company registries to buy information. The Aruba, Bahamas or Malta registries for example allow you to download basic documentation on companies such as incorporation forms or notices from the registries for a fee. Those documents might give you information that is not available in the Offshore Leaks database, which only makes structured data available.

Here is a summary of what you can get from a few online corporate registries:

Happy searching! As always, don’t forget to tell us what you find in the data.

And don’t forget, ICIJ believes this data should be publicly-available, and we need your support to keep it that way.

Make a donation and help us keep it free, online and accessible.

The post How to investigate companies found in the Offshore Leaks Database appeared first on ICIJ.

Categories: News

Albany Anarchists, Radicals Stand in Solidarity with J20 Defendants at Benefit

Anarchist News - 5 hours 43 min ago

via love and rage media

by Black Cat Connolly / Love and Rage – NY

ALBANY – The Albany anarchist and radical community came out en mass to celebrate and support J20 defendants at a benefit show thrown at community education space The Albany Free School in the city’s Mansion District. The event put on by “friendly neighborhood anarchists,” featured over a dozen bands from around the capital region, vegan pizza sourced and catered by Albany Food Not Bombs, and a raffle with anarchist themed prizes donated by groups such as It’s Going Down and AK Press.

Preceding the benefit show, J20 defendant George C. and Defend J20 Resistance participant Betty R. were able to commandeer a speaking slot at the Women’s March to educate the largely liberal crowd about the actions and experiences of J20 defendants. In an inspiring speech that took a decidedly different tone than those given by the politicians and profiteers slated to speak, George and Betty directly challenged the systems of power that enable the abuses experienced by J20 defendants.

anarchistpizza.jpg

George began by informing the march-goers about the extra-legal punishment experienced by those facing unlawful prosecution by the state, “I think it is important to understand the process is part of the punishment. The psychological toll of fearing prison and constantly having to go to DC for court. The strain this has had on people’s friends, family, and relationships. People have lost their jobs; students have run into trouble with their schools. I know some folks who have even attempted suicide in the past year.”

20180120_131659Betty re-enforced the need to stand in solidarity with all J20 defendants, “Even if you’re the type of person to shed tears for a broken bank window, you should be able to find it within yourself to stand in solidarity with each and every J20 defendant and against these egregious charges.”

The speakers did not hesitate to confront the oppressive power and authority that democracy and the electoral system perpetuate. As George concluded: “I want to make the point that this isn’t just about Trump. This is about presidency itself; presidency is a very real and serious obstacle towards us living in a better, freer world. If we want to stand up for ourselves and for each other. If we want to fight against the discrimination or oppression of people based on their race, gender, sexuality, and class. If we want to live in a world where we aren’t being brutalized by the police, the courts, prisons and the monetary system. We need to see fundamental change in the society we live in. And that kind of change isn’t going to come through, Trump, Obama, Bernie Sanders, the Mayor of Albany or anyone like them. That change can only come through us: the people.”

After the more somber task of reliving the oppressive actions of the state at J20, more celebratory festivities commenced at The Albany Free School. The lineup of bands spanned scenes and genres in a true show of community solidarity. The mood felt joyous and the large crowd diverse as anarchists and radical activists mingled with more adventurous women’s march participants, neighborhood residents, and groups of children running about.

j20solidarity2.jpg

Adam B., who helped organize Food Not Bombs participation in the event, was pleased with the turnout, “I’m really happy about how much of the community came out in support. This event is an important demonstration of praxis, linking revolutionary struggle with community support and mutual aid. This would not have been possible without The Free School, Albany Food Not Bombs, and local anarchists and other community activists working together.”

Sets alternated between large rooms upstairs and downstairs, while a literature table with large collection of radical and anarchist zines kept people busy between bands. The show was highlighted by performances from Modern Psychics (whose member helped organize the event), Prison, and Hate Club. Other performers included Tall Ass Matt, Allyson Smith, Drive Me Home Please, Hospital Corner, El Kennedy, Triya Love, Nxnes, Utah, and Illiptical and Solour-T. All told, the event saw well over 100 attendees and raised more than $1300 for J20 defendants and other local radical organizations, while accomplishing many of the goals the organizers intended to achieve.

j20solidarity3.jpg

“This event was intended to help bring people together from different political backgrounds, whether it was human rights, animal rights, environmentalism, or anti-oppression oriented,” said Dave G. one of the organizers of the event. “We wanted people to broaden their scope and realize another world is possible.”

Black Cat Connolly is an anarchist organizer and member of the Albany General Defense Committee of the Upstate IWW GMB, he can be reached at black_cat_connolly@riseup.net.

Tags: j20anarchists in troublealbanycategory: Actions
Categories: News

Croatia: Zagreb Anarchist Bookfair 2018

Anarchist News - 5 hours 51 min ago

via contra info

received 1/22/18

The fourteenth Zagreb Anarchist Bookfair will take place in Zagreb from April 6th to April 8th, 2018. The bookfair will take place in AKC Medika, Pierottijeva 11.

Anarchist Bookfair in Zagreb (ASK – Anarhisticki sajam knjiga) is annual anarchist event and first eleven bookfairs went well, and we hope to bring in more and more people every year as participants, publishers, groups, projects – whoever is interested in what the bookfair has to offer.

For discussion part everything is open, as every year, so all suggestions, ideas, etc are welcome, as well as texts that you find interesting for further debate.

ASK takes place in Zagreb every spring, as a local resource for anarchist and libertarian books and other publications. We also aim to open discussion on subjects that are important for the anarchist movement, or for our local community.

The idea for such a bookfair is not new, but is based on the positive experience of other Anarchist Bookfairs. In many different situations, these bookfairs have proven to be important events and meeting places on both local and international levels.
This is why we need your help – come and support this event with solidarity and participation!

If you can’t come to our bookfair, you can consider sending some free publications, posters and other material. Also, you can consider sending books and other publications for sale, we will organise stall for all of you that can’t come, but would like to present your work at the bookfair. Contact us at anarhisticki.sajam.knjiga@gmail.com about details, address to send stuff to, etc.

Participation

To help us organize the Bookfair and finish the program on time, we need you to confirm your participation soon as possible. Our e-mail address is: anarhisticki.sajam.knjiga@gmail.com

Get in touch and let us know in which way you would like to participate. Here are a few questions, and we welcome any additional information.

Also, let us know if you need accommodation. There are a few alternatives, but we need all the details soon as possible.

Some of the details that we need from you:

1. Questions for all guests coming from outside Zagreb:

– how you want to participate?
– would you like to do presentation, workshop or discussion at bookfair?
– do you need help with accommodation (Free sleeping places are limited)

2. If you would like a stall:

– how big of a stall do you need?
– do you need help at your stall?
– can you help with the costs of the Bookfair? (This is not a condition to have a stall, stalls are free.)
– we need some basic information about you (contact, what books/publishers you distribute [not list, just short info]…)

See program of the bookfair (coming soon!)

For more information:
web: www.ask-zagreb.org
e-mail: anarhisticki.sajam.knjiga@gmail.com

Tags: CroatiaAnarchist bookfairzagreb anarchist bookfaircategory: International
Categories: News

Gaza Residents Fear Impact of US Cuts to UN Aid

Truth Out - 7 hours 33 min ago

The Trump administration is withholding $65 million in aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees and reneging on a pledge of $45 million in emergency food aid. This puts millions of Palestinian in peril, as many depend on the agency for access to food, medicine, education and jobs.

 Fadi O. Al-Naji)Adham al-Ghora is among millions of Palestinians that depend on the UN Relief and Works Agency. (Photo: Fadi O. Al-Naji)

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Gaza -- Adham al-Ghora fears for his ill wife if President Trump does not reverse his deep cut in funding for the United Nations agency that supports Palestinian refugees. She suffers from diabetes and hypertension, and depends on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) for her medicine.

''I can't imagine life without receiving aid from UNRWA. I'm not even able to afford taking her to the hospital,'' al-Ghora told Truthout.

The US Department of State declared this month it is withholding $65 million out of $125 million earmarked for the UN agency. In addition, the government announced it is reneging on a pledge to UNRWA made in December for $45 million to fund emergency food aid. In a letter, the department said additional donations would be contingent on major changes by UNRWA -- although what it wants specifically was not stated. In a series of tweets, Trump said: "We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect."

UNRWA assists more than 5 million Palestinian refugees in the occupied territories (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip), Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. They mostly are the descendants of about 750,000 Palestinians forced to flee their homes during the 1948 war that followed the UN partition of what had long been Palestine, to make way for the creation of Israel. As many as an additional 325,000 refugees were created when Israel invaded and occupied the West Bank in 1967.

According to UNRWA, it provides food assistance to almost 70 percent of refugees in Gaza and more than 50 percent of the total population. When walking down Gaza streets, the UN flag is seen fluttering everywhere, over clinics, schools and food-ration distribution centers. In recent months, the economic crisis caused by Israel's decade-long blockade has deepened further due to the feud between Fatah, the party that controls the Palestinian Authority (PA) and administers the West Bank, and Hamas, which governs Gaza. President Mahmoud Abbas, a Fatah member, cut salaries of PA employees in Gaza by 30-70 percent in March.

Ahmed al-Moghrabi is a nurse in Gaza who is paid by the PA. Due to the pay cuts and loans he now has to repay, he receives only $20 of his $800 monthly salary.

"Twenty dollars isn't enough to raise one child; I have five," al-Moghrabi said. "How will I manage without UN aid?"

After Trump's controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and his announcement that he will move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Abbas said he would no longer negotiate a possible peace deal with Israel via the United States, describing the country as no longer qualified as a mediator.

Some Palestinian officials view the funding cut by Trump as an act of blackmail to force them back to the negotiating table. The United States is UNRWA's largest donor, providing it with $355 million annually, roughly a third of the agency's budget.

UNRWA is the biggest nongovernmental employer in Gaza, providing jobs to more than 12,500 teachers, nurses and other staff members. It also is the manager of many post-war reconstruction projects. Already, media are reporting these jobs are at risk -- especially in the education sector.

In addition to his wife's medicine, Adham al-Ghora and his family rely on UNRWA rations of flour, milk, rice and cooking oil. He receives these emergency supplies four times a year, but he says they last only two months.

"Every year, I have four months in which I suffer the most, since my home runs out of food and we have to wait for the next aid delivery. They are the harshest months," al-Ghora said. What will it be like, he wonders, if those rations are cut back even further?

The consequences, many Gazans fear, would be riots, a spike in thefts and other crimes, and even famine.

Categories: News

One Year Later and Twice as Pissed Off

Truth Out - 7 hours 35 min ago
In these troubling and surreal times, honest journalism is more important than ever. Help us keep real news flowing: Make a donation to Truthout today.

"Last year it felt like a funeral. This year it feels like a resistance."

Those words -- from one of the many hundreds of thousands of protesters who took to the streets on January 20 as part of the massive Women's Marches marking the shameful anniversary of Trump's first year in office -- summed up the political mood.

In two words: Pissed off.

The sheer size of the marches -- smaller overall than last year's turnout of some 3.5 million, the largest single day of protest in US history, but not by much -- caught organizers and longtime activists off guard: as many as 300,000 in Chicago; 200,000 in New York City by the official count, but possibly twice that; half a million in Los Angeles; 65,000 in San Francisco and 50,000 across the Bay in Oakland.

Smaller towns and cities, including in reliably red states, turned out big time: some 8,000 in Omaha, Nebraska, for example.

In New York City, there were so many people that it took hours for the back of the march to step off -- side streets that fed into the march were stuffed with people who waited hours to enter the main artery.

***

Like last year, the marches were made up mostly of individuals, families and friends who self-organized to turn out, as opposed to contingents. Also like last year, homemade signs gave expression to the many messages that women and men wanted to send after a year of enduring Trump.

This was something that lead organizers of the Women's Marches nationally had hoped to contain.

Initially, the 2018 events were supposed to center around a Las Vegas conference, with a "Power to the Polls" theme, reflecting an emphasis on promoting votes for Democratic candidates in 2018. This would "harness our collective energy to advocate for policies and candidates that reflect our values," the website noted.

But the balance swung the other way as pressure built among people determined to register their disgust with Trump in their own cities. Just like last year, when established liberal organizations were missing in action, newer or unaffiliated activists stepped in to make sure there was a Women's March 2018.

Of course, the "Power to the Polls" theme was a major message wherever the marches were held -- it wasn't likely to be any other way given the bitter hatred of Trump and the hope for a consistent alternative from Democrats, despite the party's long record of betrayals.

But for every "Grab him by the polls" sign, there were two or three or five or 10 times more about urgent political issues -- immigrant rights and the defense of the DREAMers, opposition to Islamophobia, challenging sexual violence, taking on racism and many more -- around which a different kind of resistance could take shape.

In some cities, march organizers reportedly attempted to exclude voices from this year's marches. In Los Angeles, a Palestinian group withdrew its support for the local march in protest of actor Scarlett Johansson, a devoted opponent of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israeli apartheid, being a featured speaker.

In Philadelphia, organizers announced "heightened security measures" negotiated with police, including searches of bags and metal detectors. By contrast, organizers in other cities explicitly challenged measures to limit participation, particularly from people of color.

But these debates, while important, contrasted with the mood of the crowds in city after city, by all reports. The spirit of solidarity predominated, with crowds of people chanting by turns against Trump, for immigrant rights, against racist violence, and for democracy and freedom.

In spite of the efforts of organizers to restrict the message to this coming year's elections, the powerful account of a mainstream Philadelphia news outlet is telling about the feelings of the people who took part:

A stranger called Stacy Shilling her "hero" on Saturday. Dozens of others asked to take a photo of her. That's because Shilling was donning a "Women's March on Philadelphia" hat and wearing a sign around her neck that read: "Nobody asks what my rapist was wearing."

"I have my voice back," [Shilling] said. "And I want to help other women find their voice, too."

***

In Washington, DC, the crowd was smaller than last year's massive 500,000 -- but far larger than the one that turned out to celebrate Trump's inauguration in 2017.

But of course, that didn't stop Trump from sneering at marchers on Twitter that it was "Beautiful weather all over our great country, a perfect day for all Women to March...Get out there now to celebrate the historic milestones and unprecedented economic success and wealth creation that has taken place over the last 12 months."

If Trump doesn't have to eat those words, he ought to. "People were pretty damn mad last year, and they're pretty damn mad this year," Tamika Mallory, co-president of the Women's March board, told The Associated Press.

At the heart of that anger is the #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment and violence that began several months ago. The references were everywhere on the marches. "#MeToo is coming for you," one sign on the New York march warned.

In San Francisco, where 65,000 turned out, 16-year-old marcher Joan spoke powerfully about why she wanted to march: "I was raped. I was victim-blamed all throughout high school, and it ruined me. But we're going to keep pushing and fighting. And I'm just tired of it."

"We were out here last year, and we're here again this year, and things haven't gotten better," said another marcher named Maria, who spoke about the need for sustained organizing to create lasting change. "[T]he key is we need to show up every single day. It's not just about going to a march or two -- we need to show up for ourselves and for each other, and continue this battle wherever it takes us."

For others, there was a sense of collective relief that women can finally begin to talk about their experiences. As San Francisco marcher Luz Perez summed up:

When #MeToo broke out, I was scared that women were not going to be taken seriously about this issue, and I was scared for that disappointment. That's why it's important that we have to keep working really hard and keep talking about it with co-workers, friends, family, men, young, older and tell them, "Life is different through the eyes of a woman."

In Seattle, where more than 80,000 were in the streets, members of the "Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women" group led the march, and one of the largest contingents was the Reproductive Justice contingent, organized by Seattle Clinic Defense, Legal Voice and the Gender Justice League, among others.

Perhaps the most poignant image came from a march in the Canadian town of Whitehorse in the Yukon. Holding a red dress aloft to commemorate First Nations women who are missing, murdered or sexually assaulted, a group marched through the snow in temperatures well below freezing.

***

The #MeToo wave that has continued to give voice over the past several months to deep anger about sexual assault is opening a larger conversation about the need for social change.

That sense of collective injustice goes well beyond the issue of sexism: to the need to defend reproductive rights and fight for workplace justice and equal pay; stand in defense of immigrant rights; fight for LGBT rights; to build the anti-racist struggle and the fight against police brutality -- in short, to stand in solidarity against oppression in all of its many forms.

Many people at the marches were deliberate in highlighting the need to build this idea that an injury to one is an injury to all.

"Fight ignorance, not immigrants," read a sign carried by trans activist Janet Mock at the march in LA. Another photo from the same march showed young women carrying signs arguing for intersectional feminism and solidarity: "We march for ALL women: Black, immigrant, Muslim, disabled, poor, LGBT. Real feminism is intersectional."

In New York, a "Free Ahed Tamimi" contingent drew attention to the case of the Palestinian teenager who has been jailed for defending her family against the brutality of Israeli apartheid -- and underlined that the fight for women's rights has to stretch to every corner of the world.

These are visible examples of a deepening political consciousness for a layer of people who are becoming active through #MeToo and the current anti-Trump sentiment, and who feel compelled to mobilize because the stakes seem so high -- not just for women, but for all of the marginalized and exploited.

In Boston, where 5,000 gathered on Cambridge Common, high schoolers, families and others carried signs that read "If it's not intersectional, it's not feminism," "We are all DREAMers" and " End mass jailing and sanctioned murder of people of color."

One of the most electrifying speeches of the day was given by a woman from the Poor People's Campaign, who argued for Martin Luther King's vision of connecting racism, militarism, and materialism in the fight for sexual liberation.

In some cases, young people took the lead, like in Montpelier, Vermont, where 3,000 people rallied at a "March for Our Future" organized by grammar and high school students.

Other marchers were part of a previous generation who have protested before, but feel compelled to come out again. "I'm old," 63-year-old Debbie Droke told NPR at the Washington, D.C., march. "I was doing this in the '70s. I was walking with Gloria Steinem. And I never thought in a million years that I'd have to be doing this again to bring focus to women's rights."

***

At every march, of course, there were messages about throwing Trump and the Republicans out of office -- reflected not only in the "Power to the Polls" theme of the marches and the post-march conference in Las Vegas, but also in the signs that many carried.

Accompanying that was the push in favor of the Democratic Party. In Chicago, Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel -- who has led the attack on Chicago schools and the women-led Chicago Teachers Union, and presides over a police force that routinely brutalizes young men of color -- declared that he was "proud to join" the march.

Many march attendees were enthusiastic both about marching in the streets and about voting -- despite the record of the Democratic Party's broken promises and betrayals.

For socialists and other radicals who participated in the protests, that can be an ongoing discussion with co-workers, friends and family. So should the actions of organizers -- in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, for example -- that effectively excluded voices from the message of the marches. Anything that limits our struggles and creates obstacles to solidarity should be challenged.

But it's important for the left to attempt to confront questions and shape actions like these on the ground. In some cases, we can make the difference in helping argue for politics that stand against divisiveness and bigotry.

It was important, for example, that the left in New York helped lead a pro-Palestinian contingent on the Women's March.

In Boston, the presence of socialists and left-wing activists was critical when 20 members of the far-right group "Resist Marxism" attempted to march through Cambridge Common with hateful messages about "saving" women from "illegal immigration" and Sharia law.

Initially, there was confusion in the crowd about whether the group and its hateful message should be ignored. But left-wing activists brought people together in the moment, and after an intense and vocal confrontation, the bigots turned tail and left, proving the importance of not ceding political space to the right.

***

The left can't afford to abdicate responsibility for participating when people want to take action to oppose Trump and the awful reality of the status quo in American politics. There are important debates that start with what can be done beyond days of protest, however massive, like Saturday's. And the conventional message that many organizers tried to impose on the Women's Marches doesn't speak for all those who mobilized to participate

One year ago, left-wing author Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor challenged one reaction on the left to last year's massive demonstrations:

Liberals become radicals through their own frustrating experiences with the system, but also through becoming engaged with people who became radical before them. So when radicals who have already come to some important conclusions about the shortcomings of existing systems mock, deride or dismiss those who have not achieved the same level of consciousness, they are helping no one.

Think of what it would mean if only a part of the power and energy on display on Saturday were harnessed to struggles to stop the deportations and raids when ICE invades our communities; to defend abortion clinics when the right attempts to shut them down; to build mass resistance when the Republicans pass legislation like the giant tax-cut giveaway.

One year after Trump, the opposition to hate and reaction is going strong, fueled by the #MeToo phenomenon that is finding new forms of expression, including people taking the streets.

Now our task is to help build the connections between the many grievances and struggles represented on Saturday -- and organize the resistance in the months to come.

Categories: News

Home Care Agencies Often Wrongly Deny Medicare Help To The Chronically Ill

Truth Out - 7 hours 39 min ago

Medicare does cover home care services for patients who qualify, but incentives are driving some home health agencies to avoid taking on long-term patients. Under a Medicare pilot program, home health firms in nine states will start receiving payment bonuses for providing good care and those who don't will pay penalties.

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Colin Campbell needs help dressing, bathing and moving between his bed and his wheelchair. He has a feeding tube because his partially paralyzed tongue makes swallowing "almost impossible," he said.

Campbell, 58, spends $4,000 a month on home health care services so he can continue to live in his home just outside Los Angeles. Eight years ago, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or "Lou Gehrig's disease," which relentlessly attacks the nerve cells in his brain and spinal cord and has no cure.

The former computer systems manager has Medicare coverage because of his disability, but no fewer than 14 home health care providers have told him he can't use it to pay for their services.

That's an incorrect but common belief. Medicare does cover home care services for patients who qualify, but incentives intended to combat fraud and reward high quality care are driving some home health agencies to avoid taking on long-term patients such as Campbell, who have debilitating conditions that won't get better, according to advocates for seniors and the home care industry. Rule changes that took effect this month could make the problem worse.

"We feel Medicare coverage laws are not being enforced and people are not getting the care that they need in order to stay in their homes," said Kathleen Holt, an attorney and associate director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy, a nonprofit, nonpartisan law firm. The group is considering legal action against the government.

Federal law requires Medicare to pay indefinitely for home care -- with no copayments or deductibles -- if a doctor ordered it and patients can leave home only with great difficulty. They must need intermittent nursing, physical therapy or other skilled care that only a trained professional can provide. They do not need to show improvement. Those who qualify can also receive an aide's help with dressing, bathing and other daily activities. The combined services are limited to 35 hours a week.

Medicare affirmed this policy in 2013 when it settled a key lawsuit brought by the Center for Medicare Advocacy and Vermont Legal Aid. In that case, the government agreed that Medicare covers skilled nursing and therapy services -- including those delivered at home --to maintain a patient's abilities or to prevent or slow decline. It also agreed to inform providers, bill auditors and others that a patient's improvement is not a condition for coverage.

Campbell said some home health care agencies told him Medicare would pay only for rehabilitation, "with the idea of getting you better and then leaving," he said. They told him that Medicare would not pay them if he didn't improve, he said. Other agencies told him Medicare simply did not cover home health care.

Medicaid, the federal-state program for low-income adults and families, also covers home health care and other home services, but Campbell doesn't qualify for it.

Securing Medicare coverage for home health services requires persistence, said John Gillespie, whose mother has gone through five home care agencies since she was diagnosed with ALS in 2014. He successfully appealed Medicare's decision denying coverage, and afterward Medicare paid for his mother's visiting nurse as well as speech and physical therapy.

"You have to have a good doctor and people who will help fight for you to get the right company," said Gillespie, of Orlando, Fla. "Do not take no for an answer."

Yet a Medicare official did not acknowledge any access problems. "A patient can continue to receive Medicare home health services as long as he/she remains eligible for the benefit," said spokesman Johnathan Monroe.

But a leading industry group contends that Medicare's home health care policies are often misconstrued. "One of the myths in Medicare is that chronically ill individuals are not qualified for coverage," said William Dombi, president of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, which represents nearly half of the nation's 12,000 home care providers.

Part of the problem is that some agencies fear they won't be paid if they take on patients who need their services for a long time, Dombi said. Such cases can attract the attention of Medicare auditors who can deny payments if they believe the patient is not eligible or they suspect billing fraud. Rather than risk not getting paid, some home health agencies "stay under the radar" by taking on fewer Medicare patients who need long-term care, Dombi said.

And they may have a good reason to be concerned. Medicare officials have found that about a third of the agency's payments to home health companies in the fiscal year ending last September were improper. 

Shortages of home health aides in some areas might also lead an overburdened agency to focus on those who need care for only a short time, Dombi said.

Another factor that may have a negative effect on chronically ill patients is Medicare's Home Health Compare ratings website. It includes grades on patient improvement, such as whether a client got better at walking with an agency's help. That effectively tells agencies who want top ratings "to go to patients who are susceptible to improvement," Dombi said.

This year, some home care agencies will earn more than just ratings. Under a Medicare pilot program, home health firms in nine states will start receiving payment bonuses for providing good care and those who don't will pay penalties. Some criteria used to measure performance depend on patient improvement, Holt said.

Another new rule, which took effect last Saturday, prohibits agencies from discontinuing services for Medicare and Medicaid patients without a doctor's order. But that, too, could backfire. 

"This is good," Holt said. "But our concern is that some agencies might hesitate to take patients if they don't think they can easily discharge them."

Categories: News

What Happens When Wall Street Becomes Your Landlord?

Truth Out - 7 hours 41 min ago

Private equity firms are turning the dream of home ownership into a nightmare for renters. These companies are among the beneficiaries of the 2008 housing market collapse. In the wake of the financial crisis, Wall Street firms swooped into neighborhoods to buy up houses, crowding out the families and local landlords who couldn't compete with their cash payments.

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When José Rivera moved into his house, he thought he was on the path to home ownership. But after several years and more than $90,000 in rent, he can't even get his landlord to fix the broken pipe that leaked raw sewage into his home. 

Rivera's landlord is Colony Starwood Homes, a rental giant backed by Wall Street investment firms. When he first told the company about his leaky pipe, they cleaned the carpet, but left the sewage issue alone. When the pipe leaked again, Rivera filed another complaint -- and five days later, he received a notice to vacate. 

Rivera is just one of the many renters highlighted in a just-released report looking at the new face of financialization in the housing market. The report is authored by three consumer advocacy and housing rights groups -- the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Americans for Financial Reform, and Public Advocates. 

Chief among their concerns are companies like Starwood Waypoint Homes, backed by Wall Street firms Colony Capital and Starwood Capital, and Invitation Homes, backed by The Blackstone Group, a private equity fund. These single family rental giants have become shapeshifters, merging with each other to slowly take over the rental housing market. Starwood Waypoint and Invitation Homes announced their own merger in August of 2017, becoming a single company owning more than 82,000 single family rentals across the country.

These companies are among the beneficiaries of the 2008 housing market collapse. In the wake of the financial crisis, Wall Street firms swooped into neighborhoods to buy up houses, crowding out the families and local landlords who couldn't compete with their cash payments.

In the decade since the mortgage crisis, the financialization of housing rentals has ballooned. Institutional investors now own a quarter of the country's single-family rentals, and just nine of these firms are renting out 200,000 houses in 13 states. A large portion of those homes are regionally concentrated, compounding the effects. In Sacramento County, for example, Invitation Homes is the largest private landlord, and owns more property than anyone besides the county itself. 

The structure of these rental empires pits the profits of investors against the needs of tenants -- and unsurprisingly, the tenants often lose the fight. That's where the report's authors come in. Over the course of their research, they conducted more than 100 interviews with tenants who are essentially renting from Wall Street firms. The report tells the stories of absurd rent increases, dangerous failures in property management, and high eviction rates. And, as the authors note, lower income families and people of color are disproportionately affected by these practices.

Take, for example, Renita Barbee, who will need to leave her Wall Street firm-owned home after an exorbitant rent increase. The first notice she received from her landlord announced that her monthly payments would go from $2120 to more than $3000. She joined an organizing campaign along with other ACCE members, writing letters and protesting. Finally, her landlord sent a new notice -- the initial amount was a mistake, and her rent would only increase to $2330. Even still, the price is out of her budget. Barbee says her husband and daughter will move in with family while she rents a coworker's room until they can figure out a new plan.

For some renters, the runaround they've received from their Wall Street landlords only compounds the ever-present stress of gentrification and displacement. Merika Reagan moved to into a house in Oakland after being priced out of her hometown of San Francisco. After Waypoint Homes, the previous landlord, merged with Starwood, the path to home ownership changed for Reagan and her wife. When their last least expired, the couple were offered a year-long renewal with a rent increase of $350 a month, or a month-to-month contract that would up their monthly rent by $1000. Both options are out of the couple's budget, but moving out would likely mean leaving Oakland entirely -- and being displaced from the region for a second time.

Through organizing, some families, like Eva Jimenez and Ramon de la Rosa, have been able to wrest some control from their Wall Street landlords. The couple lived in their home for 12 years, Jimenez explains in the report, initially as homeowners, and then eventually as tenants of Waypoint after a predatory loan led to foreclosure. They pushed Waypoint to deal with maintenance issues, but received only negligence in return -- as well as a massive rent hike they couldn't afford. Through an organizing campaign with ACCE, they were able to stop the rent increase so they could stay in their home.

While Jimenez may have found some success in organizing with other renters, the report's authors have ideas for policies to protect tenants before the rent hikes happen. Chief among them: protect tenants, especially through rent control measures and eviction rules that extend to single family rentals, not just multi-family properties. 

The authors also suggest that private equity funds should be required to provide more information on the companies in their portfolio, especially their relationship to the communities where they operate. There's no better place to start than with these mass landlords, who are quickly rewriting the rules on achieving the American dream of home ownership.

Categories: News

Dreamers Are Hanging by a Thread: Don't Let Your Government Abandon Us

Truth Out - 16 hours 40 min ago

 Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images)Pro-DACA supporters protest outside Capitol Hill on January 21, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images)

For its recipients, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was more than a piece of plastic. It enabled us to finally live without fear and imagine a future where we could provide for ourselves. Now that it appears that the Democrats have abandoned us once again, we call upon all people of conscience to raise their voices in defense of the Dreamers.

 Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images)Pro-DACA supporters protest outside Capitol Hill on January 21, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Photo: Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images)

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It was November 27, 2017, at 4 a.m. when the alarm on my phone woke me up. It was the day after Black Friday, and many families who'd spent the previous day shopping were planning on a restful Saturday. On the other hand, I was getting ready to pick up two 15-passenger vans to start our 2,300-mile ride from Phoenix, Arizona, to the nation's capital. The vans were filled with students, parents and professionals -- recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), as well as allies. We had officially launched the campaign Vote4Dream, a project of the immigrant-led organization Aliento, by driving coast to coast to ensure our voices of sorrow, uncertainty, pain and hope would be heard by lawmakers.

I, like many other DACA recipients, do not have the luxury of waiting.

Since Monday, November 29, we have trained approximately 100 people from 14 states (predominately conservative states) on how to engage with senators and members of the House of Representatives. These activists will be present on Capitol Hill on every single congressional day, in meetings and direct conversations with senators and members of Congress. Since that day in November, we have visited more than 350 offices in both chambers, and spoken to 95 of the 100 senators directly. We have had over 800 conversations with lawmakers.

I was blessed to witness the transformation of Dreamers and undocumented youth. We do not give up! I remember seeing a DACA recipient who is a father of three US citizens feeling nervous when approaching senators. He said, "They have my future in their hands." However, I saw him the next day running in the hallway, chasing after senators, because he knew his voice needed to be heard. I saw high school students missing the week prior to finals to advocate for themselves and their peers back in their home states. I saw people quitting their jobs to be in Washington, DC, because at the end of the day, they will not have jobs if their DACA permit expires. Our whole lives have been put on hold because of congressional inaction. I, like many other DACA recipients, do not have the luxury of waiting. We've had to take action and penetrate through the politics of Washington, DC.

Before DACA, something as simple as getting groceries or going to work could have put me in deportation proceedings.

DACA, for many of us, is not a piece of plastic. It has given us the ability to finally live and imagine our future for the first time. DACA allowed me to drive without fear for the very first time. Before DACA, something as simple as getting groceries or going to work could have put me in deportation proceedings. DACA diminished our fear of not being able to provide for ourselves. It meant we did not fear that today -- any day -- was going to be the last day we could hug our children, parents or siblings. It allowed us to have inner peace, knowing that we were not going to be thrown to a country we no longer know. DACA provided safety, and that is now being ripped away.

Democrats have given up our safety and future. We have once again been abandoned.

After all our conversations with lawmakers, speaking our truth directly to Chief of Staff John Kelly, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and Ivanka Trump, we are still facing uncertainty. We sat in the Senate gallery until 2 a.m. Friday night, watching the government shut down. We heard Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling us "illegal immigrants" and blaming us for their inability to find solutions. We saw Sen. Jeff Flake, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Dick Durbin try to negotiate across party lines. 

Now, we are hanging by a thread. McConnell has promised to have a solution for DACA recipients by February 8, but he promised that back in December and failed to deliver. House Speaker Paul Ryan has refused to make a commitment, while he is being pushed by hardliners and anti-immigrant members of his chamber. Democrats have caved in and given up our safety and future. We have once again been abandoned.

It is up to us and the American public to ensure that thousands of Dreamers do not get deported. Now, more than ever, we need to ensure our safety and livelihood is not being used by hateful and anti-immigrant politicians like Rep. Bob Goodlatte and Sen. Tom Cotton to pass draconian, racist laws. It is up to Democrats and moderate Republicans to stop this.

It is up to us and the conscious of this nation to remember that silence is complacency. Now, more than ever, we need to cry out for the protection of Dreamers.

Categories: News

Chemical Giant DuPont Covered Up Health Risks of Teflon Contamination Across Globe

Truth Out - 16 hours 40 min ago

Broadcasting from the Sundance Film Festival, we are joined by three guests who personally battled with DuPont and are featured in the new documentary called "The Devil We Know," that looks at how former DuPont employees, residents and lawyers took on the chemical giant to expose the danger of the chemical C8, found in Teflon and countless household products -- from stain- and water-resistant apparel to microwave popcorn bags to dental floss. The chemical has now been linked to six diseases, including testicular and kidney cancers. We speak with Bucky Bailey, whose mother worked in the Teflon division of a DuPont plant in West Virginia while she was pregnant with him, and who was born with only one nostril and a deformed eye and has undergone more than 30 surgeries to fix the birth defects; Joe Kiger, lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against DuPont, and a school teacher in Parkersburg, West Virginia, who suffered from liver disease; and Rob Bilott, the attorney that brought DuPont to court.

Please check back later for full transcript.

Categories: News

Why Trump Wouldn't Actually Want an Influx of Norwegian Immigrants to the US: Their Progressive Policies

Truth Out - 16 hours 40 min ago

 Cheriss May / NurPhoto via Getty Images)President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway held a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House, on Wednesday, January 10, 2018. (Photo: Cheriss May / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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In the past couple of weeks, thanks to the president's racist comments about Haiti and African countries he can't even name -- remember "Nambia"? -- as well as the stamp of approval he awarded future immigrants from Norway, we've seen a surprising amount of commentary about that fortunate country. Let me just say: those Norwegians he's so eager to invite over are my ancestral people and, thanks to years I've spent in that country, my friends. Donald Trump should understand one thing: if he and his Republican backers really knew the truth about life in Norway, they would be clamoring to build a second "big, fat, beautiful" wall, this time right along our Eastern seaboard.

One thing is incontestable: a mass of Norwegian immigrants (however improbable the thought) would pose a genuine threat to Donald Trump's America. They would bring to our shores their progressive values, advanced ideas, and illustrious model of social democratic governance -- and this country would never be the same!

It's hard even to begin to imagine what a Norwegian-ization of the United States might mean. But just for a moment, try to picture how strange our country would be. After all, based on life in Norway, you would have to assume that our beloved land would lose many of its twenty-first-century landmarks. Gone would be its precious ghettos and slums, its boarded-up schoolshospitals, and libraries in the heartland, not to speak of its heirloom infrastructure: collapsing bridges, antique trains, clogged roads, and toxic drinking water.

To grasp what's at stake, consider how such immigrants would have reacted to the Republican tax "reform" bill, praised by the president as "the greatest achievement" of his first year in office (which, by his own account, is the greatest year in American history). That bill, filled with miscellaneous handouts meant to ensure the votes of individual Republican legislators, guarantees that the super rich and their mega-corporations will get richer still in perpetuity. It is, in its own way, a glorious hymn to future heights of economic inequality (in a country already ranked the most unequal in the developed world), as it cleverly passes on to the children of the un-rich classes a national deficit inflated by an extra $1.5 trillion

It is, of course, the nature of any tax plan to redistribute the wealth of a nation in some fashion, even though Republicans use the word "redistribution" only to assail Democrats who occasionally suggest a little something to help the poor. But redistribute those Republicans did in a masterful way, surrendering yet more of our national wealth to the tiny team of people (many of whom also happen to be their donors) who already pocket almost all of it. As the Republicans were writing the tax bill, the top 20% of households were already taking home 90% of the American pie. Now, they will get more.

That's exactly the kind of "achievement" that no Norwegian parliament would ever approve. All nine parties now in that country's parliament, from left to right, would have joined in tearing up that Republican tax bill and replacing it with a much simpler one aimed at redistributing the nation's wealth equitably to every last one of its citizens.

As a start, they would have tossed in the trash can the single most basic project of Trump and the Republicans: making the rich richer. Norwegians have long worked to do just the reverse, based on a well-established conviction that inequality creates elites that corrupt and destroy democracy. That's where politics come in: devising multiple systems to regulate a capitalist economy and safeguard democracy.

For example, two national confederations, of trade unions on the one hand and corporate enterprises on the other, annually negotiate wages and working conditions, while minimizing the difference between high-paying and lower-wage jobs, between CEOs and workers. As a result, Norway's income equality is near the top of any international list. America's, not so. On average in 2014, for instance, American CEOs grabbed 354 times the salary of their workers. For many corporate chiefs that figure hit well over 1,000 times the salary of a median employee, while in Norway for every dollar the worker earned, the average Norwegian CEO took home 58 bucks.

Equitable paychecks may slow down the creation of Norwegian billionaires, but the country's overall standard of living is among the world's highest. The US ranks much lower on international evaluations, although with its immense and still rapidly growing gap between the plutocrats and the rest of us, it's hard to calculate a meaningful "standard."

While those new Norwegian immigrants were at it, they would quickly move to simplify our tax system. That, of course, is exactly what Trump and the Republicans promised -- you remember that "postcard" you were going to mail to the IRS -- even as they made everything yet more complicated. In Norway, the government not only simplifies the tax system, but figures out, on a progressive scale, what every taxpayer owes and then sends out the bills.

Those dangerous Norwegians are peculiar enough to be grateful. They gladly pay up because taxes fund the country's universal public welfare system, which guarantees that strikingly high standard of living to a whole society. (That phrase "whole society," by the way, is the meaning of the word "social" in the phrase "social democracy.") Keep in mind that all Norwegians have the right to universal public health care, universal public education through professional schools or university and beyond, care of the elderly and disabled, paid parental leave for mothers and fathers, subsidized early childhood education (from age 1), affordable housing, state of the art public transport, and a raft of other services that take the worry out of daily life. The catch is -- and I can already hear the thundering footsteps of the Republican herd as it heads in panic for its top secret bunker -- if Norwegians can't trust the government, they kick it out and elect another.

We Americans, on the other hand, have been taught not to trust any government, but rather to admire our brilliant super-rich people who own this one, and so to let them pocket our tax money and think none the less of them for their dependence on Republican handouts like that tax bill. Consider the situation this way: Norwegian governments spoil their citizens, while President Trump and the Republicans despoilus ordinary Americans. And that just goes to show how much they trust us to take care of ourselves -- so much so that they're now planning to slash Medicaid and Medicare, leaving us "free" to set forth into sickness and death on our own. And if that isn't the good old American spirit of free enterprise, what is?

Striking "Oil" With Fair Wages for Women

To explain how Norway pays for all those social programs, almost every American commentator, even when theoretically sympathetic to the Norwegians, points to the income from the country's North Sea oil fields, discovered and developed in the 1960s. On that, however, they are mistaken. 

Norway's welfare state programs are supported not by oil revenues but by taxing the citizenry. (While some of those citizen taxpayers are paid for working, directly or indirectly, in the oil business, as of 2016 they made up only 7% of the Norwegian workforce.) So to understand how Norway can afford to pay for the genuine well-being of its people in such an impressive way, you need to look at those tax rolls, which very nearly doubled in the 1970s when women walked into the workplace (and politics) in a major way -- and at wages close to matching those of men. In 2016, the Ministry of Finance calculated that the labor of women added to the net national wealth a value equivalent to the country's "total petroleum wealth" created by that North Sea oil and held in the world's largest sovereign wealth fund, worth in 2017 more than one trillion dollars.

It's pretty scary to think of hordes of immigrants from such a country landing on our shores, considering the radical reality I've just described, the startling idea that you could upgrade an economy in a wholesale way just by requiring fair wages for women. Not to mention that with the taxes those women pay, you could fully fund free universal child care, the lack of which drives American women from the workplace back home, where Republicans think they belong. In the US, none of our good old boy leaders would dream of enacting programs so... well, unpatriarchal. Or how about another idea I've heard from many Norwegians: that gender equality is the key to the good life?

But about that North Sea oil money: it, too, represents a kind of thinking utterly alien to this country. Oil is something we Americans believe we understand. Spill it in Alaska, spill it in the Gulf of Mexico. Now, drill for itin the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (thanks to the need to secure Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski's vote for that tax "reform" bill), as well as up and down the coasts of the country (except for Florida, the home of Trump's favorite golf club). We don't mind what you do with it as long as you keep down the costs of propelling our outsized vehicles over our outdated highways.

Norway, on the other hand, owns 67% of the shares in Statoil, the Norwegian oil company that controls those North Sea wells, even as it leads the world's changeover to electric vehicles. It's a country with a remarkable record of developing and adopting new technologies while phasing out the old, so its workforce is always employed. By law, the government spends no more (and usually less) than 4% of its yearly oil profits on current expenses. The other 96% or more, it pours into that trillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund. That, in turn, has been set aside for the future, for the country's children and their children, although some Norwegians, famous for their worldwide humanitarian and peacemaking activities, now propose to give much of it away to other lands that may need it far more.

Here's a question for future American administrations: Could they apply for some of that Norwegian money to build an East Coast wall against Norwegian immigrants or maybe to help our kids pay off that estimated $1.5 trillion in debt Trump and the Republicans just handed them in the new tax bill? Could we take advantage of those radical Norwegians without even letting them into our country? I'll bet Trump could finagle that. 

Selling F-52s to Norway

It's likely that Norway came to Trump's mind in that meeting with Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham (among others) as some idyllic source for future white Republicans only because, the day before, he had met with its substantial and very white prime minister, Erna Solberg. (Surprised observers of the meeting tweeted that Solberg speaks better English than the American president -- as most Norwegians do.) "Erna," as Norwegians -- for whom everyone is equal and on a first-name basis -- call her, is the leader of the Conservative party. She heads a coalition government in which the top three positions are held by women. That in itself might have caused Trump to keep his hands in his pockets, but apparently he wasn't told. It's likely he mistook "Conservative" for "Republican," but as a matter of fact, all nine of Norway's political parties now in parliament are well to the left not just of the Republicans but of the Democrats and, yes, even that independent "democratic socialist" from Vermont.

At the moment, only one Norwegian cabinet member, Silvi Listhaug of the right-wing Progress Party, might be considered sufficiently neoliberal, uber-Christian, and mean to fit into Trump's regime. Perhaps that's because her early training included a 2005 internship in the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives.

In Norwegian terms, Erna often tilts dangerously to the right under the pressure of US and British neoliberal economic theorists. It has to be hard for the leader of a small country -- five million people, half the population of Haiti -- to resist pressure to conform to the autocratic example of a nation that styles itself the most exceptional on Earth. Erna herself is a polite, circumspect politician who, on returning from her visit to the White House, assured reporters in Oslo that President Trump was "a normal man" with "a sense of humor." Apparently she didn't mention Trump's self-proclaimed political acumen, intellectual brilliance, or awesome "America First" foreign policy. Norwegians reading their morning papers could, however, fill in the blanks.

At a joint press conference with Erna, Trump proudly announced that, last November, the US had delivered the first F-52 and F-35 fighter jets to Norway, part of a $10 billion order of American military equipment. Norwegians are, in fact, stubbornly averse to war and think of their reluctant acquisition of way too many over-priced, overdue, bug-plagued F-35s as a surcharge on NATO membership. But F-52s?

That thoroughly fictional plane, as it turns out, exists only in the video game Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. (Do you suppose Trump spends his executive time playing commander-in-chief?) Norwegians are having a good laugh, while their commentators are saying "thanks, but no thanks" to Trump's immigration invitation. If they really mean it, then perhaps we can relax and forget about that wall along the Eastern seaboard.

On the other hand, judging by their press, an awful lot of Norwegians are even more appalled and angered than we are by Trump's racist slurs about "shithole countries." What's more, just days after returning to Norway, Erna Solberg rolled out her new government, a coalition of three parties, all led by women, and a gender-equal cabinet to run ministries focused not only on defense or finance, but also on climate and the environment, eldercare and public health, research and higher education, family and equality. Erna announced that the platform of this new government would be "greener" and committed to sustaining the welfare state. And this, in Norway, is a center-right government.

You see what I mean about Norwegian ideas being totally at odds with Trump's America. Still, Trump might play that to his advantage. If he and his Republican supporters in Congress decide to build that East Coast wall after all, they might be able to get the Norwegians to pay for it -- not to keep themout, but to keep us in.

Categories: News

The Corruption Cycle

Truth Out - 16 hours 40 min ago
Categories: News

Government Set to Reopen for Two Weeks, Schumer Accepts McConnell Promise of Dreamer Bill By Feb. 8

Truth Out - 16 hours 40 min ago

 Drew Angerer / Getty Images)Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) leaves the Senate floor after the Senate passed a continuing resolution to fund the federal government, Capitol Hill, January 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

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The Senate moved overwhelmingly on early Monday afternoon toward ending a brief government shutdown.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he supported reopening the government, citing a promise by Republican leaders to bring up proposals on granting status to Dreamers.

Senators voted 81-18 to limit debate on a continuing resolution that would fund federal agencies for two weeks. The supermajority approval means that the proposal can't be filibustered.

Late Friday, a similar vote failed to advance right before parts of the government ran out of money at midnight.

The last time the government partially shut down was in 2013, as Republicans protested the implementation of Obamacare. It lasted for two weeks, and was the first budgetary impasse in Congress since 1995.

Sixteen Democrats rejected Monday's deal, including Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Cory Booker (D-NJ). Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) voted "no" alongside the dissenting Democrats.

"I'm confident we can get 60 votes on a DACA bill," Schumer said, explaining his "yes" vote, referring to Republican promises of an imminent debate on the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

DACA gave protection from deportation proceedings to some 800,000 US residents brought to the country as children. Late last year, the Trump administration said the program would end in March.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised his Democratic counterparts that the Senate would consider DACA legislation by Feb. 8 -- the next time the federal government is scheduled to run out of money (assuming the legislation advanced by the Senate becomes law).

If it does pass the House, it will likely be without many of Schumer's colleagues. In a press conference before the vote, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she expected members of her caucus would be rejecting the deal.

"We want transparency in what we do, and bipartisanship in our solutions," Pelosi said. "What I see on the Senate side does not look that way to me."

Democratic opposition, however, is a non-factor in the House. A spending bill passed the lower chamber 230-197 on Thursday with the support of only six Democrats.

The status of any DACA bill is much more uncertain outside of the Senate, even if Democrats can muster the support next month to clear the 60-vote filibuster threshold. House Republicans have urged Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to take a hardline, calling for an intensification of the crackdown on undocumented immigrants before a considering a DACA proposal.

And as Schumer noted Monday morning, the White House has not been clear about what sort of immigration proposals President Trump would sign into law.

"The reason the Republican majority had such difficulty finding consensus is they could never get a firm grip on what the President of their party wanted to do," he said.

Categories: News

2017 Was the Warmest Year on Record for Oceans

Truth Out - 16 hours 40 min ago

As human-caused climate disruption continues apace, last year clocked in as the second warmest year recorded for the atmosphere. But it was the warmest year on record for Earth's oceans. Without the oceans to absorb human-generated heat, global temperatures would be 97 degrees Fahrenheit warmer.

 Manuel Breva Colmeiro / Moment / Getty Images)(Photo: Manuel Breva Colmeiro / Moment / Getty Images)

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It is well known now that 2017 was the second-warmest year ever recorded, after 2016. In fact, the five hottest years ever recorded have occurred since just 2010, according to NASA.

What hasn't received as much attention is the fact that 2017 was the warmest year ever recorded for the planet's oceans. The previous warmest year for the oceans was 2015.

In fact, when it comes to the overall impacts of human-caused global warming, the oceans have taken most of the hit: They have absorbed 93 percent of the warmth humans have generated since the 1970s.

Oceanic Warming Intensifying

If you took all of the heat humans generated between the years 1955 and 2010 and placed it in the atmosphere instead of the oceans, global temperatures would have risen by a staggering 97 degrees Fahrenheit.

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The study that found 2017 to be a record year of oceanic warming was conducted by the Institute of Atmospheric Physics with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and published online by Advances in Atmospheric Sciences on January 18.

The study found that the top 2,000-meter layer of Earth's ocean waters was at its warmest levels ever, and that this warming, according to the study, "represents the signature of global warming." This is due to the fact that, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 5th Assessment Report, oceans absorb the vast majority of human-generated heat primarily because water has a high heat capacity, given that it takes much more heat to warm water than it does air.

Oceanic warming is clearly dramatically escalating. The study found that the last five years have been the five warmest years for the oceans, and added, "Therefore, the long-term warming trend driven by human activities continued unabated."

Warm water expands in volume. Thus, the warming is causing increases in sea level rise, in addition to causing more coral bleaching events, declines in oceanic oxygen levels, and increasing melting of sea ice and ice shelves. Studies show that warming ocean waters are causing major species relocations, along with extinctions of some species of fish and marine life.

"The impacts of anthropogenic climate change so far include decreased ocean productivity, altered food web dynamics, reduced abundance of habitat-forming species, shifting species distributions, and a greater incidence of disease," reads the summary of a study published in the journal Science. "Although there is considerable uncertainty about the spatial and temporal details, climate change is clearly and fundamentally altering ocean ecosystems."

Sans El Niño

The fact that 2017 was the second-warmest year on record for the atmosphere, and the warmest on record for the oceans, is particularly troublesome given that 2017 was a non-El Niño year.

El Niño is a shift in Pacific Ocean weather patterns in the tropics that is generally linked to record-setting heat in the atmosphere and oceans alike. Last year was predicted to be a cooler year since it was not an El Niño year. The fact that it was as warm as it was underscores how rapidly the planet is continuing to heat up.

According to both NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 17 of the 18 warmest years on record for the planet have occurred since 2001.

"This is the new normal," NASA's Gavin Schmidt who directs that agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studiestold the New York Times. But, he said, "It's also changing. It's not that we've gotten to a new plateau -- this isn't where we'll stay. In ten years we're going to say 'oh look, another record decade of warming temperatures.'"

Categories: News

No Choice

Truth Out - 16 hours 40 min ago

Although 59 percent of US adults say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, it remains one of the most divisive issues in America: Not a week passes without headlines chronicling attempts at every level of government to deny or defend women's reproductive rights.

Over the past five years, hundreds of incremental changes in state laws have slowly chipped away at women's reproductive rights. And with the election of Donald Trump and the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the US Supreme Court, we are closer than ever to the reversal of Roe v. Wade.

Yet in the months since Trump was elected and Republicans took control of all three branches of government, women (and men) have stepped up to be heard, from the very day after the inauguration, when millions marched in protest, to the current #MeToo moment, in which thousands are breaking their silence and speaking out about sexual harassment and abuse.

So, too, have women vehemently demonstrated against the latest attempts by conservatives to cut funding for Planned Parenthood and legislate further restrictions. Which is why we're posting a new video series, NO CHOICE, to remind us just what the United States was like before abortion was legal, when abortions were dangerous, traumatic and often deadly, and how Roe v. Wade made a difference. Here, women share their personal stories. They're speaking up to combat the stigma that still surrounds their choice, to remind people of the way things used to be and to bring awareness to the barriers that still exist, especially for poor women and women of color.

Listen to these brave women -- and one male doctor -- tell their stories, and think about what America would be like for men and women if Roe v. Wade were no longer the law of the land: if there were NO CHOICE.

Gaylon Alcaraz grew up on the South Side of Chicago and attended a Catholic girls school where she didn't receive comprehensive sex education. She was 17 years old when she first became pregnant. She knew she was not ready to become a mother, so she had an abortion. Today Gaylon, a mother of two, is a reproductive justice activist fighting for the women in her community. This is her story.

In the 1950s, Dr. Waldo Fielding was an obstetrician working at Harlem Hospital in Manhattan. He remembers women from the community coming to him -- many terrified they would be reported -- with complications from backroom abortions. After Roe, he remembers the protestors at his Boston clinic and the harassment women endured just to access medical care. This is his story.

When Lynne Hanley was studying English at Cornell, she fell in love. When she tried to get contraception, she was told she had to be married to get it. After she realized she was pregnant, she went to a local doctor who lectured her, telling her she would be punished if she tried to end her pregnancy. This is her story.

Today, Danielle Lang is a voting-rights attorney. But at the age of 22, when she was studying for law school, she became pregnant because of a contraception failure. She and her partner felt they were not ready to be parents. After her abortion, Danielle found herself confronting the stigma surrounding her choice. This is her story.

When Valerie Peterson became pregnant with her third child, her doctor told her the child wasn't developing properly. The grim diagnosis meant Valerie had a choice to make. She could carry the pregnancy to term and deliver a stillborn baby, or she could have an abortion. Living in Texas, Valerie faced access and scheduling restrictions that made her decision to end the pregnancy much more difficult than she anticipated. This is her story.

Marge Piercy is 81 years old. She grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Detroit. In 1953, during her freshman year of college, she fell in love. In those days, contraception was illegal in most states, and it was certainly illegal for unmarried women. She had dreams of becoming a writer. She didn't want to have a baby. This is her story.

Today, Holly Alvarado is a proud US military veteran. But in 2009, as she was getting ready to leave for a tour of duty in Iraq, she realized she was pregnant. She wanted to end the pregnancy and deploy with her team, but she couldn't get an abortion from a military doctor because of a federal law restricting military abortions. This is her story.

Liz Young was the first person in her family to go to Berkeley. While there during the free speech movement of the early 1960s, she experienced new freedoms and political ideas that she had not encountered in her sheltered traditional Chinese upbringing. At the age of 22 she accidentally became pregnant, and found herself in the underground world to get an abortion. This is her story.

Categories: News

A Powerful Economic Justice Movement Is Brewing, Even in This Dark Time

Truth Out - 16 hours 40 min ago

Today's dire threats to our democracy did not arise out of nowhere. An American Democracy Movement is fighting brutal capitalism and the culture of blame to move towards a future democracy that includes us all.

 Bilgin S. Sasmaz / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)Protesters participate in the Women's March against President Donald J. Trump in Chicago, United States on January 20, 2018. (Photo: Bilgin S. Sasmaz / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

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In this tumultuous world, one thing seems certain: today's dire threats to our democracy did not arise out of nowhere. Every culture thrives, or not, on whether its core narrative -- the causation story we tell ourselves -- enhances mutual gain or spurs division. And, the narrative driving today's unfolding catastrophe feeds the latter.

It begins with a deep distrust of human nature.

Way back in 1651, philosopher Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan summed up our nature with the Latin proverb Homohominilupus, "Man is a wolf to his fellow man." From this thought tradition, now reinforced through much of media and advertising, we absorb the notion that humans are essentially selfish, competitive, and materialistic. Yet, with this dim view of our nature, how can we possibly make society work? The dominant narrative has the answer: Just put self-interest to work.

So, by the end of the 1980s, the notion of a "free market" driven by calculated self-interest had risen to economic gospel. Influenced by 20th-century economists -- led, for example, by F.A. Hayek and then Milton Friedman and his "Chicago School" -- we've come to see the "free market" untethered from human meddling as an almost infallible law. It's what Ronald Reagan called the "magic" of the "marketplace," efficiently sorting out winners and losers for the benefit of all.

With help from a handful of billionaire families, this free-market ideology took hold. Since the 1970s, their funding has spread the idea of government-as-problem and market-as-solution through policy think tanks, the media, higher education, and far-right political organizing. The mindset steadily drove into private hands what had long been public goods -- from the airwaves to schools to prisons -- while simultaneously decimating government's role in protecting public welfare.

Not surprisingly, trust in government has dropped to historic lows. Only one in five of us now feels such trust, down from roughly three-quarters in the late 50s.

Taking a step back, however, we can see that no market is "free." While all markets have rules, ours has been increasingly whittled down to just one: Do what brings highest and most immediate return to existing wealth. Following Friedman's mantra, the sole purpose of business must be maximizing profit.  

With this simple logic, wealth inexorably accrues to wealth, making quickening economic inequality a given. Since 1980, the top 1 percent of U.S. earners has doubled its share of total income. And the top one-tenth of that 1 percent did even better. Its total pre-tax income quadrupled between 1980 and 2010. Compared to Europe, America now takes the economic inequality cake.

But Americans acquiesce, since market doctrine has convinced us to view the success of the few as deserved, or at least an inevitable side-effect of what's conveyed to us as virtually a law of nature.   

Two huge problems follow.

First, once trapped in the myth of the free market, Americans tie their own and their compatriots' worth to their wealth. And, once accepting the notion of an unerring market rewarding those who work like the devil to succeed, it follows that those who fail to attain the "American dream" are at fault, and therefore undeserving. Representative Paul Ryan captured the outcome of this mindset when in 2012 he described our country as divided between the "makers" and the "takers."

Plus, the aura of infallibility surrounding the market convinces many that assisting the "laggards" throws the market out of kilter, harming us all.

Then, once accepting, even unconsciously, that a market unerringly picks winners and you yourself are struggling to get by, it's hard not to feel shame. To shield ourselves against shame, understandably many turn to blame. Especially when primed.

In Strangers in Their Own Land, professor Arlie Hochschild offers a helpful metaphor with which to understand the rush to blame. She describes the economically decimated, white working-class mindset this way: You've been waiting in line for the American dream, all the while playing by the rules and working hard. But the line isn't moving. (In fact, workers' real income has hardly budged since the 1970s.) Then, in coded and not-so-coded terms you're told those others -- people of color, immigrants, refugees -- have cut ahead of you thanks to government favors and affirmative action policies.

Of course, you're angry, and the blaming frame sticks even though whites have been the main beneficiaries by far of government rules and programs.

Into this flammable mix of suffering and confusion, Donald Trump's hate speech throws a torch. White nationalists behind the Charlottesville tragedy acknowledged that they'd felt encouraged by the president. Tapping into the anger of those primed for shame and blame, Trump distracts Americans from the core, system problem -- a one-rule market inexorably concentrating wealth -- undermining democracy and thus our power to come together to shape solutions.

The second huge downside of a narrative making tightly held economic power inevitable is that almost universally it translates into tightly held political power. The 2016 federal election cost $6.4 billion, two-thirds of it coming from well less than 1 percent of donors. Those elected are thus set up to serve the donor class, not all Americans.

In 1938, Franklin Delano Roosevelt warned Congress of the dire consequence: "[I]f the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself," he told us, "that, in its essence, is fascism."

And the cycle is self-reinforcing.

The more money drives our political choices, the more policies favor the better off, bringing still more impoverishment, suffering, and blame. Today, half of babies born in America are so poor they rely on public aid for sustenance, and poverty robs Americans of years of life as the gap in lifespan between rich and poor widens. Homelessness is another measure. Not widespread until the Reagan years, it exploded during his presidency. In 2016, more than half a million Americans were without homes.

Such outcomes are one reason we call this variant of a market economy "brutal capitalism." So, what is to be done?  

We start by nurturing an evidence-grounded causation story -- one aligned with the rich complexity of human nature and with the three essentials we need to thrive. They are a sense of personal power, meaning in our lives, and connection with community, and only inclusive, accountable democracy has a chance of making them possible.

The only way to create this new story of possibility is through our action, and it's happening. In this dark time, a vigorous and unprecedented democracy movement is emerging. Led by citizens of all backgrounds -- inspiring our new book, Daring Democracy -- it is uniting groups long focused on specific issues, from the environment to racial justice to labor, who are now joining forces with veteran democracy-reform groups to tackle big money's grip on our elections and to ensure voting rights. Step by bold step, citizens joining in this never-more-needed movement are gaining confidence in their capacities to shape an accountable, inclusive democracy in which all voices are heard.

Because the democracy movement holds the inherent dignity of all as a core value, this rising movement can be a key in freeing us from our blaming and shaming culture and moving us toward one in which we're all responsible and thus able to experience the thrill of democracy.

Categories: News

Donald Trump Has Signed a Bill Reopening the U.S. Government After Its Brief Shutdown

Citizens for Legitimate Government - 18 hours 15 min ago

Donald Trump Has Signed a Bill Reopening the U.S. Government After Its Brief Shutdown | 22 Jan 2018 | The White House says President Donald Trump has signed a bill reopening the government, ending a 69-hour display of partisan dysfunction after Democrats reluctantly voted to temporarily pay for resumed operations. The shutdown took effect Saturday on the one-year anniversary of the president’s inauguration, but the White House maintains that Trump came out the winner in the GOP's standoff with Democrats. The White House argues Democrats "caved" after Trump refused to negotiate with them on immigration policy until the government reopened.

Categories: News

Man arrested, accused of threatening to kill CNN employees

Citizens for Legitimate Government - 18 hours 23 min ago

Man arrested, accused of threatening to kill CNN employees | 22 Jan 2018 | A Michigan man was arrested after allegedly threatening to shoot and kill CNN employees, WGCL-TV reported Monday. The FBI launched an investigation after the man, who is unnamed in the CBS report, reportedly called CNN 22 times about a week ago. "Fake news. I'm coming to gun you all down," the man told a CNN operator, according to court documents obtained by WGCL-TV.

Categories: News

Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules state congressional map unconstitutional

Citizens for Legitimate Government - 18 hours 47 min ago

Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules state congressional map unconstitutional | 22 Jan 2018 | The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the state’s congressional map is the result of gerrymandering, to the point that it violates the state constitution. The court ordered that the state must draw a new congressional map ahead of the 2018 midterms, according to multiple reports. The decision is a major victory for Democrats, who argued the map had been gerrymandered to benefit Republicans. Republicans redrew the state's map in 2011.

Categories: News

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