On This Day, Dec. 31, 1879 – Thomas Edison Demonstrates His Light Bulb

1879 – Thomas Edison gave his first public demonstration of incandescent lighting to an audience in Menlo Park, NJ. Edison’s serious incandescent light bulb research began in 1878, filing his first patent later that year…”Improvement In Electric Lights” in October 1878. His experiments involved the fabrication and testing of many different metal filaments, including platinum. Platinum was very difficult to work with, and prone to being weakened by heating and oxygen attack. In addition, platinum was expensive, and too low in resistance; which would require heavy copper conductors in Edison’s electric distribution system he was designing to supply commercial installations of his bulbs. This system would later become the model for our modern electric utility power distribution system of today. Edison then resorted to a carbon-based, high-resistance, filament. One year later in October 1879, Edison successfully tested a filament that burned for 13.5 hours. Continuing to improve his design,...

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Trump’s Plan to Warm Relations with Russia is Getting Harder

by Justin Salhani – Trump wanted to improve relations with Putin, but Senate Republicans may complicate his plans. President-elect Donald Trump’s plans to warm relations with Russia are set to be complicated by new sanctions placed on Russia’s top intelligence agencies and Obama’s decision to expel a number of Russian emissaries. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that he will not expel American diplomats, despite the Obama administration’s jettison of 35 Russians from the United States over accusations of hacking and election interference. “While we reserve the right to respond, we will not drop to this level of irresponsible diplomacy, and we will make further steps to help resurrect Russian-American relations based on the policies that the administration of Trump will pursue,” Putin said in a statement published on the Kremlin’s website. Putin said the expulsion was a provocation but chose not to immediately retaliate, despite suggestions to do so from Russian...

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Racist Carl Paladino Gets Booted Off School Board (VIDEO)

by Stephen D Foster Jr – The Buffalo School Board refuses to tolerate racism from one of their own members, and decisively voted to oust a racist Trump supporter from their ranks on Thursday. Earlier this month, Carl Paladino wrote a wish list hoping for President Obama’s death from mad cow disease and called for First Lady Michelle Obama to be sent to live with gorillas in Africa. “I’d like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla,” Paladino wrote. Predictably, national outrage ensued as Paladino’s own son condemned him. “We value and respect our employees, friends, partners and all of our commercial and residential tenancies and we do not condone the statements made about the President of the United States and his wife,” William Paladino wrote. “They were disrespectful and absolutely unnecessary.”...

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Justice Protectors, Let’s Take Action Inauguration Day

by Ted Glick – I’m not sure how many Inauguration Day protests in DC I’ve been to over the years. The one I distinctly remember is January 20th, 2001, George W. Bush’s first inauguration. There was a similar political dynamic then as the upcoming Trump one. A reactionary Republican was taking office, and progressives were very concerned about what it would mean across a broad range of issues. Of course, Bush had not campaigned the way Trump did. He hadn’t been publicly accused by a dozen women of sexual attacks. He hadn’t called Mexicans rapists or for a ban on all Muslim emigration into the USA. He wasn’t a full-on, narcissistic, pathological liar. He hadn’t aligned himself so overtly with white supremacists. He hadn’t nominated the head of Exxon Mobil to be Secretary of State. But there were justifiable fears, and they proved to be well-founded after the 9-11-01 terrorist attacks....

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Mormon Tabernacle Choir Member Quits Rather than Perform at Trump’s Inauguration

by Jack Jenkins – “I could never ‘throw roses to Hitler.’ And I certainly could never sing for him.” A member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has resigned in protest over the group’s decision to sing at President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, saying “it will appear that Choir is endorsing tyranny and by singing for this man.” The famous choir, which is affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), first announced its decision to perform at Trump’s inauguration last week. The news sparked controversy among Mormons—many of whom are deeply ambivalent about Trump—but organizers justified the decision by noting that the group has performed at the inaugural celebrations of both Republican and Democratic presidents. But as first reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, the reasoning was not enough for at least one performer: Jan Chamberlin, a member of the choir, published a Facebook post on Thursday morning...

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Senators Dig into Scott Pruitt’s Fossil Fuel Connections Before Confirmation Hearings Begin

by Natasha Geiling – Pruitt is an active member of the Rule of Law Defense Fund, which has received $175,000 from the Koch brothers. Six Democratic members of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee sent a letter to Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt on Wednesday, asking that he answer questions about his ties to the fossil fuel industry and a conservative nonprofit funded in part by petrochemical billionaires Charles and David Koch. Pruitt has been nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to take on the role of EPA administrator, and the Senators behind the letter are looking for more information about how his ties to the fossil fuel industry might influence his work at the EPA before confirmation hearings begin. The letter, signed by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Ben Cardin (D-MD), asked for more information regarding Pruitt’s ties...

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Setting Stage for Major Climate Battle, Dem AGs Put Trump on Alert

by Lauren McCauley – Letter from coalition of Democratic attorneys general say that Trump should ignore advice to scrap Clean Power Plan. If President-elect Donald Trump goes ahead with his plan to destroy U.S. climate regulations, he’s going to face a whole heap of trouble, a coalition of Democratic attorneys general is warning the incoming president. In a letter (pdf) dated Wednesday, AGs from 13 states and five additional localities advised Trump against plans to renege on President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), saying that such a course of action “would assuredly lead to more litigation.” The warning is in response to a letter (pdf) sent earlier this month by a number of Republican AGs to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Speaker Paul Ryan which declared the CPP “unlawful,” and encouraged the GOP lawmakers to issue an executive order “on day one” that would...

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Iraq Resumes Mosul Operation After a Two-Week Lull (VIDEO)

Iraqi forces launch the “second phase” of the battle to retake eastern Mosul from ISIL. Iraqi troops backed by US-led air strikes have pushed deeper into eastern Mosul after a two-week lull in the operation to retake the city held by the Islamic State of Iraq and the levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group. Staff Lieutenant General Abdulghani al-Assadi, a senior officer in Iraq’s counterterrorism service, said the second phase of the operation, now in its third month, began on Thursday. He told the AFP news agency that forces began advancing towards the Quds neighbourhood. “Now our forces clashed with the enemy and there is resistance,” al-Assadi said, adding that forces on the northern and southern fronts were also advancing. Special elite forces also pushed into the Karama neighbourhood, while army troops and federal police advanced into nearby Intisar, Salam and Sumor neighbourhoods, the AP news agency reported. Smoke...

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I’m Not Cheering the End of 2016

by Jill Richardson – This year was tough. But whatever comes next, it’s not going to be good. If you thought 2016 was bad, I have bad news: Buckle up. Hopefully 2017 won’t bring the deaths of more beloved celebrities, and I doubt we’ll see the killing of any more famous gorillas. But one element that made 2016 terrible isn’t going anywhere. It’s actually getting worse. You can call it the Trump phenomenon, polarization among Americans, or whatever you want to call it. From my vantage point, Trump’s transition team is making some troubling decisions that are going to reverberate well into next year, and the ones to come after it. Even before the man’s in office, Trumpocracy is already beyond my worst nightmares. It’s so awful that it’s hard to even keep track of everything I need to be angry about. But here’s my best attempt. First, there’s the strange...

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On This Day, Dec. 30, 1980 – NBC Cancels ‘The Wonderful World of Disney’

1980 – “The Wonderful World of Disney” was cancelled by NBC after more than 25 years on the TV. It was the longest-running series in prime-time television history. Originally hosted by Walt Disney himself, the series presented animated cartoons and other material (some original, some pre-existing) from the studio library. For many years, the show also featured one-hour edits of such then-recent Disney films as Alice in Wonderland, and in other cases, telecasts of complete Disney films split into two or more one-hour episodes.Occasionally, a more educational segment, such as The Story of the Animated Drawing, would be featured. The show spawned the Davy Crockett craze of 1955 with the three-episode series (not shown in consecutive weeks) about the historical American frontiersman, starring Fess Parker in the title role. Millions of dollars of merchandise were sold relating to the title character, and the theme song, “The Ballad of Davy...

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Trends to Watch in 2017: Industrial Emissions

by DarkSyde – Modern global CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Note the shape of the black line See that chart up there? See the black line in it? If you compare it to average global temperatures, you’ll see a remarkable similarity. But the resemblances don’t end there, with just those two images. Not by a long shot. “It’s not just CO2, other emissions have been increasing apace,” explained DR David Grinspoon, exobiologist and author of Earth in Human Hands. “And the combined effects of methane, nitrous oxide and other gases like chlorofluorocarbons make the situation worse. Whatever you choose to measure, be it global population or the damming of rivers, or even the relentless spread of McDonalds, the pattern is similar: a gradual, accelerating influence until about 1950. Then everything starts shooting up.” Anyone with high school algebra and a computer can play around with the axis on a 2-D graph and get plenty of...

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Tripwires for the Trumpsters

by Ralph Nader – The Trumpsters are coming to town—led by a failed gambling czar, corporate welfare king and major tax escapee—and they are hell bent on unmaking Washington, D.C. With all three branches of government  dominated by Republican members of Congress and Republican appointees—due to a mixture of abysmal deficiencies in the Democratic Party and the interloping luck of the atavistic Electoral College—the wrecking crew of Trump’s nominees to high cabinet and other positions brings with it a host of politically perilous baggage. First, the Trumpsters have vowed to dismantle various government programs. They are determined to severely limit the protection of labor, replace public schools with taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools, and drop regulatory protections in the health, safety and environmental fields, among others. Acting without the requisite legal authority is of little concern to Mr. Trump. Having sworn in their oaths of office (to “faithfully execute the laws...

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Even as Global Trade Dropped, US Arms Sales Boomed in 2015

by Nadia Prupis – Even as other nations tighten budgets for weapons amid domestic financial concerns, US manages to sell $40 billion in one year. The U.S. sold more weapons than any other country in 2015 despite a drop in the global arms trade, according to a new congressional report. At $40 billion, the U.S. signed more than half of all arms agreements last year, and more than double the next-highest seller, which was France at $15 billion. American weapons sales included bombs, missiles, armored tanks, Apache attack helicopters, F-15 fighter jets, and other items. The report (pdf) was published by the Congressional Research Service, which conducts national policy analysis for Congress. It looked at conventional arms transfers to developing nations from 2008 to 2015. Russia sold $11.1 billion, a slight drop from its 2014 count at $11.2 billion. China sold $6 billion, doubling its output from last year. The leading...

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Damning Investigation Finds Trump’s Philanthropy Largely a “Facade”

by Lauren McCauley – One of the Trump Foundation’s most consistent causes was Donald Trump himself. President-elect Donald Trump continues to boast about his charitable giving, but those claims were cast into further doubt on Thursday after a damning Washington Post investigation into his philanthropy concluded that it is, for the most part, a “facade.” Despite claims of tens of millions of dollars donated to charitable causes, the months-long investigation by Post reporter David A. Fahrenthold was only able to verify “$7.8 million in charitable giving from Trump’s own pocket since the early 1980s,” and none since 2009. Fahrenthold acknowledges that, because the president-elect has refused to release his tax records, it is impossible to know for certain. Nonetheless, the reporter contacted “420-plus charities with some connection to Trump,” finding “only one personal gift from Trump between 2008 and the spring of this year”—a less than $10,000 donation in 2009 to the...

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Climate Kids Demand Testimony From Exxon’s Tillerson in Landmark Lawsuit

by Deirdre Fulton – “As CEO of ExxonMobil, Tillerson has unique personal knowledge of the fossil fuel industry’s historical relationship with the federal government.” The group of young people suing the federal government for failing to protect their constitutional right to a stable climate is seeking testimony in their landmark case from Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil and President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state. Attorneys representing the 21 young people in their federal climate lawsuit served the notice of deposition (pdf) on Thursday, demanding Tillerson’s testimony on January 19, 2017 in Dallas, Texas. They claim that “s CEO of ExxonMobil, Tillerson has unique personal knowledge of the fossil fuel industry’s historical relationship with the federal government.” What’s more, they add, Tillerson and Exxon have been leaders in the American Petroleum Institute (API), National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), and American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM)—the trade associations that joined the...

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Girding for GOP Healthcare Attack, Leading Dems Plan to Mount ‘First Stand’

by Andrea Germanos – Trio of lawmakers says nationwide events needed to rally opposition to likely targeting of Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid. Leading Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate on Wednesday urged their colleagues to help mobilize a national stand against Republican threats to “vital and necessary health programs.” Authored by incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who will serve on the Senate Democratic leadership team as outreach coordinator, the letter (pdf) calls for a day of action just before Donald Trump takes office—Jan. 15—in the face of a likely Republican budget bill poised to repeal Obamacare and gut Medicare and Medicaid. The bill, they write, could include: Taking away healthcare coverage for over 30 million Americans by dismantling the healthcare system; Ending guaranteed Medicare benefits for millions of older Americans by converting Medicare into a voucher program; Slashing...

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Trump Takes Credit for New Sprint Jobs He Had Nothing To Do With

by Lauren McCauley – …and the corporate media lets him. President-elect Donald Trump wasted no time taking credit for the thousands of new and returning American jobs announced by Sprint on Wednesday—opportunities which, as many are pointing out, the real estate mogul had very little to do with. Speaking to reporters from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Trump said Wednesday: “Because of what’s happening and the spirit and the hope I was just called by the head people at Sprint and they’re going to be bringing 5,000 jobs back to the United States.” “Also,” he continued, “OneWeb, a new company is going to be hiring 3,000 people so that is very exciting.” Later, he doubled down on that claim saying: “Because of me they’re doing 5,000 jobs in this country.” And while most corporate media outlets allowed the incoming president to pat his own back for the economic boost, some digging...

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Anti-Semitic Group Plans Armed March in Small Montana Town

by Aaron Rupar – Neo-Nazis escalate their harassment campaign against Jews in the hometown of a white supremacist leader’s mother. The Daily Stormer, a popular American neo-Nazi website, is organizing an armed march in Whitefish, Montana, home of white nationalist leader Richard Spencer’s mother. In a recent blog post that features Hilter’s face as its banner image, Andrew Anglin, publisher of the white supremacist website, announced he’s planning an armed march in the town for the second week of January — days before President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration. “Montana has extremely liberal open carry laws, so my lawyer is telling me we can easily march through the center of the town carrying high-powered rifles,” Anglin wrote, adding that he plans to be there personally. “Currently, my guys say we are going to be able to put together about 200 people to participate in the march, which will be against Jews, Jewish businesses and everyone who...

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On This Day, Dec. 29, 1170 – Thomas Becket Killed on Orders from Henry II

1170 – St. Thomas à Becket, the 40th archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in his own cathedral by four knights acting on Henry II’s orders. In 1162, Henry II, king of England, appointed Thomas Becket, as Archbishop of Canterbury. This was the most important religious position in England. No-one was surprised by Henry’s choice as both he and Thomas were very good friends. They enjoyed hunting, playing jokes and socialising together. Becket was known to be a lover of wine and a good horse rider. Henry II loved to ride as well but his personality was troubled by his fearsome temper. He tried to keep his temper under control by working very hard as it distracted him from things that might sparked off his temper. Henry II also controlled a lot of France at this time. William the Conqueror had been his great-grandfather and he had inherited his French...

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Russian Officials Finally Admit Olympic Doping was an ‘Institutional Conspiracy’

by Lindsay Gibbs – They’re not apologizing, though. In the past, Russian officials have vehemently denied allegations of widespread doping, going so far as to call reports “baseless libel.” But now they are changing their tone. “It was an institutional conspiracy,” Anna Antseliovich, the acting director general of Russia’s national anti-doping agency, told the New York Times in a series of interviews conducted in Moscow. This reversal comes just weeks after Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren delivered the second part of his report on Russian doping, part of an independent investigation commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). McLaren found that more than 1,000 Russian athletes in 30 sports were part of the state-sponsored doping program, which dates back to at least 2011. The breadth of the Russian doping scandal is unprecedented. In May, an explosive New York Times interview with Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory, revealed...

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Senate Democrats Demand to Know EPA Nominee’s Ties to Koch Brothers

by Nadia Prupis – Lawmakers ask Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to disclose relationship to public policy institute funded by Koch-related initiative. Senate Democrats are demanding to know what’s behind Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head nominee Scott Pruitt’s ties to the reclusive conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. The lawmakers, led by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, wrote a letter (pdf) to Pruitt on Tuesday demanding that he provide “a full disclosure” of his relationship with the Rule of Law Defense Fund (RLDF), a right-leaning public policy organization that receives funding from Freedom Partners—a group that funds initiatives supported by the Kochs, who have deep investments in fossil fuels. Pruitt’s association with the RLDF is one of several “troubling” ties to the energy industry, the letter states. The fund, which provides a forum for Republican attorneys general to engage on state-level policy, has been known to oppose EPA regulations....

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Rights Icons Join Women’s March as Organizers Aim to Build “Movement for Dignity”

by Nadia Prupis – “Together we are bridging the historical struggles for women’s rights and civil rights to the current intersectional movement for dignity and human rights.” The Women’s March on Washington, a mass mobilization to champion women’s rights, is growing as President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration approaches. Organizers announced on Tuesday that several high-profile supporters, including Gloria Steinem and Harry Belafonte, will be joining the January 21 march as honorary co-chairs. Planned Parenthood has also signed on as a partner. “This is a historic moment to come together to protect the progress we’ve made,” Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said in a statement. “We will send a strong message to the incoming administration that millions of people across this country are prepared to fight attacks on reproductive health care, abortion services, and access to Planned Parenthood, as they intersect with the rights of young people, people of color, immigrants, and people...

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Police Union Objects to ‘Black Lives Matter’ Shirts Being Sold on Amazon

by Ed Krayewski – FOP president calls the products “offensive,” wants them removed. The president of the Fraternal Order of Police urged Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to remove shirts and sweatshirts with the slogans “Black Lives Matter,” “Bulletproof,” and the “urban myth of ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot'” from its website, saying in a letter the products were “offensive to the public” and “may damage your company’s good name amongst FOP members and other active and retired law enforcement officers.” “I am saddened to learn that these third party sellers are making money by exploiting the racial divisions in our country—divisions that the FOP is working hard to heal at the local, State and national level,” Fraternal Order of Police National President Chuck Canterbury wrote. “Commercializing our differences and perpetuating the myths which harm the relationships between the protectors and their communities is wrong at any time of year, but it is...

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Turkey and Russia ‘Agree’ on Nationwide Syria Ceasefire

Truce, excluding areas where Assad forces are battling “terrorist” groups, may come into effect by Wednesday midnight. Turkey and Russia have agreed on a countrywide ceasefire plan for Syria, except for areas where government forces are battling armed groups declared terrorist organisations by the United Nations. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday that a ceasefire plan had been submitted to Syria’s rival parties and could come into force as soon as midnight 22:00 GMT. Citing a source who requested anonymity, Anadolu said “terrorist organisations” would be excluded from the deal. I am a Syrian Child This would most certainly exclude the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the group formerly known as al-Nusra Front. The source also said that if the ceasefire succeeded, political negotiations would start in the Kazakh capital, Astana, under Turkey and Russia’s guidance. Samir Nashar, a Syrian...

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The End of Journalism or a New Beginning?

by KATHY KIELY – At the grassroots, some journalists are trying to answer fake news with the real thing, but they need help If our first fake news election turns out to mark the end of democracy as we know it, I think I can pretty precisely date when the end began. More than 20 years ago, I and a bunch of other Washington journalists were packed into a classroom at American University for a weeklong boot camp designed to teach us about computers and this new-fangled thing that was just beginning to be called the internet. One of the guest speakers, a self-described “technology guru” for the then-fledgling Clinton administration gleefully informed us that we were all dinosaurs. Politicians like his boss, he said, would be able to use the internet to deliver their messages directly to the people, unfiltered by the media. How ironic, then, that those very tools...

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As President, Will Donald Trump and His Cabinet Trade Inside Information?

by Dean Baker, Truthout | Op-Ed – I don’t know that Donald Trump will take advantage of the inside information he will have access to as president, but no one knows that he won’t. And the president has access to a massive amount of inside information. Just for beginners, the president gets advance access to the monthly jobs numbers and the quarterly GDP report. Suppose Trump finds out that the job growth in March is far weaker than the markets expected, or that GDP growth for the first quarter of 2017 is surprisingly strong. These reports would have a huge effect on the stock and bond markets. Trump could make a fortune by making highly leveraged bets just before the government reports are officially released. Or, if he doesn’t want to make the trades himself, he can pass the information along to Vincent Viola, his designee for secretary of the...

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Cuomo Said He’d Return 50,000 Apartments to Rent Regulation. He Didn’t Come Close

by Cezary Podkul – A push by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to return 50,000 apartments to the city’s stock of rent-regulated housing has fallen far short of its goal as hundreds of landlords appear to have ignored the state’s plea to comply voluntarily with laws limiting rent increases. The Cuomo administration’s effort stemmed from a 2009 court decision which said landlords cannot charge market-rate rent increases while collecting a popular tax break known as J-51. Instead, the state’s highest court ruled that apartments must be subject to rent stabilization — state laws limiting rent increases — as long as owners receive the benefit. As we reported in July, the state had ignored requests from tenant groups to enforce this landmark ruling, known as Roberts vs. Tishman Speyer. That was supposed to change in January, when Gov. Cuomo unveiled his effort to make owners comply with the Roberts ruling. At the time,...

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On This Day, Dec 28, 1972 – Hanoi Announces Return to the Paris Peace Talks

After 11 days of round-the-clock bombing (with the exception of a 36-hour break for Christmas), North Vietnamese officials agree to return to the peace negotiations in Paris. The Linebacker II bombing was initiated on December 18 by President Richard Nixon when the North Vietnamese, who walked out of the peace negotiations in Paris, refused his ultimatum to return to the talks. During the course of the bombing, 700 B-52 sorties and more than 1,000 fighter-bomber sorties dropped an estimated 20,000 tons of bombs, mostly over the densely populated area between Hanoi and Haiphong. During the ensuing battle, the North Vietnamese launched their entire stock of more than 1,200 surface-to-air missiles against the U.S. planes. Fifteen B-52s and 11 other U.S. aircraft were lost, along with 93 flyers downed, killed, missing or captured. Hanoi claimed heavy damage and destruction of densely populated civilian areas in Hanoi, Haiphong, and their suburbs. The...

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Millions of Workers Saw Minimum Wage Rise in 2016, No Thanks to Congress

by Laura Clawson – The federal minimum wage remained stuck at $7.25 an hour, with a tipped minimum wage of $2.13 an hour, in 2016. And with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, that won’t be changing anytime soon. The good news is, cities and states continued taking action of their own in 2016, so a lot of workers got a raise and will see further increases in 2017 and beyond. California became the first state to pass a $15 an hour minimum wage, though workers won’t actually be paid $15 until 2022. New York sort of passed a $15 an hour minimum wage, but it’s complicated. Different areas of the state will get to $15 at different times, and the schedule could be delayed past a certain point. But New York City workers will get $15 at the end of 2018. Washington, D.C. also passed a $15 an hour minimum wage....

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Preparing for President Trump

by PETER DREIER – A 10-point plan for activists, politicians, the press and everyday citizens. Many Americans would not be surprised if on Jan. 20 Vladimir Putin administers the oath of office to Donald Trump, the Ku Klux Klan youth choir regales the inaugural crowd with a stirring rendition of “Dixie,” the Chamber of Commerce orchestra performs “Hail to the Chief” and the inaugural party is catered by Carl’s Jr. (whose CEO, billionaire Andrew Puzder, a foe of the minimum wage, is Trump’s nominee for secretary of labor). ExxonMobil (whose CEO, Rex Tillerson, is secretary of state-designate) and Goldman Sachs (whose president, Gary Cohn, will be director of Trump’s National Economic Council) could pay for the whole thing. There’s a Pete Seeger song that begins: “You know it’s darkest before the dawn. And this thought keeps me moving on.” If ever there was a time to heed those words, this is it. There were some bright spots this election: Voters in Arizona, Washington, Colorado and Maine voted to raise...

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Netanyahu, Obama, and the United Nations

by Gwynne Dyer – Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is very, very cross about last Friday’s United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the creation of illegal Jewish settlements all over the occupied West Bank and in East Jerusalem. He called in the ambassadors of all the Western countries that voted for the resolution to tell them off: Britain, France, Spain, even New Zealand. He also had the US ambassador on the carpet, although Washington merely abstained in the Security Council vote. But, Netanyahu said, Donald Trump’s incoming administration has promised to fight “an all-out war” against the resolution. The resolution is only words, of course, but they are words that have not found their way into any UN Security Council resolution since 1979, because the United States always used its veto to kill any resolution that contained them. Words that describe the settlements as having “no legal validity” and constituting a...

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There were 61 Victims of Gun Violence in Chicago During Christmas Weekend

The number of homicides in the city skyrocketed this year. Gun violence killed 11 Chicago residents and injured 50 more, including two teenage girls, during Christmas weekend. The shootings came just days after a Brennan Center report concluded the homicide rate in the nation’s biggest cities jumped 14 percent in 2016 — due in large part to gun violence spiraling out of control in Chicago. According to the Chicago Tribune, which closely tracks shootings in the city, seven people were killed on Christmas Day. The total number of shootings over the holiday weekend was also significantly higher than on the past two Christmas holidays. There were 29 people gunned down in 2015 and 35 people shot in 2014. Fourteen of them died. Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson attributed the recent shootings to gang violence in the “South and West sides of the city.” “These were deliberate and planned shootings by one gang against...

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Trump’s #NotNormal Cabinet Confirmations Could Get Very Messy

by Deirdre Fulton – Senate Democrats are vowing to put up fights against controversial picks including Tillerson, Sessions, and Mnuchin. The Senate confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees are shaping up to be a series of knock-down, drag-out fights, as the uber-wealthy, unevenly qualified picks face increasing opposition both on and off Capitol Hill. Top Senate Democrats on Thursday demanded that each confirmation only move forward if the nominee has cleared an FBI background check; provided a complete financial disclosure; submitted an ethics agreement approved by the Office of Government Ethics; and “satisfied reasonable requests for additional information” that lawmakers have time to review. The joint statement from 16 Democrats who will be ranking members of Senate committees next year came the same day as the New York Times reported that financial vetting for the nominees “has been unusually slow.” “Senate Democrats are concerned that their Republican colleagues will...

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Israel ‘Reducing Ties’ With Nations Over Settlements

Foreign ministry advises officials to limit visits to countries that voted against settlement expansion. Israel’s foreign ministry has said the country is “reducing” ties with nations that voted for last week’s UN Security Council resolution demanding a halt to settlement building in Palestinian territory. Foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said in a message to journalists that Israel was “temporarily reducing” visits and work with embassies, without providing further details. eputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said on Tuesday she was concerned that Israel would miss opportunities to explain its position by cancelling visits, but that she supported making clear “you can’t take Israel for granted”. Israel has been on the defensive since the vote, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as foreign minister, denouncing the resolution as “shameful”. Planned visits by foreign dignitaries were cancelled in the wake of the decision, and ambassadors of countries that voted for...

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Under Pressure, Trump to Dissolve Charitable Foundation

Attorney General says foundation cannot close because it remains the subject of an ongoing investigation. US President-elect Donald Trump says he will be dissolving his philanthropic foundation – the Donald J Trump Foundation – to avoid conflicts of interest once he takes over at the White House. However, the move has been dismissed by the attorney general office which, in a statement released to US media on Saturday, said Trump could not yet close the foundation because it was still under investigation by New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman. “The Trump Foundation is still under investigation by this office and cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete,” Schneiderman spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick said. How Trump may change US foreign policy Trump’s portfolio of US and overseas business interests and holdings, as well as his his philanthropic foundation, have come under increased scrutiny since his election. “The foundation has done enormous good...

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Fake News and the New McCarthyism

by John Buell – One of the most potent worries about the coming Trump presidency is concern about free speech. Trump’s willingness to tolerate or even encourage violence against nonviolent critics of his agenda and personnel choices is alarming. The Washington Post recently carried a chilling cautionary tale about the fate of a young woman who challenged Trump’s record on women’s issues. Parallels with banana republic dictators tacitly encouraging or at least tolerating paramilitary forces seem not far- fetched. Though it is easy for the Washington Post to call attention to and criticize Trump’s incitement to violence, the Post now practices its own more subtle efforts to police speech. Behind the façade of a concern about fake news, the Post featured an article by Craig Timberg that cited—without challenge—an anonymous website, PropOrNot, listing numerous other sites purported to be purveyors of fake news. As Max Blumenthal reported for AlterNet, “the anonymous...

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India on Track to Beat its Paris Targets Years Ahead of Schedule, According to Government Report

by Natasha Geiling – That would put the country on a path to meeting its Paris commitments several years early. In ten years, India could get almost sixty percent of its electricity from non-fossil fuel sources, according to a government forecast published this week. According to a draft of the country’s 10-year energy blueprint, the Indian government expects that 57 percent of the country total electricity capacity will come from non-fossil fuel sources by 2027 — a marked increase over the country’s Paris goals, which say that the country will reach 40 percent non-fossil fuel electricity by 2030. The draft also noted that no new coal-fired power plants would be needed to meet India’s electricity demands through 2027. “India is moving beyond fossil fuels at a pace scarcely imagined only two years ago,” Tim Buckley, a director at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, told the Guardian. He also characterized the forecast...

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On This Day, Dec 27, 2004 – Peyton Manning Breaks Single-STouchdown Pass Record

On December 27, 2004, in a game against the San Diego Chargers, quarterback Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts finds wide receiver Brandon Stokely in the end zone for his 49th touchdown pass of the season, breaking the previous National Football League (NFL) single-season record held by Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins. Born in 1976, Manning is the son of the former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, who played for the New Orleans Saints, the Houston Oilers and the Minnesota Vikings during the 1970s and early 1980s. His younger brother, Eli, plays quarterback for the New York Giants. After a stellar college career at the University of Tennessee, Peyton Manning was selected by the Colts as the first pick in the 1998 NFL draft. From the beginning, Manning performed at a consistently high level, passing for at least 3,000 yards in every season and becoming the first player to...

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On This Day, Dec 26, 1946 – Bugsy Siegel Opens Flamingo Hotel

On December 26, 1946, in Las Vegas, Nevada, mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel opens The Pink Flamingo Hotel & Casino at a total cost of $6 million. The 40-acre facility wasn’t complete and Siegel was hoping to raise some revenue with the grand opening. Well-known singer and comedian Jimmy Durante headlined the entertainment, with music by Cuban band leader Xavier Cugat. Some of Siegel’s Hollywood friends, including actors George Raft, George Sanders, Sonny Tufts and George Jessel were in attendance. The grand opening, however, was a flop. Bad weather kept many other Hollywood guests from arriving. And because gamblers had no rooms at the hotel, they took their winnings and gambled elsewhere. The casino lost $300,000 in the first week of operation. Siegel and his New York “partners” had invested $1 million in a property already under construction by Billy Wilkerson, owner of the Hollywood Reporter as well as some...

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Trump’s “Half-Blind” Trust Blasted as Absurd

by Nadia Prupis – ‘By not disclosing and divesting, Trump is betraying his own voters by prioritizing his own corporate interests at the expense of working families’ President-elect Donald Trump’s team is reportedly considering setting up a “discretionary trust” that would allow Trump to distance himself from his businesses while still reaping their financial benefits—an arrangement that, as government watchdogs put it, is “inappropriate” at best and “a betrayal” at worst. Politico on Wednesday reported that Trump aides were speaking with the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) this week, indicating that the team is still attempting to sidestep ethical boundaries rather than abide by them. It’s the latest in a series of steps by the family that suggest they are selling off access to the president and attempting to profit off Trump’s rise to power. “It’s highly inappropriate,” former ethics lawyer Richard Painter told Politico. “To have someone baby-sit your conflict-creating...

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Ted Cruz to Introduce Bill Allowing Discrimination Against LGBT Americans Nationwide

by Hunter   – Led by Sen. Ted Cruz, Republicans will be wasting no time in their efforts to roll back civil rights for LGBT Americans. would prohibit the federal government from taking “discriminatory action” against any business or person that discriminates against LGBTQ people. The act distinctly aims to protect the right of all entities to refuse service to LGBTQ people based on two sets of beliefs: “(1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.” The intentionally broadly-written law would, in other words, enshrine the “right” of any private business to deny service to gay Americans outright if they are personally opposed to marriage equality. It would not merely allow businesses to deny their services in same-sex marriage ceremonies themselves: it would allow any business to...

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Licensing Medical Marijuana Stirs Up Trouble for States

by Rebecca Beitsch – The seven lucky balls that popped out of the Arizona Department of Health Services lottery machine in October produced big winners — not in the state’s Powerball game, but in the competition to make money in the medical marijuana industry. The prize winners were granted licenses to open a medical marijuana dispensary in a state where patients with prescriptions to treat conditions such as glaucoma and cancer spent $215 million last year on marijuana products. Arizona’s public health officials awarded most licenses based on rules designed to place new dispensaries within range of the greatest number of medical-marijuana patients. But when it wasn’t clear which applicant was in the most patient-dense area, they used a lottery to randomly select the winners, hoping to sidestep conflict. States have struggled with how to give out potentially lucrative medical marijuana licenses — trying to balance public health concerns against an...

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Trump’s Vineyard Looks to Hire Foreign Workers for U.S. Jobs

by Nika Knight – Moreover, incoming Trump administration will have power to approve requested foreign worker visas. In another demonstration of President-elect Donald Trump’s blatant conflicts of interest, a Trump family vineyard filed a request this month for six temporary foreign worker visas—visas which Trump’s administration will soon have the power to approve. The U.S. Labor Department posted the request (pdf) that was submitted earlier this month online on Wednesday. “This is a powerful example of why Donald Trump needs to make a definitive break, not just with his operational interests but his ownership interests, by appointing an independent trustee to liquidate all that,” Norm Eisen, former chief White House ethics lawyer for President Obama, told the Washington Post. It’s “a classic conflict of interest,” Eisen said. And the conflict of interest isn’t the only noteworthy aspect of the situation: Like many U.S. businesses in the Trump empire, the vineyard often employs temporary foreign...

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Paladino says Michelle Obama Belongs with African Gorillas, Wishes Death Upon the President

by Adam Peck – But Carl Paladino insists he isn’t a racist. Carl Paladino, a former co-chair of Donald Trump’s campaign and the man New York Republicans elected as their gubernatorial nominee in 2010, told a local newspaper in Buffalo that he hopes President Obama catches mad cow disease and dies, and that Michelle Obama is a man and should be “let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.” The remarks came as answers to a questionnaire by Buffalo alt-weekly ArtVoice, which sent a harmless 4-question survey to local officials and city residents (sample question: “What would you most like to happen in 2017?”). Reaction to Paladino’s comments were swift and universal. Lawmakers from the city called on him to resign from the Buffalo School Board (a seat he narrowly won over a high school student), Governor Andrew Cuomo called the remarks...

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House Republicans Seek Destruction Of School Lunch Program

by Stephen D Foster Jr – The National School Lunch program that provides healthy free or reduced meals for children in need has joined Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare as yet another program Republicans want to gut in 2017. Not only do Republicans want to take Social Security away from the American people and take away healthcare for adults and children alike, they apparently also want to let children starve at school, too. For years, both parties supported the school lunch program, but Republicans have becomes so greedy and heartless that they are breaking that spirit of cooperation in order to ruthlessly take food out of the mouths of the children who need it most. The program currently costs $12.7 billion, which is a drop in the bucket considering Donald Trump just called for expanding America’s nuclear weapons stockpile, which will cost way more than a school lunch. Clearly, Trump nor...

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The Constitution of the United States has Failed

by Ian Millhiser – This is not fine. What kind of nation allows the loser of a national election to become president — and then does it again 16 years later? What kind of nation retains an electoral process that was originally designed to inflate the influence of slaveholders? What kind of nation permits its Congress to write a time bomb into law that periodically forces rival factions into a game of chicken that could wreck the world economy? What kind of nation fights a civil war over the question of whether people of African descent are people or property, and then looks the other way when the loser ignores the resolution of that war? What kind of nation waits until 1965 to guarantee black people’s right to vote? Americans speak of our Constitution as if it were a religious text. To label a law “unconstitutional” is not simply to say that it violates...

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On This Day, Dec 25, 1962 – To Kill a Mockingbird Debuts

On this day in 1962, To Kill a Mockingbird, a film based on the 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Harper Lee, opens in theaters. The Great Depression-era story of racial injustice and the loss of childhood innocence is told from the perspective of a young Alabama girl named Scout Finch, played in the film by Mary Badham, who lives with her older brother Jem (Phillip Alford) and their widowed attorney father Atticus (Peck). While Scout, Jem and their friend Dill (John Megna) become fascinated by the mysterious shut-in Boo Radley (Robert Duvall), Atticus goes to court to defend a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. Directed by Robert Mulligan (Love with the Proper Stranger, Inside Daisy Clover, Summer of ‘42, The Man in the Moon), To Kill a Mockingbird was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won three Oscars,...

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On This Day, Dec 24, 1865 – KKK Founded

In Pulaski, Tennessee, a group of Confederate veterans convenes to form a secret society that they christen the “Ku Klux Klan.” The KKK rapidly grew from a secret social fraternity to a paramilitary force bent on reversing the federal government’s progressive Reconstruction Era-activities in the South, especially policies that elevated the rights of the local African American population. The name of the Ku Klux Klan was derived from the Greek word kyklos, meaning “circle,” and the Scottish-Gaelic word “clan,” which was probably chosen for the sake of alliteration. Under a platform of philosophized white racial superiority, the group employed violence as a means of pushing back Reconstruction and its enfranchisement of African Americans. Former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was the KKK’s first grand wizard; in 1869, he unsuccessfully tried to disband it after he grew critical of the Klan’s excessive violence. Most prominent in counties where the races...

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Teaching Civics in the Time of Trump

by PANYIN CONDUAH – Many Americans are still going through a whirlwind of emotions as they process November’s election results and the dawning of Donald Trump’s presidency. Although, by the time the official tally is finished, Trump will likely have lost the popular vote by 2 full percentage points, the Electoral College will place him in the Oval Office when a joint session of Congress formally counts the votes in January. Many feel hopeless when it comes to the future of America and criticize the outcome as the result of a broken system. But while Trump may have won the big seat in the Oval Office, officials in other branches of government at the federal, state and local levels have the power to stand up to Trump’s agenda. For American voters to effectively push these levers of power, however, they’re going to have to understand how government works. Studies show that...

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UN Votes to Demand End to Israeli Settlements

by Deirdre Fulton – Historic US abstention allows resolution to pass. Despite unusual diplomatic maneuvering involving President-elect Donald Trump, Israel, and Egypt on Thursday, the United Nations Security Council passed a historic resolution on Friday demanding an end to Israeli settlements. The United States abstained, effectively allowing the measure to be approved. Egypt withdrew the original resolution on Thursday afternoon, reportedly “under pressure” from Trump—who tweeted on the matter Thursday morning—and Israel. Had this move worked, it could have punted the measure to the incoming Trump administration, which is seen as more friendly to Israel than that of President Barack Obama—especially after Trump’s nomination last week of conservative hardliner David Friedman to serve as U.S. ambassador to Israel. But Reuters reported Friday that Security Council members New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela, and Senegal stepped in and the vote took place after all on Friday afternoon. Mohammad Alsaafin @malsaafin UN resolution that’s become such a controversial issue the last...

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