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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