5 Facts About the Death Penalty

by DAVID MASCI – Capital punishment is legal in a majority of U.S. states, including in two states – California and Nebraska – where voters decided to retain it in the 2016 election. Nationally, however, public support for the death penalty has fallen in recent years, as has the number of executions. The death penalty has been back in the news recently as Arkansas carried out its first execution since 2005 – one of eight inmates the state originally planned to put to death over the course of 11 days this month. Courts have since intervened and temporarily halted some of the executions. As the debate over the death penalty continues in the U.S. and worldwide, here are five facts about the issue: 1 The annual number of U.S. executions peaked at 98 in 1999 and has fallen sharply in the years since. In 2016, 20 inmates were executed, according to the...

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Red Flags as Trump Team Dodges on Tax Plan’s Impact on Middle Class

by Lauren McCauley – Scant on details, critics say this is a massive tax break for corporations that the White House is determined to label a ‘middle-class tax cut’. Members of President Donald Trump’s team are having a hard time defending his new tax plan and, when asked directly if it will benefit the middle class, have exhibited a pattern of strategic avoidance. Appearing on ABC‘s “Good Morning America”Thursday morning, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin repeatedly ducked when asked if the tax overhaul would benefit middle class families. When asked by host George Stephanopoulos what “a middle class family that makes 60k a year can expect in tax cuts,” Mnuchin demurred. When pressed further if he could “guarantee that no one in the middle class is gonna pay more,” he said that’s “absolutely” the objective, but added: “I can’t make any guarantees until this thing is done and on the president’s desk.”...

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‘Oh, come on’: Supreme Court Justices Incredulous at Justice Department Immigration Argument

by Laura Clawson – It, uh, doesn’t sound like the Trump-Sessions Justice Department is going to prevail in its argument to the U.S. Supreme Court that citizenship can be revoked over any misstatement or failure to disclose at all, however minor, that a person included (or didn’t include) on their citizenship application. Yes, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were all vocally skeptical. But there was also this, from Chief Justice John Roberts: “Some time ago, outside the statute of limitations, I drove 60 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour zone,” the chief justice said, adding that he had not been caught. The form that people seeking American citizenship must complete, he added, asks whether the applicant had ever committed a criminal offense, however minor, even if there was no arrest. “If I answer that question no, 20 years after I was naturalized as a citizen, you can knock on my door...

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Flynn was Warned Against Accepting Foreign Payments, but He did it Anyway (VIDEOS)

by Laurel Raymond – The former National Security Adviser got payouts from the Turkish and Russian governments. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) just released three damning new documents on former Trump administration National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The documents, provided by the Department of Defense, show that the Pentagon warned Flynn in 2014 that he could not legally take money from foreign governments without getting permission in advance. The same documents also confirm that Flynn did not ask for permission before taking payments — emoluments — from Russia. Flynn, despite the warning, accepted the payments and failed to disclose them on his application for security clearance in 2016. He similarly failed to disclose his lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government. “These documents raise grave questions about why General Flynn concealed the payments he received from foreign sources after he was warned explicitly by the Pentagon,” said Cummings, who is the ranking member of the House Oversight...

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Opposition to Trumpcare 2.0 Swells

by Casey Quinlan – The American Medical Association said it opposes the Republican health care bill. The opposition to Trumpcare is growing. The American Medical Association, American Hospital Association, and Catholic Health Association were the latest groups to voice their opposition to the bill on Thursday. GOP senators, moderate House Republicans, and Democrats are also either critical of or totally oppose the latest version of Trumpcare. With the proposed addition of an amendment championed by Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), and thus named the MacArthur amendment, Republican leaders won the support of far-right conservatives in the Freedom Caucus but may have lost the support of moderate Republicans. The amendment, which was announced on Tuesday, would essentially eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions. MacArthur is a co-chair of the Tuesday Group, a 50-member moderate Republican group, but did not negotiate with the group’s blessing, Politico reported. Some moderate Republicans oppose the rollback of...

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On This Day, Apr 28, 1967 – Muhammad Ali Refuses Army Induction

On April 28, 1967, boxing champion Muhammad Ali refuses to be inducted into the U.S. Army and is immediately stripped of his heavyweight title. Ali, a Muslim, cited religious reasons for his decision to forgo military service. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., in Louisville, Kentucky, on January 14, 1942, the future three-time world champ changed his name to Muhammad Ali in 1964 after converting to Islam. He scored a gold medal at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome and made his professional boxing debut against Tunney Husaker on October 29, 1960, winning the bout in six rounds. On February 25, 1964, he defeated the heavily favored bruiser Sonny Liston in six rounds to become heavyweight champ. On April 28, 1967, with the United States at war in Vietnam, Ali refused to be inducted into the armed forces, saying “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Viet Cong.” On June...

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New Poll has Very Bad News for the NRA

by Alyson Chadwick – While it may not come as much of a surprise that the leadership at the National Rifle Association (NRA) has a different opinion on gun control than the average American, what is surprising is that same leadership holds a different opinion than the American gun owner. According to a new poll, at least 67 percent of gun owners in the United States believe that the organization has changed its mission from one promoting gun safety to one dominated by professional lobbyists. They say the NRA has been “overtaken by lobbyists and the interests of gun manufacturers and lost its original purpose and mission.” The NRA of today looks very different from what it looked like before. In fact, for most of its history, it supported, and even wrote, gun control legislation. Adam Winkler, author of Gunfight: the Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America, wrote, “Historically, the leadership...

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A Primer: Just What is Net Neutrality — and Why All the Fuss?

by THERESA RILEY AND JOSHUA HOLLAND – Here’s what you need to know about the fight for an open Internet. The battle over net neutrality is once again heating up. But not everyone has followed this somewhat complicated issue. Here, then, is a primer for understanding what’s at stake in the fight for an open Internet. Just what is net neutrality anyway? Net neutrality is a principle that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) – and the regulators that oversee them — treat all Internet traffic the same way. The idea is to keep the net free and open, giving users equal access to any website or application. net neutrality would prevent companies that provide Internet access from blocking or slowing down traffic to or from specific sites in much the same way as a phone company has to put through your call, regardless of whom you’re calling. Timothy Lee has a simple...

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Donald Trump: US to Renegotiate NAFTA, Not Scrap It (VIDEOS)

US, Mexico and Canada agree to renegotiate NAFTA – hours after rumours of new executive order to leave the trade pact. US President Donald Trump has told the leaders of Mexico and Canada that he will not pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), just hours after administration officials said he was considering a draft executive order to do just that. The White House on Wednesday made the surprise announcement in a read-out of calls between Trump, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “President Trump agreed not to terminate NAFTA at this time and the leaders agreed to proceed swiftly, according to their required internal procedures, to enable the renegotiation of the NAFTA deal to the benefit of all three countries,” the White House statement said. “It is my privilege to bring NAFTA up to date through renegotiation,” Trump said in...

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Why We Can’t Ever Compromise Over Controlling Women’s Bodies

by SemDem – To state the obvious:  with the GOP in power, it has been a very rough time for women. A misogynistic, serial sexual predator won the White House. Hard-fought rights that all of us thought were settled decades ago are suddenly in peril.  Attacks on birth control, reproductive freedom, and women’s health care were just the beginning.  Trump even recently found time to revoke the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Act, which means the return of those awful forced arbitration clauses for sexual harassment. (Fox News rejoiced.) The attack is on all fronts, from the president, from Congress, and now, a new Supreme Court Justice who said women are manipulators and wants to away their rights.  It gets worse at the state level.  Unchecked rightwing zealots in state legislatures—who openly admit believing that rape is God’s will and that women should regard their bodies as nothing more than hosts–have flooded the docket with bills regulating uteri. Yet through the nonstop parade of the outrageous, there has been...

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US Wants to Bring North Korea to ‘Path of Dialogue’ (VIDEOS)

Diplomacy still the preferred option but military action also on the table, US lawmakers are told at the White House. The United States wants to bring North Korea back to the “path of dialogue” over its nuclear weapons programme and will use diplomatic measures and additional sanctions to increase pressure on it. After briefing senators in a highly unusual meeting at the White House on Wednesday, Pentagon chief Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats issued a statement that toned down military rhetoric and urged the international community to help find a solution to North Korea’s nuclear programme. President Donald Trump aims to “pressure North Korea into dismantling its nuclear, ballistic missile, and proliferation programs by tightening economic sanctions and pursuing diplomatic measures with our allies and regional partners”, the statement read. Trump calls for tougher sanctions on North Korea “We are...

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‘Goldman Sachs Populism’: Trump Tax Plan Benefits Ultra-Wealthy—Like Him

by Deirdre Fulton – Chorus vows to fight regressive tax plan ‘tooth and nail’. President Donald Trump unveiled his latest giveaway to corporations and the ultra-wealthy on Wednesday, with a tax plan that would, according to one analyst, “personally help Trump enormously.” The proposal, as outlined by Goldman Sachs alums and Trump administration officials Gary Cohn and Steven Mnuchin at the White House, would cut tax rates for businesses from (a rarely paid) 35 percent to 15 percent—a plan described this week by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich as “truly dumb.” Trump’s package would also involve a “pass-through” tax cut on business income that is currently taxed at the business owners’ individual income tax rates rather than the corporate rate. Such a tax cut is also a centerpiece of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) “Better Way” plan, and as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) notes, “would overwhelmingly benefit...

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The “100 by ’50 Act” Cannot Become Our “North Star”

by Ezra Silk – On Tuesday, Senators Jeff Merkley and Bernie Sanders are scheduled to introduce the “100 by ’50 Act,” billed as “the most ambitious piece of climate legislation Congress has ever seen.” 350.org’s Jason Kowalski has expressed hopes that the symbolic bill, which aims to build a 100% renewable energy economy by 2050, will become the “North Star” of the climate movement. Yet the April 17th draft of the bill is incremental, non-comprehensive, and fails to meet the challenge of this historic moment. It’s time to go back to the drawing board. We need a true climate emergency bill grounded in climate truth. #1: This bill will not solve the climate crisis. In a blog post for 350.org, Senator Jeff Merkley acknowledged as much: “This legislation isn’t designed to solve the crisis on its own, but to put forward a clear way to end the primary driver of global...

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Hate Group Leader: Our allies ‘are now very well placed’ in the Trump Administration

by Gabe Ortiz – Yes, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign emboldened white supremacists and extremists, with a wave of hate crimes sweeping the nation in the immediate days following his popular vote loss to Hillary Clinton. White nationalists like Steve Bannon and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have found a new home in the administration, and as the New York Times recently noted, a number of lesser known but equally deplorable anti-immigrant voices have joined right alongside them: Mr. Trump’s senior White House adviser, Stephen Miller, worked tirelessly to defeat immigration reform as a staff member for Senator Jeff Sessions, now the attorney general. Gene P. Hamilton, who worked on illegal immigration as Mr. Sessions’s counsel on the Judiciary Committee, is now a senior counselor at the Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency of the Border Patrol and ICE, where Mr. Feere is working. Julia Hahn, who wrote about immigration for Breitbart — with headlines like “Republican-Led...

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On This Day, April 27, 1989 – Student protesters take over Tiananmen Square

  1989 – Student protestors took over Tiananmen Square in Beijing. April 27, 1989 is arguably the most glorious day of the 1989 student movement. On this day, hundreds of thousands of college students in Beijing walked out of their campuses, despite that the demonstration was canceled at the last minute under the pressure and in the face of the new People’s Daily editorial which accused their movement as a deadly turmoil. The Chinese government condemned the protests as a “counter-revolutionary riot”, and has prohibited all forms of discussion or remembrance of the events since. Due to the lack of information from China, many aspects of the events remain unknown or unconfirmed. Estimates of the death toll range from a few hundred to the thousands. 1509 – Pope Julius II excommunicated the Italian state of Venice. Venice had taken control of the cities of Faenza, Rimini and Ravenna to extend...

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Ivanka’s Factory In China Pays $62 For a 57-Hour Week — Busted, Ivanka!

by ursulafaw – Karma does seem to be amusing itself at Ivanka Trump’s expense this week.  Here she is in Germany touting what a great feminist and family man her father is, while being booed and hissed — and you can add to that that Ivanka’s just gotten busted for paying sweatshop wages in China. The Washington Post reports that inspectors with the Fair Labor Association found dozens of violations of international labor standards during an audit of a factory in China owned by the G-III Apparel Group — which owns the rights to manufacture and distribute Ivanka’s fashion line. The newspaper noted the timing of the inspectors’ report, “comes as the president’s daughter has sought to cast herself as both a champion of workplace issues and a defender of her father’s “buy American, hire American” agenda.” Workers at a factory in China used by the company that makes clothing for...

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Great Barrier Reef Reaches “Terminal Stage” as CO2 Levels Rise at Record Rate

by Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Report – I’ve been writing these climate dispatches every month for over three years, and each successive dispatch becomes more difficult to write than the last, as the impacts of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) become increasingly severe. Species, ecosystems, glaciers, sea ice and humans themselves continue to absorb and pay for this human experiment of industrialization gone horribly awry. Many are paying with their very existence. Two months ago, I spent some time researching and writing in Australia. I visited the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), where I reveled in the majesty of intact towering coral structures flourishing with marine life. Yet I was also devastated during this visit — again and again, I happened upon bleached out and silently dead areas of barren coral wasteland, which not long ago teemed with living beings. Roughly 20 percent of the coral on the outer reef were...

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First 100 Days: Trump and the Degradation of the Presidency

by Robert Reich – Trump’s failure to accomplish little or any of his agenda during his first 100 days is striking. But we should not forget the vast harm he has done in this comparatively short time – especially his degradation of the presidency. From early in the Republic, we have looked at the office of the president as a focal point for the nation’s values. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and his Teddy’s fifth cousin, Franklin, are studied by school children as both exemplars of what it means to be president and of the moral authority of the office. It is not merely what these men accomplished, but how they did it; not just their policies but their positive effects on the institutions of democratic governance. True, many of our presidents have fallen short of those ideals. But our disappointments in them largely reflect the high expectations we...

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Repealing Obamacare Could Violate International Law. UN Letter Never Made it to Congressional Leadership

by First Amendment – The United Nations delivered a 5-page letter to the Trump administration warning them that stripping healthcare from millions of people could violate international law. Interestingly enough no one in the House and Senate leadership knew about this letter until today, even though they should have been advised per the letter. www.washingtonpost.com/… The United Nations has contacted the Trump administration as part of an investigation into whether repealing the Affordable Care Act without an adequate substitute for the millions who would lose health coverage would be a violation of several international conventions that bind the United States. It turns out that the notion that “health care is a right” is more than just a Democratic talking point. A confidential, five-page “urgent appeal” from the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights in Geneva, sent to the Trump administration, cautions that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act could put the United States at odds with its international...

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North Korean Artillery and the Concept of “Flattening Seoul” – a Breakdown

by Rei – You hear it often: if war in Korea were to break out, Seoul would be flattened. Not because of a nuclear strike, but because of North Korean artillery.  North Korea is estimated to have (depending on the analysis and definitions) 8600-12000 artillery pieces, dug in and defended against a first strike. At one round per minute, they could fire at least five hundred thousand rounds per hour, quickly reducing Seoul to a heap of rubble. Is this actually the case?  Let’s break it down. First off, can North Korea actually hit Seoul? Image: GlobalSecurity The above map shows the range of various types of North Korean artillery fired from the closest point on the DMZ. It quickly becomes clear that the vast majority of them aren’t actually in range of Seoul. Only the M-1978 (since modified to the M-1989) actually is. This is a large, rather unwieldy system...

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