Can Businesses Turn LGBT People Away Because of Who They Are? That’s up to the Supreme Court Now

by James Esseks – The United States Supreme Court agreed to decide a case about whether a business can refuse to sell commercial goods to a gay couple because of the business owner’s religious beliefs.  A win for the business could gut the nation’s civil rights laws, licensing discrimination not just against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, but against anyone protected by our non-discrimination rules. In July 2012, Debbie Munn accompanied her son, Charlie Craig, and his fiancé, Dave Mullins, to the Masterpiece Cakeshop just outside of Denver  to pick out a cake for their wedding reception.  When the bakery’s owner heard that the cake was for two men, he said he wouldn’t sell them a cake because of his religious beliefs. Debbie was stunned and humiliated for Charlie and Dave.  As she has  said, “It was never about the cake.”  She couldn’t believe that a business would be allowed...

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Palestinians in Gaza Reflect on 10 Years of Siege

by Hosam Salem – Residents reflect on how life has changed since Israel blockaded the Strip and Hamas took control. Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have entered their 11th year under a suffocating siege imposed by Israel. The blockade dictates the day-to-day reality for people in Gaza, where Israel controls the borders, airspace, and waters. Gaza’s isolation has devastated its economy, impoverished much of the Strip’s two million people, and left them without adequate electricity, water and health services. June 2017 also marks the tenth year of Hamas‘ rule over the Strip, after the group won elections in 2006 and pushed out its rival, Fatah, which refused to recognise the vote. Al Jazeera spoke to Palestinians in Gaza about life before and after the 2007 Israeli siege was imposed and Hamas’ rise to power. The economic situation we’re experiencing since the 2006 elections until today is a complex reality. Every year, the living, humanitarian and social situation gets progressively...

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Five Months of Trump: The Tipping Point

by Bob Burnett – Five months into the Trump regime, we’ve reached the tipping point.  It may take more than a year to play out, but the presidency of Donald Trump is coming to an end.  Meantime, congressional Republicans—acknowledging the Administration is running out of runway—have decided to ram through as much toxic legislation as they can while Trump is in the White House. Four factors brought us to this tipping point. The first is Donald Trump’s unpopularity. The battle lines have been drawn and there is no neutral ground. The majority of American adults (56 percent according to the 538 website) disapprove of Trump’s job performance. Second, in the face of his historic unpopularity Trump has given up on any notion of broadening his base, of being the President of all the people.  here’s been no indication that Trump plans any effort at reconciliation between the warring factions in American...

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Trump Administration Eliminates Funding for Group Countering White Nationalism

by Laurel Raymond – The group will no longer get any funding through the Countering Violent Extremism program. The Trump administration has dropped federal support of an organization dedicated to countering white nationalist and neo-Nazi extremism, a Politico report revealed on Friday. The organization, Life After Hate, was founded in 2009 and is run by a small staff of men and women who were once part of racist activist and extremist movements, and who now work to de-radicalize others involved in violent extremist groups. In its final days, the Obama administration awarded the group a $400,000 grant as part of its Counter Violent Extremism (CVE) program. Life After Hate was the only group dedicated to fighting white nationalist extremism to receive a grant under the program. It’s also in increasing demand: Picciolini told Politico that since President Trump’s election, Life After Hate has seen a 20-fold increase in requests for help, coming “from people looking...

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Fuggedaboudit! No Trumpcare Vote in the Senate this Week

by Murfster35 – The fun on the healthcare merry-go-round never stops. And now the GOP is seeing the one thing that McConnell wanted to avoid with all of his secret bill writing, and minimal debate, no fooling around is going to happen. MSNBC is reporting, and multiple GOP Senators have confirmed by their comments to the media  that their will be no healthcare vote this week. This is only going to make getting the bill passed more difficult, exactly the thing McConnell wanted to avoid. According to MSNBC reporting, traditional wisdom is that for a controversial bill like this, going home for a long July 4th break will expose Senators to more feedback from their constituents. No more staffers handling the phones, if they go into a food store to get a gallon of milk they’re going to get an earful. The parking lot at church is not going to be a very...

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The Trump Administration Just Officially Repealed Obama’s Clean Water Rule

by Natasha Geiling – The rule protected the drinking water of 1 in 3 Americans. The Trump administration has officially repealed the Clean Water Rule, which was finalized by the Obama administration in 2015. The repeal, which was published in the Federal Register on Thursday afternoon, signals the first step in the Trump administration’s promise to rescind and rewrite the regulation. The repeal was finalized on the same day that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee and promised that under his leadership, the EPA would focus on its core mission of protecting clean air and water for the American people. “We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,” Pruitt said in a press statement. “This is the first step in the two-step process to redefine ‘waters of the U.S.’ and we are committed to moving through...

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Russia is at a Dead End in Syria (VIDEOS)

by Leonid Issaev – Russia is struggling and failing to find a way out of the Syrian quagmire. The victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential elections last November raised the Russian leadership’ hopes of improving Russian-US relations in general and reaching a compromise on Syria, in particular. Now, five months after Trump took power, the chances of this happening seem meagre. Recent events in Syria, especially the incidents that took place in the Raqqa area and near the city of Tanf at the Syrian-Iraqi border, make Russian-US cooperation increasingly illusory. This, in turn, makes the Russian exit from Syria that much more difficult. The Kremlin’s gamble to use the conflict in Syria to normalise relations with the West after the disaster in Ukraine is not paying off. Moscow is appearing to be stuck in Syria, entangled in Damascus and Tehran’s desperate plots. Seeking a way out INSIDE STORY: Are the US and Russia headed for a conflict...

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Three Chicago Cops Indicted in Laquan McDonald Cover-up

by Alan Pyke – Indictment leaves room to add defendants to a case that could reach Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office. Three officers who helped cover up the circumstances surrounding the police killing of teenager Laquan McDonald in 2014 will face criminal conspiracy charges, a special prosecutor in Illinois announced Tuesday. McDonald’s killer, Officer Jason Van Dyke, still awaits trial on homicide charges in the case. Initially, Van Dyke and other officers at the scene reported that the knife-wielding teen had lunged at officers, supposedly prompting Van Dyke to shoot him 16 times. Video proving that claim false was suppressed by the city, even after it had been reviewed by people in the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D). The video was only released 14 months later, after a successful public records lawsuit by a local freelance journalist. Similar records pursuits revealed emails indicating that Emanuel’s staff had seen the footage within months of the...

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On This Day, June 27, 1844 – Mormon Founder Joseph Smith Killed by Illinois Mob

1844 – Joseph Smith, the founder and leader of the Mormon religion, is murdered along with his brother Hyrum when an anti-Mormon mob breaks into a jail where they are being held in Carthage, Illinois. Born in Vermont in 1805, Smith claimed in 1823 that he had been visited by a Christian angel named Moroni who spoke to him of an ancient Hebrew text that had been lost for 1,500 years. The holy text, supposedly engraved on gold plates by a Native American historian in the fourth century, related the story of Israelite peoples who had lived in America in ancient times. During the next six years, Smith dictated an English translation of this text to his wife and other scribes, and in 1830 The Book of Mormon was published. In the same year, Smith founded the Church of Christ – later known as the Church of Jesus Christ...

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Supreme Court Partially Lifts Block on Trump’s ‘Bigoted’ Travel Ban

by Jake Johnson – “We’ll be ready,” said the ACLU in response to the announcement. The Supreme Court on Monday announced it would hear arguments on President Donald Trump’s proposed travel ban—also known as the Muslim Ban 2.0—which had previously been blocked by two federal appellate courts, one of which ruled the ban is “rooted in religious animus” and therefore unconstitutional. Arguments in the case are set to be heard in October. Commentators were quick to point out that the Supreme Court’s announcement contained a victory for the Trump administration, as the court decided to reinstate portions of the Muslim ban, exempting only those with “a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” The Washington Post reports: The action means that the administration may impose a 90-day ban on travelers from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and a 120-day ban on all refugees entering the...

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On This Day, June 26, 1948 – The Berlin Airlift Begins

1948 – U.S. and British pilots begin delivering food and supplies by airplane to Berlin after the city is isolated by a Soviet Union blockade. When World War II ended in 1945, defeated Germany was divided into Soviet, American, British and French zones of occupation. The city of Berlin, though located within the Soviet zone of occupation, was also split into four sectors, with the Allies taking the western part of the city and the Soviets the eastern. In June 1948, Josef Stalin’s government attempted to consolidate control of the city by cutting off all land and sea routes to West Berlin in order to pressure the Allies to evacuate. As a result, beginning on June 24 the western section of Berlin and its 2 million people were deprived of food, heating fuel and other crucial supplies. Though some in U.S. President Harry S. Truman’s administration called for a...

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Welcome to the ‘Second Tier’: US Failing Big League on Social Progress

by Jon Queally – Given its immense wealth, the United States is seriously underperforming. And its citizens are paying the price. Contrary to the mythological story known as “American Exceptionalism,” the United States does a poor job, according to a fresh analysis, of meeting even “the basic human needs of its citizens” and should now be considered a “second tier” country in terms of promoting social progress.   Released by the Social Progressive Imperative (SPI), the 2017 Global Social Progress Index reveals that the U.S. ranks 17th in the world when it comes to promoting the general welfare, coming in behind its Canadian neighbor to the north and far behind Scandinavian countries and the other social democracies of Europe. Of all countries, Denmark comes in first when it comes to providing for its citizens and fostering progress on various fronts. The Index, designed to offer “holistic” measurements of a country’s social...

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Senate’s Opioid Fund Cannot Substitute for Health Coverage

by Emily Gee and Richard G. Frank – The concerns of some Senate Republicans about making the opioid epidemic worse have spilled out of their secretive negotiations for repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), in the form of a fund to combat opioid addiction. A $45 billion fund in the Senate bill would reportedly be aimed at helping people with dependence on prescription opioids and illicit forms of the drug, but it would provide scant resources to address the epidemic. The fund also would not be able to undo the true costs of the repeal bill, would result in millions of Americans losing health insurance coverage, and could cause those still insured to lose access to substance use disorder treatment. There were 2.66 million people in the United States with an opioid use disorder (OUD) as of 2015. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 33,091 people died from an opioid overdose in 2015....

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“Trump’s Lies”: The Collected Works

by Common Dreams staff – New York Times compiles presidential falsehoods from Donald Trump’s first day in office to present. In an effort to make sure that people do not become “numb” to the constant lies told by President of the United States Donald Trump, the New York Times has now published, in one convenient place, “nearly every outright lie he has told publicly since taking the oath of office.” Compiled by the newspaper’s David Leonhardt and Stuart A. Thompson, the catalog was published online Friday and will appear in print over the weekend. “There is simply no precedent for an American president to spend so much time telling untruths,” the Times reports. “Every president has shaded the truth or told occasional whoppers. No other president — of either party — has behaved as Trump is behaving. He is trying to create an atmosphere in which reality is irrelevant.” In chronological order, starting on the day of...

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Journalist Veronique Robert Dies of Mosul Blast Wounds

France Television says Robert died from wounds suffered in a landmine blast that killed two of her colleagues in Mosul. CORRECTION: 24/06/2017: A previous version of this story stated that Veronique Robert was a French journalist. According to Reporters Without Borders and the French embassy in Baghdad, Robert was a Swiss citizen. Journalist Veronique Robert has died after being wounded in an explosion while covering the battle for the Iraqi city of Mosul earlier this week, her employer France Televisions has said. The landmine blast on Monday had already killed her French colleague Stephan Villeneuve, 48, and Iraqi Kurdish reporter Bakhtiyar Addad, 41. Another freelance reporter also suffered minor wounds. The journalists were covering Iraqi special forces’ operations as they close in on the last remaining areas held by the Islamic State of the Levant and Iraq (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group in Mosul. Robert, 54, underwent surgery in...

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Why Heller Matters

by acadia – I wasn’t expecting Nevada Senator Dean Heller to be the first senator to express real opposition to the Wealthcare bill.  While some think this is a ploy, Jon Ralston disagrees and says it is real. Ralston knows Nevada politics like no one else, and pretty much always gets it right. What adds weight to Ralston’s view is the way Heller presented his position — in Nevada at a press conference, with the governor at his side. This wasn’t some mealy-mouthed “I have concerns” mumble while sprinting down a hallway. Could he be flipped? Sure, but he’s given his opposition in 2018 a great big pile of video clips to use against him if he does back out. Honestly, what Heller did was genius. He really doesn’t want to be the deciding vote against the bill, and by being the first real vote in opposition, he won’t be. It’s the third real no...

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Canadian Leaders Have Given Up on Trump—So Now They’re Going Around Him

by Hunter  – Donald Trump is not fit for office. He’s not stable, he has little to no interest in the nation itself, and is so self-absorbed as to judge every international interaction solely through the lens of his own momentary needs. This has turned our relationships with our allies immediately sour as each leader Trump meets with, dictators aside, finds it impossible to hold a coherent conversation with the man. When German leader Angela Merkel came to the public conclusion that the world could no longer count on a United States led by Trump, it was a dramatic policy shift by a key ally. After only a few interactions with Trump, the Canadian government likewise decided that attempting to communicate substantively with Team Trump was a lost cause. Their workaround is now to largely ignore him, instead focusing on working with individual states and cities. It’s been more effective,...

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The Secret Republican Plan to Unravel Medicaid

by Robert Reich – Bad enough that the Republican Senate bill would repeal much of the Affordable Care Act. Even worse, it unravels the Medicaid Act of 1965 – which, even before Obamacare, provided health insurance to millions of poor households and elderly. It’s done with a sleight-of-hand intended to elude not only the public but also the Congressional Budget Office. Here’s how the Senate Republican bill does it. The bill sets a per-person cap on Medicaid spending in each state. That cap looks innocent enough because it rises every year with inflation. But there’s a catch. Starting 8 years from now, in 2025, the Senate bill switches its measure of inflation – from how rapidly medical costs are rising, to how rapidly overall costs in the economy are rising. Yet medical costs are rising faster than overall costs. They’ll almost surely continue to do so – as America’s elderly population grows, and as new...

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Wunderkind Jared Kushner Busy Blowing Up Israeli/Palestinian Talks

by durrati – Jerusalem Post A Palestinian official claims Abbas is furious at American demands, accuses the US of taking sides. “US President Donald Trump is reportedly weighing whether to pull out of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations following a “tense” meeting with White House senior staff and officials in Ramallah, according to London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat on Saturday.  The al-Hayat report came just days after a meeting between the administration’s senior adviser Jared Kushner and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, which was described as “tense” by an Abbas advisor present at the talks.  Abbas was supposedly furious with the president’s son-in-law after Kushner relayed Israeli demands to the 81-year-old Palestinian leader which included the immediate halt of payments to terrorists and their families.” Well, that’s a good start, Jared, blowing up the meeting with Abbas by presenting Israeli demands before the Maqluba can even be served. San Diego Jewish World has more details. “A meeting between Palestinian Authority President...

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On This Day, June 25, 1876 – The Battle of Little Bighorn

On this day in 1876, Native American forces led by Chiefs Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull defeat the U.S. Army troops of Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer in a bloody battle near southern Montana’s Little Bighorn River. Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, leaders of the Sioux tribe on the Great Plains, strongly resisted the mid-19th-century efforts of the U.S. government to confine their people to reservations. In 1875, after gold was discovered in South Dakota’s Black Hills, the U.S. Army ignored previous treaty agreements and invaded the region. This betrayal led many Sioux and Cheyenne tribesmen to leave their reservations and join Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse in Montana. By the late spring of 1876, more than 10,000 Native Americans had gathered in a camp along the Little Bighorn River–which they called the Greasy Grass–in defiance of a U.S. War Department order to return to their reservations or risk...

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