Economy & Business

House Oversight Committee Calls on Trump’s Business to Prove He’s not Violating the Constitution

by Aaron Rupar – Trump promised to donate profits from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury, but there’s no proof he’s following through. Days after a lawsuit accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution’s “emoluments clause” added more plaintiffs, the House Oversight Committee is requesting the Trump Organization turn over documents detailing what processes Trump’s business has implemented, if any, to make sure the president isn’t profiting from foreign governments who want to curry favor with him. On Friday, the Oversight Committee sent a letter to Sheri Dillon — the lawyer who detailed how Trump planned to avoid conflicts of interest during a January 11 news conference — asking her to detail how that plan is being implemented by no later than May 12. The Constitution prohibits presidents from accepting “any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” But the Trump International Hotel has taken money...

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Polls: People Don’t Know Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Is a Scam

by Dave Johnson – Polls show that the public likes President Trump’s plan to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. That’s because they think he actually plans to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. He doesn’t. Not hardly. Not by a long shot. In fact… Infrastructure Spending Is Popular Polls show the public really likes it when Trump says he plans to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. Gallup: Trump Family Leave, Infrastructure Proposals Widely Popular, Americans are far more likely to agree than disagree with President Donald Trump’s proposals to require companies to provide family leave for parents of a newborn and to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. CNN: CNN/ORC poll: Most back boost in infrastructure spending, oppose growing military budget, Trump’s most popular budget proposals include reducing taxes for middle-class Americans (84% approve) and increasing spending on infrastructure (79% approve). So the public wants our government to spend money fixing up our infrastructure. But we...

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The Trump Doctrine

by ROBERT REICH – Though his foreign policy seems arbitrary and inconsistent, a pattern has emerged to explain Donald Trump’s worldview and how the US will carry it out. What’s the “Trump Doctrine” of foreign policy? At first glance, foreign policy under Trump seems inconsistent, arbitrary and devoid of principle. A few weeks ago, even before the airstrike on Syria, Trump communications director Mike Dubke told Trump’s assembled aides that international affairs presented a messaging challenge because the Trump administration lacks a coherent foreign policy. “There is no Trump doctrine,” Dubke declared. I think Dubke is being grossly unfair. Of course there’s a Trump Doctrine. You just have to know where to look for it. The Trump Doctrine began to emerge when Trump issued his travel bans (both the first and second) on predominantly Muslim countries. But he notably excluded predominately Muslim countries where Trump has business interests. So under what might...

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Kentucky Coal Company Announces Plans to Build the State’s Largest Solar Farm

by Natasha Geiling – The company says the farm will give jobs to displaced coal miners. A Kentucky coal company announced this past Tuesday that it is planning to build a solar farm on a reclaimed mountaintop removal coal mine and that the project would bring both jobs and energy to the area. Berkeley Energy Group, the coal company behind the project, billed it as the first large-scale solar farm in the Appalachian region, which has been hit hard by the decades-long decline in the U.S. coal industry. The company, in partnership with EDF Renewable Energy, is currently conducting feasibility studies for the project on two reclaimed strip mines, both located in the eastern part of the state. Berkeley Energy Group estimates that the solar farm could produce as much as 50 or 100 megawatts of electricity, which would be five to ten times the size of Kentucky’s largest solar farm. Berkeley...

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New Research Shows Trump’s Border Wall Will be Even More Worthless than We Thought

by Rika Christensen – “Build the wall! Build the wall!” Supposedly nobody builds better walls than Donald Trump, and the government is already hard at work acquiring the land and materials necessary to build a wall that’s likely to do nothing to stop people from crossing the southern border. Now, a new study shows that the border wall may also be more a more unjustified waste of money than ever. Illegal immigration has been falling since 2007, but this latest bit of research out of the University of California, San Diego, says it will continue to fall. It’s partly because of Obama – contrary to what xenophobic conservatives say, Obama did not favor or enable an open border. He made stemming the flow of immigrants a priority of his administration. The right wing is pissed because he also worked to protect people who were already here. However, the biggest causes of...

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‘Payout Time’: Exxon Seeks Waiver From U.S. Sanctions to Drill in Russia

by Nika Knight – “Exxon applied for waiver from sanctions on Russia. Among departments who must approve: State Department, run by company’s ex-CEO” Exxon is applying for a waiver from the U.S. Treasury Department to bypass U.S. sanctions against Russia and resume offshore drilling in the Black Sea with the Russian oil company Rosneft, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. Among those charged with deciding to grant the permit is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon who previously oversaw the company’s Russia operations. Rebecca Ballhaus  ✔@rebeccaballhaus Exxon applied for waiver from sanctions on Russia. Among depts who must approve: State Dept, run by company’s ex-CEO https://www.wsj.com/articles/exxon-seeks-u-s-waiver-to-work-in-russia-despite-sanctions-1492620677 … 1:09 PM – 19 Apr 2017   “Ka-ching! Payout time,” tweeted Rachel Maddow in response to the Wall Street Journal report. Rachel Maddow MSNBC ✔@maddow Ka-ching! Payout time.https://goo.gl/Zv9pT1  1:52 PM – 19 Apr 2017 Exxon Seeks U.S. Waiver to Resume Russia Oil...

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Trump’s ‘Buy American’ Executive Order has no Weight Without Congress

by Lauren C. Williams – President Donald Trump signed his 23rd executive order Tuesday, which aims to overhaul one of the most contentious parts of the American immigration system: high-skilled visas. The “Buy American, Hire American” executive order emphasizes enforcement of “Buy American laws” that will encourage government agencies and Americans to buy and hire American. The main thrust of the order calls on cabinet secretaries to implement administrative changes and produce reports that identify potential abuses of the H-1B visa program, which awarded 85,000 work visas this year to foreign knowledge workers through a lottery system, and look for ways the government can only award contracts to American business owners. Regarding immigration, the order doesn’t address the administration’s main criticisms of the H-1B program, such as exploitatively low pay and replacing the lottery system to guarantee recipients are the best candidates for the positions. It also carries little weight on...

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100 Days of Deconstruction

by STEVEN HARPER – At CPAC, Steve Bannon declared that key members of Trump’s Cabinet were “selected for a reason.” In the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency, that reason has become clear. Editor’s Note Donald Trump may be a racist, misogynist, sexual predator, liar and bully, but he is still president of the United States, and we underestimate him at the nation’s peril. Viewed in isolation, his policies seem idiosyncratic and incoherent. Viewed in context, they reveal a strategy to plunder the government of what is profitable to Trump’s family and minions and leave what remains smoldering in the ruins. This series — “100 Days of Deconsruction” — seeks to provide that context. If Trump succeeds, little of what makes America great survives. But knowledge is power, so read these essays and keep fighting in this decisive battle for our country’s heart and soul. Their author, Steven J. Harper, produced...

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5 Questions the Trump Administration Needs to Answer About the Border Wall

by Jenny Rowland and Philip E. Wolgin – In the U.S.-Mexico border region, an area that stretches nearly 2,000 miles, decisions about border security affect the daily lives of roughly 12 million people. The United States already has 653 miles of border fencing, and much of the rest of the border is comprised of the Rio Grande or located in some of the country’s most inhospitable locations, where a wall would be impractical and unnecessary. In addition to fencing, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, uses an array of surveillance and technology to monitor the border in real time. Yet both as a candidate and as president, Donald Trump has repeatedly called for the construction of a “big, fat, beautiful wall” along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. The administration recently concluded a request for proposals from firms to construct the wall, and it has already started to send out notices...

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As Push for Trump’s Taxes Gains Steam, Promised GOP Tax Overhaul Falters

by Nika Knight – “If doesn’t release his returns, it is going to make it much more difficult to get tax reform done.” As millions of Americans file their tax returns, and days after tens of thousands of marched to demand that President Donald Trump make his tax returns public, the president is still refusing to release his returns. On Monday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer reiterated the claim that Trump can’t release his taxes because they are under audit, a statement immediately refuted by tax experts. As Steven Rosenthal, senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, told Salon: “There is no legal impediment to somebody who is under audit releasing taxes and the IRS audits every single president and vice president on their tax returns. If he continues to follow the policy of not releasing his tax returns while under audit, then we’ll...

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Who Could’ve Known a Muslim Ban Would Devastate U.S. Tourism?

by Kerry Eleveld – Too bad Chinese president Xi Jinping didn’t get 10 minutes to explain the complications of Donald Trump’s Muslim ban to him before he decided to wreck the U.S. tourism industry. Trump’s ban isn’t just depressing travel from the 6-7 majority-Muslim nations his order targeted, it’s also inspired a drop off in travel from Europe and Asia as well as our neighbors, Canada and Mexico. Abha Bhattarai writes: The cancellations came quickly and in rapid succession. Within days of President Trump’s first executive order restricting travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, a number of European travel groups pulled their plans, amounting to a loss of 2,000 overnight stays for Hostelling International USA. The result was a wave of withdrawals. “Getting those cancellations all at once, that was startling,” said Russ Hedge, chief executive of HIU, which oversees 52 hostels across the country. “We’ve never seen something like that.” ...

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Trump’s Five Worst Tax Secrets, Revealed

by Richard Eskow – Thousands of demonstrators marched on Saturday to demand that Donald Trump release his tax returns. But, barring an unexpected surprise – a W2 form issued by Vladimir Putin, or a 1099 from mafia boss Anthony ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno – we already know Trump’s ugliest tax secrets. We will reveal those secrets… … right after this break. Many readers will recognize this reference to Rachel Maddow’s televised release of Trump’s 2005 tax return, The MSNBC host kept her viewers in suspense for a total of 84 minutes before learning that Trump paid an effective federal tax rate of 24 percent that year. That was considered an anticlimax. It even led some observers that Trump might have leaked the return himself, since many people had assumed that Trump hadn’t paid any federal taxes at all for years. That gets us to Trump’s first terrible tax secret: his tax return for that year...

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Sanders and Perez to Launch Nationwide ‘Come Together & Fight Back’ Tour

by Nadia Prupis – ‘At a time of massive income and wealth inequality and a shrinking middle class, we need a government which represents all Americans.’ Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Tom Perez will kick off a multi-state tour in Maine on Monday, where they are expected to outline the progressive plan to strengthen the party, bolster grassroots activism, and resist President Donald Trump. “At a time of massive income and wealth inequality and a shrinking middle class, we need a government which represents all Americans, not just Wall Street, multi-national corporations, and the top 1 percent,” Sanders and Perez said in a joint statement. The circuit is officially named the “Come Together and Fight Back” tour. Sanders won Maine’s presidential caucuses by nearly two-thirds when he ran in the 2016 primaries against Hillary Clinton. The tour is expected to take him and Perez through Maine,...

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Four Conservative Healthcare Analysts on Why Trump/Ryancare Stinks so Bad

by Joan McCarter – Let’s start your holiday weekend off with some fun. And what could be more fun than laughing at conservative health care experts trying to make excuses for why Republicans have totally failed at crafting a decent replacement for Obamacare? From the laughable to the delusional, here we go. Starting with my favoritest of all. Republicans just didn’t give themselves enough time A decade ago, the Democrats also had conflicting health-care ideas, squabbling over single-payer and a public option, but they worked it out in legislation, says Dan Holler, the vice president of communications for Heritage Action for America. “That’s not something that was capable of happening in 17 days” for Republicans, he said. The rush to pass the AHCA “was a misread of where the conference was.” All together now: SEVEN YEARS!!!! They had SEVEN YEARS!!!! But, says American Enterprise Institute guy James Capretta, they just “didn’t give themselves...

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The Republican Civil War is the Best Thing Happening

by Mark Sumner – Donald Trump may feel that his legislation-free first 100 days were beautiful, wonderful, and the best ever, but he’s the only one. What the rest of the Republican Party is seeing is falling support, ineffective leadership, and internal strife. Some Capitol Hill Republicans have envisioned the nightmare scenario for 2017, and it goes like this: No ­ObamaCare repeal. No tax reform. No trillion-dollar infrastructure package. No border wall. As it turns out, Republicans have their obstructionism refined to razor sharpness, but the time they dedicated to actually thinking through workable alternatives to existing laws is restricted to the length of time it takes to say “It’ll be easy.” While many Republicans hold out hope the ­ObamaCare repeal bill will be revived, skeptics say the GOP infighting during last month’s healthcare collapse may have poisoned the well for future big-ticket legislative deals. It’s not just drafting laws that Republicans...

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Israeli Government Is Petrified of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement

by Mark Karlin, Truthout | Interview – The following is an interview with Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace and the editor of On Antisemitism: Solidarity and the Struggle for Justice. Mark Karlin: How is the charge of antisemitism used to smear critics of the Israeli government and its ignoble policies toward Palestinians? Rebecca Vilkomerson: As Tony Lerman’s contribution to the On Antisemitism book explores, Israel and its advocates have worked hard to portray criticism of the state of Israel as the “new antisemitism.” However, using the charge of antisemitism to shut down legitimate criticism of Israeli policies diminishes the meaning of the term and makes it harder to combat the real thing. In our advocacy work for Palestinian rights, we must always be vigilant for cases of real antisemitism directed against Jewish people — as opposed to protest against the Israeli state — just as...

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Amazon Employees Pressure CEO to Kill Breitbart Ads

by Lauren C. Williams – Tech activism in the Trump era is getting its second wind. Amazon employees are pressuring CEO Jeff Bezos and SVP Jeff Blackburn to sever the company’s advertising ties with Breitbart News. Five-hundred and sixty-four employees signed an email petition, complete with an attachment full of comments from 52 of them, called “Amazon Must Stop Advertising on Breitbart News,” Buzzfeed reported. According to the email, an employee brought up Amazon’s relationship with Breitbart at a staff meeting with Blackburn, asking “What is it going to take for us to stop advertising on Breitbart News?” Blackburn responded, “We have our eyes on it.” While companies like Amazon ultimately have control over where their ads land, most ads pass through third party ad technology companies. The resulting ad is typically the result of companies seeking a specific audience found and tracked through cookies rather than a purposefully placed ad on...

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Trump Breaks Major Campaign Promise, won’t Label China a Currency Manipulator

by Ryan Koronowski – He called them the “world champions” of currency manipulation just 10 days ago. Candidate Trump repeatedly promised to hold China accountable and penalize the country for being a “currency manipulator.” But less than three months after his inauguration, President Trump publicly announced he won’t follow through after all. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump said the dollar was getting too strong because he inspires confidence, and though a strong dollar makes it hard to compete with countries that manipulate their currency, he will not accuse China of currency manipulation. “I think our dollar is getting too strong, and partially that’s my fault because people have confidence in me. But that’s hurting — that will hurt ultimately,” he added. “Look, there’s some very good things about a strong dollar, but usually speaking the best thing about it is that it sounds good.” He continued, “It’s very, very hard...

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Financial Experts to Trump: Climate is a Smart Investment

by Natasha Geiling – International climate finance has obvious humanitarian benefits — but Trump could be missing out on economic benefits too. Recent floods and mudslides in Peru — driven by extreme precipitation linked to exceptionally warm waters off the coast — have devastated the country, claiming more than 100 lives and damaging 130,000 structures. The destruction is so extreme that the Peruvian government estimated immediate reconstruction will cost the country as much as $3 billion over the long term, and as much as $9 billion over the next five years. In Colombia, similar precipitation triggered a flood that left parts of the southern city of Mocoa completely destroyed, and killed at least 293 people. After the flood, the president of Colombia issued a dire warning: the country needs to prepare for more disasters like this as climate change continues to fuel extreme precipitation. “We are confronting a natural disaster caused by climate change,” he said, according to...

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Global Solar Demand Soars 30-fold in Just 9 Years

by Joe Romm – Solar now employs more U.S. workers than Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon combined. The rapid rise of solar power is one of the most astonishing transformations in the history of global energy use. A decade ago, solar photovoltaics (PV) was just a tiny sapling, easily dismissed by fossil fuel advocates. Today, after a remarkable 30-fold increase in PV sales in just nine years, it has become a giant redwood forest. And the giant is still growing, as GTM Research reported in its latest Global Solar Demand Monitor for the first quarter of 2017. CREDIT: GTM Research Last year alone saw a stunning jump in annual global PV demand of more than 50 percent. And GTM projects that demand for solar power will continue to rise. This transformation has been driven by steadily plummeting costs for solar (and other enabling technologies). Indeed, India’s Minister for Power, Coal, New & Renewable...

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White House Considering ‘Back-Door Way’ to Cut Social Security

by Deirdre Fulton – ‘If Trump proposes this Trojan horse, it would be the newest shot in the ongoing Republican war against Social Security.’ President Donald Trump, who campaigned on a promise not to cut Social Security, is reportedly considering a plan to eliminate much of the payroll tax that funds the critical safety net program. According to the Associated Press on Monday, the proposal is being floated as the Trump administration goes “back to the drawing board in a search for Republican consensus behind legislation to overhaul the U.S. tax system.” The AP reported that one option “circulating this past week would change the House Republican plan to eliminate much of the payroll tax and cut corporate tax rates. This would require a new dedicated funding source for Social Security.” And that, Zaid Jilani wrote at The Intercept, “would require counting on Trump’s economic team to shepherd a solution through...

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This Poll Shows Exactly How Much Americans Detest Trump

by Vera – At this point in Trump’s disastrous presidency, it’s pretty clear that the only one that thinks he’s doing a great job is the underserving POTUS himself. Even his own supporters have lost faith in him and are turning away at record speed. Despite his rapidly plummeting approval rating, Trump still thinks he’s the greatest thing to happen to America – or at least, he’ll continue to think that until he sees this: According to MSNBC’s Kyle Griffin, Americans are so turned off by Trump that they don’t even want to get anywhere near a product he touches. Apparently, asking for Trump’s support is so toxic that it is basically suicide for businesses. That’s quite strange for a reality television star who brags about how good of a businessman he is. Already, we saw Trump make endorsements on his Twitter feed. It turns out, those inappropriate “shoutouts” did way more...

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Chinese Internet Giant Buys 5 Percent of Tesla for $1.8 Billion

by Joe Romm – Tesla’s market value surge signals a booming future for electric vehicles — globally. On Monday, Tesla accelerated past Ford Motors to become the number two U.S. automaker by market capitalization — the total stock market value of the company. That puts Tesla’s market cap ($48 billion) within sight of General Motors’ ($51 billion). Via MarketWatch The stock surge reflects the market’s view that the future for cars is electric. After all, Ford sold nearly 240,000 cars in March, whereas Tesla reported on Sunday that its total deliveries in the whole first quarter were only 25,000 cars. Still, Tesla’s 2017 Q1 sales were up nearly 70 percent over 2016 Q1 sales. And the market likes to bet on growth. Rapid and ongoing drops in battery cost mean we are just at the start of the EV revolution. As Navigant Research reported in January, “more than 37 million plug-in electric vehicles are expected...

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Green Is Good

by Ryan Richards – How Smart Policy Can Sustain Growth of Private Investment in Conservation. Introduction and summary Bedrock environmental legislation, such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, has helped inspire innovative solutions to complex environmental issues. Today, there is a fast-growing industry that encourages private investors and businesses to work independently or in partnership with public agencies and apply market-based approaches to conservation.1 Recent data suggest that environmental markets in the United States facilitate at least $2.8 billion in transactions annually.2 From 2014 through 2015, more than $1.15 billion in private capital was injected into markets for habitat conservation and water management, reflecting a new trend in business to find investment opportunities that also deliver social and environmental benefits.3 This new approach provides several advantages, including: More options for conserving or restoring natural resources A larger pool of resources for addressing environmental problems Potential to mobilize...

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Resurrecting Another ‘Big Lie’: The Myth of Social Security as ‘Ponzi Scheme’

by Bernard Weisberger – This especially ugly lie resurfaces periodically like the Loch Ness Monster and the Abominable Snowman and is just as devoid of proof, but at least those fakes are harmless. In these pestilent, perilous times, when the very idea of distinction between truth and falsehood is under siege, it’s more critical than ever to keep a sharp lookout for destructive false analogies. Without an anchor in provable fact it’s dangerously easy to get taken in by them. So I am particularly exasperated by a sample dished up by scaremongers, namely that the Social Security program, our rock of security and stability for an aging population for the last 80 years, is a Ponzi scheme — a swindle designed to cheat Americans out of their money with false promises. This especially ugly lie resurfaces periodically like the Loch Ness Monster and the Abominable Snowman and is just as devoid...

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Majority of Americans Oppose Funding Mexico Border Wall

by Esther Yu Hsi Lee – The wall likely won’t stretch ‘sea to shining sea.’ The construction of a wall along the southern U.S. border is President Donald Trump’s most visible campaign promise. But as the astounding $1 billion-per-every-62 miles price tag of Trump’s vision buts up against the reality that the Mexican government will not defray construction costs, it’s increasingly becoming evident that Americans do not want it. A majority of Americans oppose funding Trump’s wall, according to a poll conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released Thursday. The poll — which drew from a sample of 1,100 adults representative of the U.S. population between March 23 and 27— found that 58 percent oppose new spending on the wall, with nearly half saying that they “strongly oppose funding for the project.” The results were largely partisan, with 86 percent of self-identified Democrats and 57 percent of independents against new spending...

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5 Issues Trump Needs to Get Right on China

by Melanie Hart – This week, Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Mar-a-Lago for his first meeting with President Donald Trump. Thus far, the Trump White House has consistently stumbled in its dealings with China. This Mar-a-Lago meeting is the new administration’s last chance to convince Beijing that President Trump has a China strategy and will be a formidable—or at least competent—counterpart. U.S.-China presidential summits are always important, but this one comes at a particularly sensitive time. Under the Obama administration, China proved to be a valuable U.S. partner on climate change, Iranian nuclear nonproliferation, and other areas of common interest. Where U.S. and Chinese interests diverge, however, Beijing has shown an increasing willingness to act in ways that directly undermine the United States. From a U.S. perspective, the negatives are beginning to undermine the positives, and it is time for a change in course. At Mar-a-Lago, Americans need the Trump...

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Federal Appeals Court Holds Workers can’t be Fired for Being Gay

by Ian Millhiser – Onward to the Supreme Court! With a lopsided majority joined by a bipartisan coalition of judges, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held on Tuesday that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation violates federal civil rights law, at least in the context of the workplace. The court telegraphed in an order last October that Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College was likely to be a victory for victims of discrimination in the workplace. The final vote in the case, however, is a bit more surprising. Eight of the Seventh Circuit’s judges joined Tuesday’s opinion, including Republican appointees Richard Posner, Joel Flaum, Frank Easterbrook, Ilana Rovner, and Kenneth Ripple. Only three judges dissented. The case involves Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of an employee’s “sex.” Though Title VII contains no explicit statement that discrimination...

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Spicer Won’t Give Straight Answer on Reported Changes to Trump Trust

by Deirdre Fulton – White House press secretary Sean Spicer claims “the entire point” of setting up such a trust “is so somebody can withdraw money”. White House press secretary Sean Spicer didn’t offer a clear explanation or response to questions on Monday about new reporting showing that President Donald Trump can withdraw funds at any time from any of his businesses—without telling the American people. Citing a trust document signed on February 10, online outlet ProPublica reported Monday: “Trump can draw money from his more than 400 businesses, at any time, without disclosing it.” According to ProPublica reporters Derek Kravitz and Al Shaw: The previously unreported changes to a trust document, signed on Feb. 10, stipulates that it “shall distribute net income or principal to Donald J. Trump at his request” or whenever his son and longtime attorney “deem appropriate.” That can include everything from profits to the underlying assets,...

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Renewables Shatter Records as Coal Production Drops to 1978 Levels

by Joe Romm – California hits stunning 56.7 percent peak power from renewables, and it’s only spring. Renewable power keeps shattering records in the United States and around the world. Meanwhile, U.S. coal production has fallen to its lowest level since 1978, according to statistics from the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA). Yet President Donald Trump and his administration nonetheless continue to champion the dirty and dying fuels of the 19th century. Just last week Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced a new push to expand coal mining on public lands, while misguidedly attacking renewables: “We can’t power the country on pixie dust and hope.” Ironically, a few days earlier, the California grid’s Independent System Operator (ISO) tweeted that it achieved a record high percentage of peak demand provided by renewables of 56.7 percent. California ISO @California_ISO #ISO hit all-time peak percentage of demand served by #renewables, 56.7% at 11:25 a.m. today #cleanenergy...

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Advertisers Flee The O’Reilly Factor en Masse

by Judd Legum – Latest sexual harassment claims has corporations rethinking their association with Bill O’Reilly. At least eleven companies have announced they are ending advertising on The O’Reilly Factor. The news comes in the wake of a New York Times story which reveals that O’Reilly and Fox News have paid five women who accused the top-rated cable host of sexual harassment. At least three of those companies, Sanofi, Untuckit, and Allstate, advertised on the show last night, when O’Reilly did not mention the controversy. “In light of the disturbing allegations, we instructed our media buyer this morning to reallocate our ad dollars to other shows effective immediately,” a spokesperson for Untuckit said. Allstate in a statement wrote that “inclusivity & support for women are important to us. We are concerned about the issues surrounding the program & have suspended our ads.” Other companies pulling their spots include Mercedes, Mitsubishi, BMW, Hyundai,...

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Trump’s Foreign Aid Proposal Leaves the U.S. on a Sinking Island

by Hannah Ranalli – When beginning the discussion regarding foreign aid policies in the United States, one must first establish a few basic facts. While most Americans estimate that foreign aid takes roughly 15-20% of our nation’s GNI (gross national income) in reality it actually constitutes far less than 1% of it (approximately 0.17%)1.. While the United States currently contributes the highest amount of money to foreign aid, just over 30 billion, in terms of percent of GNI it ranks nearly 20th. Donald Trump’s recent proposal aims to slash foreign aid by 28% and cut some programs entirely while increasing the budget for the military by 54 billion dollars. Despite those facts and figures, foreign aid is much more than that; it is a narrative of people. Over 1.3 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day, and according to UNICEF 22,000 children die each day due to poverty and...

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New Data Deliver Good News for Health Care and Bad News for Speaker Ryan’s Tax Reform Plan

by Harry Stein and Alex Rowell – Shortly after Congress’ failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, new budget data confirm the sustainability of the federal government’s major health care programs. These budget data also illustrate a major hurdle for the tax reform plan advocated by House Republican leaders. This new information comes from the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, and it includes updated projections for the cost of federal programs; tax revenue levels; budget deficits; and economic variables such as gross domestic product, or GDP. The projected costs of federal health care programs have fallen dramatically since the passage of the ACA. Despite false claims to the contrary, federal health programs are not facing a “death spiral” of exploding costs. The United States has more than enough economic capacity to continue to sustain these programs in the future; repealing the ACA would have instead used American...

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Trump Taps Bush-Era Official Who Defended Mega-Merger as Antitrust Chief

by Nadia Prupis – Makan Delrahim once said he didn’t see maligned AT&T/Time Warner merger as “major antitrust problem”. President Donald Trump on Monday nominated his former lawyer and current White House counsel Makan Delrahim to serve as antitrust chief—potentially putting a man who once said there was nothing wrong with the AT&T/Time Warner mega-merger in charge of reviewing competition for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Delrahim previously served as deputy assistant attorney general from 2003 to 2005 under then-President George W. Bush. If confirmed by the Senate this time around, the corporate lawyer and lobbyist will serve as assistant attorney general for the DOJ agency that approves or rejects mergers and acquisitions and investigates companies for potential anti-competition threats. Delrahim’s prospective boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is generally seen as merger-friendly. Delrahim said in an interview with a Canadian television program last year that he didn’t see a problem...

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White House’s Explanation for Kushner’s Secret Meeting with a Russian Banker Unravels

by Aaron Rupar – The White House says it was about diplomacy. The bank says it was all business. On Monday, the New York Times broke news about a previously undisclosed December meeting between Jared Kushner and Sergey Gorkov, head of Vnesheconombank, a state-owned Russian bank that is still under American sanctions placed on it by the Obama administration in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The meeting occurred as Kushner, who was still head of Kushner Companies at the time, was looking for investors to redevelop the Manhattan office building he paid $1.8 billion to purchase in 2007. But White House spokesperson Hope Hicks told the Times that Kushner, who now serves as President Trump’s senior adviser, met with Gorkov to talk diplomacy — not to try and strike a business deal. “Members of presidential transition teams routinely meet with foreign officials,” the Times reported, paraphrasing an interview with Hicks. “Part of...

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More Americans Are Drowning Financially in Underwater Nation

by CHUCK COLLINS – 20% of Americans have zero or negative net worth—and that number is growing. Are you or a loved one having trouble staying afloat? You’re truly not alone. While the media reports low unemployment and a rising stock market, the reality is that almost 20 percent of the country lives in “Underwater Nation,” with zero or even negative net worth. And more still have almost no cash reverses to get them through hard times. This is a source of enormous stress for many low and middle-income families. Savings and wealth are vital life preservers for people faced with job loss, illness, divorce, or even car trouble. Yet an estimated 15 to 20 percent of families have no savings at all, or owe more than they own. They’re disproportionately rural, female, renters, and people without a college degree. But the underwater ranks also include a large number of people who appear...

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British Government Takes Next Steps Towards Brexit (VIDEOS)

London to outline immediate plans towards leaving the European Union as EU reacts to the triggering of Article 50. The British government on Thursday introduced legislation known as the Great Repeal Bill – a crucial part of its next steps towards leaving the European Union. The move comes the day after UK Prime Minister Theresa May set the wheels of  Brexit in motion by invoking Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty,  officially triggering talks to leave the bloc. Thursday’s bill repeals the European Communities Act 1972 and effectively ends the supremacy of European law in the Britain, transferring all EU laws currently in force onto the UK statute book. It will ensure the UK leaves the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. The bill will come into force on the day the UK leaves the EU. On the current two-year timetable that will be in March 2019. MPs...

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Round Two of Republican Incompetence and Humiliation? Welcome to Tax Reform

by Hunter – Fresh off their humiliating display of incompetent healthcare “reform” (by which they meant a tax cut for rich people), Donald Trump and the Republican Party alike are moving on to their next big agenda item: tax reform. This will also consist of a tax cut for rich people. And like the attempt to strip health insurance from millions, this too is shaping up to be a fiasco of their own making. The problem, in short, is that Actual Tax Reform is hard. Very hard. And since nobody in the Republican Party is interested in doing a decent job of it, by which we mean taking suggestions from the opposition party as to reforms that both sides agree are needed, they’ll be seeking to pass “tax reform” legislation through reconciliation, an avenue that lets them dodge a Democratic filibuster in the Senate. That requires, according to reconciliation rules, that the bill...

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Trump Administration Decides Trump isn’t Violating His Government Lease. They’re Wrong

by Laurel Raymond – “It is harmful to the integrity — and thus credibility — of GSA, the Presidency, and federal procurement process.” Trump’s downtown DC hotel has emerged as one of the starkest symbols of his conflicts of interest, a literal landmark to Trump’s kleptocracy and a central property in Trump’s violation of the emoluments clause. And, shortly after the election, government ethics experts pointed out one even more basic way Trump’s ownership of the hotel poses a problem: he appears to be in clear violation of the terms of the lease itself. The Trump organization, which Trump still owns, leased the Old Post Office building from the government in 2012. Included in that lease is a standard provision against corruption that stipulates that no “elected official” can be part of the lease or reap any benefit from it. With his election, Trump became both the owner of the hotel and the highest elected...

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Sanctuary Cities ‘Stand Resolute’ in Face of Threatened Funding Cut-Off

by Nadia Prupis – Officials from country’s largest urban centers strategized on sheltering undocumented immigrants after White House announced plan to withhold federal aid. Sanctuary cities are refusing to back down in the face of the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration, which was codified on Monday after Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to cut off funding for states and cities that shelter undocumented residents. Officials from many of those jurisdictions met in New York on Tuesday to discuss how to fight the plan—the second consecutive day of brainstorming from leaders of some of the country’s biggest urban centers, as Reuters noted. The strategy session brought in attendees from California, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington state, Wisconsin, and elsewhere. It was preceded by the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), a left-leaning advocacy group, releasing a guide and toolkit on protecting undocumented immigrants. The blueprint, published last week, aims to help local-level policymakers “create...

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Trump’s Awkward Meeting with Angela Merkel just got More Cringeworthy

by Laurel Raymond – Trump reportedly handed the Chancellor an invoice for what he thinks Germany “owes” NATO and the U.S. President Donald Trump’s meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel was always going to be awkward. Trump rode to office on a wave of nationalistic populism and has openly slammed NATO, one of the key alliances binding the U.S. and Germany, while Merkel has been a staunch defender of the global world order. During his campaign, Trump even levied Merkel’s name as an insult, sneering that his opponent Hillary Clinton wanted to be “America’s Angela Merkel.” Nonetheless, Trump took to Twitter the day after the chilly meeting to defend his “GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel” despite “FAKE NEWS” claiming otherwise, before reiterating his claim Germany owes NATO money for its defense — a claim that is profoundly ignorant of how NATO works. Now, the Times of London is reporting that Trump went a...

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Contrary to Spin, Trump Slashing Energy Jobs With New Executive Order

by Nika Knight – “These facts make it clear that Donald Trump is attacking clean energy jobs purely in order to boost the profits of fossil fuel billionaires.” As the Trump administration brags that Tuesday’s executive order to dismantle Obama-era climate regulations will create coal industry jobs, new employment data from the Department of Energy (DoE) demonstrates how misguided that claim is. Clean energy employs many more Americans than the fossil fuel industry, and economic forecasts show that the trend will continue, according to a Sierra Club analysis published Monday of the DoE’s 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (pdf) released earlier this year. “Clean energy jobs, including those from solar, wind, energy efficiency, smart grid technology, and battery storage, vastly outnumber all fossil fuel jobs nationwide from the coal, oil and gas sectors. That includes jobs in power generation, mining, and other forms of fossil fuel extraction,” the Sierra Club...

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Why Spend $54 Billion More on the Pentagon? To Start a War, Obviously

by JOHN FEFFER – The president wants to put the U.S. on a permanent war footing to sustain his unpopular presidency. So, let me see if I’ve got this right. North Korea has been pushing its ally China to rein in the United States. Pyongyang is worried that Washington is about to launch a preemptive attack, so it has tried to use whatever minimal amount of influence it has to persuade China to use its considerable economic leverage with the United States to get those knuckleheads inside the Beltway to listen to reason. Or maybe I misheard the report on the radio. How about this: As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised to stop reckless U.S. military interventions overseas, like the one he so disliked (after it failed) in Iraq. So, as president, he is withdrawing all troops from Syria, reducing U.S. military presence in Asia, and pulling the United States...

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DOJ to Crack Down on Sanctuary Cities by Denying and Clawing Back Federal Grants

by Zack Ford – At Monday’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer turned the podium over to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who announced a plan to cut Office of Justice Programs grants to sanctuary cities — those that choose not to turn over undocumented immigrants to federal officials for deportation. “Today I’m urging states and local jurisdictions to comply with these federal laws, including 8 U.S. Code § 1373,” Sessions explained. That law states that no government entity can restrict sharing information with the Immigration and Naturalization Service regarding individuals’ citizenship or immigration status. “Moreover, the Department of Justice will require that jurisdictions seeking or applying for Department of Justice grants to certify compliance with 1373 as a condition of receiving those awards.” Not complying with 1373, Sessions warned, could “result in withholding grants, termination of grants, and disbarment or ineligibility for future grants.” He added that the Department of Justice...

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Jared Kushner Met with Head of State-Controlled Russian Bank Linked to Espionage

by Aaron Rupar – He didn’t disclose the meeting, even to other White House staff. Jared Kushner, senior adviser to President Trump and his son-in-law, will be interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee about his pre-inauguration contact with Russian officials. Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that Kushner and Michael Flynn — who was ousted from his role as Trump’s national security adviser after it was revealed he had misled Vice President Pence about his pre-inauguration communications with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak — met with Kislyak in December. But the Times now reports that in addition to that meeting, Kushner had a previously undisclosed meeting with the head of a Russian bank that was hit with sanctions by the Obama administration. The meeting between Kushner and Vnesheconombank chief Sergey Gorkov occurred at Kislyak’s behest, according to the White House. At the time of his meeting with the Russian banker, “Kushner had not yet stepped...

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Trump has Telegraphed What is Next

by acadia – We all knew what Trump’s Plan B was if the healthcare bill failed, even if he said there was no Plan B. I made this comment 12 days ago in one of the many posts on the healthcare bill: If this bill fails, that is definitely where Trump wants to head — restart the lawsuit, and claim Obamacare is imploding, all the Democrats’ fault. I bet if I searched comments I could find hundreds of you who said the same thing. If the bill failed Trump was going to blame Democrats and try to help Obamacare “implode.” We even knew the exact language he would use. How did we know this? Trump told us  . . . repeatedly. We don’t need all the insider accounts now when he was saying this at rallies and to anyone who would listen.  At the same time, he said a few other...

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‘We’re Just Getting Started’: Trumpcare Slain, Resistance Eyes Next Battles

by Jon Queally – Spectacular failure of Republicans to pass Trumpcare is time to ‘double-down’ on resistance, not gloat. While President Donald Trump on Saturday used a single tweet to tell the American people both “Do not worry!” and “Obamacare will explode,” the Trump resistance movement was being urged not to gloat over Friday’s “epic failure” of the Republicans’ attempt to pass their ‘slash and burn’ healthcare law but instead focus on organizing for the crucial battles ahead. Acknowledging their defeat on healthcare (while fecklessly trying to blame Democrats), Trump and his team on Friday said they would now place their focus on passing a controversial budget package and moving ahead with a major tax reform plan. And with the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch still unattained, the president’s opponents—both in Congress and in the streets—were balancing their elation over Friday’s healthcare outcome with acknowledgement that much hard work...

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J&J Pulls Ads From YouTube Over ‘Offensive’ Videos

Johnson & Johnson the latest company to drop ads over fears content may appear alongside ‘terrorism’ and hate videos. US healthcare conglomerate Johnson & Johnson has become the latest company to suspend all digital advertising on YouTube over concerns its ads may have appeared on channels that broadcast offensive videos. J&J said on Thursday it wanted to ensure that its product advertising did not appear on channels that promote “offensive content”, a day after AT&T, Verizon, and several other major advertisers suspended their digital ads after discovering their brands had been appearing alongside videos promoting violence and hatred. “We are deeply concerned that our ads may have appeared alongside YouTube content promoting terrorism and hate,” AT&T said in a statement. “Until Google can ensure this won’t happen again, we are removing our ads from Google’s non-search platforms.” Google, YouTube’s parent company, has come under intense scrutiny for ads appearing alongside videos...

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Two Months In, Trump Breaking Every Vow to ‘Drain the Swamp’: Report

by Nadia Prupis – President ‘has shown himself to be everything that on the campaign trail he expressed to hate about Washington—a self-dealer more interested in helping his friends and big donors than creating a democracy’ Surprising no one, a new report out Wednesday finds that President Donald Trump has broken his campaign promise to “drain the swamp” at every turn, and has instead turned the government over to corporate interests and enriched his bottom line. The joint report from advocacy groups Public Citizen and Every Voice analyzes the two months since Trump took office and concludes that the new administration is mired in corruption and conflicts, while the president himself has hired the very figures he claimed he would fight—big-money donors, lobbyists, and Wall Street executives. In fact, the administration has failed to live up to even its own “painfully inadequate” ethics standards, the groups said. That includes refusing to...

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Coal Giant to Receive Award for Bankruptcy Deal that Screwed Over its Workers

by Natasha Geiling – The country’s second-largest coal supplier, fresh off bankruptcy, will receive the “Restructuring Deal of the Year” award. It’s been a wild year for Arch Coal, the country’s second-largest producer of coal. In January, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy; less than a year later, they won approval for a restructuring deal that allowed them to cut millions in debt from their books and emerge relatively unscathed. On Thursday night, as part of the 2017 Distressed Investing Event, Arch Coal will receive an award for that deal, despite the fact that the restructuring benefited company executives while leaving workers and the environment worse off. “Arch Coal shed hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars in debt by short-changing both their commitments to worker health care and pensions and their environmental cleanup obligations,” Mary Anne Hitt, director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, told ThinkProgress. “Economically their prospects...

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Memo to FBI: If Team Trump and Putin Colluded, any Money Trail Likely Involves Oil

by Joe Romm – Russia sold off one-fifth of its state-owned oil giant in December, but we still don’t know who bought it all. As the FBI investigates possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, one aspect merits closer examination: the $11 billion post-election sale of 19.5 percent of the Kremlin-controlled oil giant Rosneft. If there was an actual quid pro quo between Trump officials and the Russian government, it may well involve that sale for two reasons. First, prior to the election, “most industry watchers had written off the chances of a foreign investor being found for Rosneft,” as Fortune explained at the time. But electing someone who had vowed to improve relations with Russia appears to have changed the economic landscape. Second, as Reuters has detailed, Russian President Vladimir Putin managed to sell off this “oil jewel without saying who bought it.” In this post, I’ll attempt to connect...

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Trump’s America: Two Coal Plants Announce Closures in Ohio, Layoffs at Carrier Factories in Indiana

by Jen Hayden – Remember when Donald Trump appeared in Indiana to announce he’d saved 1,100 jobs at that Carrier and United Technologies were planning to send to Mexico? A refresher from early December: “But I will tell you that United Technologies and Carrier stepped it up and now they’re keeping — actually the number’s over 1,100 people, which is so great, which is so great …. I just noticed — I wrote down because I heard it — since about six years ago, 260 new federal regulations have passed, 53 of which affect this plant. Fifty-three new regulations. Massively expensive and probably none of them amount to anything in terms of safety or the things that you’d have regulations for.” His fans cheered and chanted, hailing their king of bankruptcy for saving all those jobs. Except, as the Washington Post later mentioned, those numbers were—the jobs and the regulations— false. This week significant...

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The Secret Service has Requested an Extra $60 Million for Trump Family Travel and Protection

by Jen Hayden – No money for Meals on Wheels, no money for health care, endless money for the lifestyles of the rich and infamous: The U.S. Secret Service requested $60 million in additional funding for the next year, offering the most precise estimate yet of the escalating costs for travel and protection resulting from the unusually complicated lifestyle of the Trump family, according to internal agency documents reviewed by The Washington Post. Nearly half of the additional money, $26.8 million, would pay to protect President Trump’s family and private home in New York’s Trump Tower, the documents show, while $33 million would be spent on travel costs incurred by “the president, vice president and other visiting heads of state.” Additional funding was already rejected once in the short time Trump has been in office: A person familiar with internal Secret Service budget discussions said the requests for additional funding, prepared in...

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Eccentric Millionaire Returns Manhattan Building to American Indians

by Amelia Kinney – Jean-Louis Goldwater Bourgeois plans to return his small part of Manhattan to the Lenape Indians by transforming the building into prayer house. Jean-Louis Goldwater Bourgeois, 76, plans to transfer the deed of his $4m West Village House to the Lenape American Indian tribe, also known as the first Manhattanites. The house was purchased under the Goldwater Bourgeois family name in 2006 for $2.2m. An architectural historian and activist, Goldwater Bourgeois told the NY Post “I have a romance with the history of the city, and I have been generally appalled that the land that the city is on has been taken by whites.” He went further to say, “This building is the trophy from major theft. It disgusts me.” Goldwater Bourgeois is referring to the Lenape’s original inhabitation of Mannahatta, meaning “land of many hills”. Original correspondences show Dutch traders purchased the land from the Indians...

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How Slashing the NEA Would Damage the US Economy

by Paul Bonin-Rodriguez and Charlotte Channing, Truthout | Op-Ed – Despite the National Endowment for the Arts’ vital role in the US economy, in February, Trump announced that his proposed 2018 budget would eliminate the agency. While the NEA has been on the target list for the right wing for ages, with so much else at stake, it’s hard to imagine that the left wing will take this on as a priority in its resistance efforts. The final budget proposal is promised to be out within weeks, which leads us to ask, what would life be like without the NEA? Fifty years ago, Congress voted to authorize the National Endowment for the Arts based, in part, on a notion that a great US followed from an enlightened and unfettered citizenry. The authorizing legislation observed that: “Democracy demands wisdom and vision in its citizens. It must therefore foster … access to the...

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An Orgy of Unnecessary Cruelty

by Robert Reich – The theme that unites all of Trump’s initiatives so far is their unnecessary cruelty. 1. His new budget comes down especially hard on the poor – imposing unprecedented cuts in low-income housing, job training, food assistance, legal services, help to distressed rural communities, nutrition for new mothers and their infants, funds to keep poor families warm, even “meals on wheels.” These cuts come at a time when more American families are in poverty than ever before, including 1 in 5 children. Why is Trump doing this? To pay for the biggest hike in military spending since the 1980s. Yet the U.S. already spends more on its military than the next 7 biggest military budgets put together. 2. His plan to repeal and “replace” the Affordable Care Act will cause 14 million Americans to lose their health insurance next year, and 24 million by 2026. Why is Trump doing...

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A Lawyer Sues President Trump Over His Financial Disclosure

by Casey Quinlan – A lawyer filed a case in federal court on March 14 which claims that Americans have not received accurate information about President Donald Trump’s debts. Attorney Jeffrey Lovitky, based in Washington, D.C., said Trump’s May 2016 financial disclosure mixes personal liabilities with business liabilities, Politico reported. Lovitky wrote in the complaint: The purpose of these disclosure requirements is to allow members of the public to make informed judgments as to whether candidates for federal office have financial conflicts of interests that may impair their ability to faithfully execute their duties as public servants. In an interview with Politico, Lovitky said, “If you just look at the statement on its face, all those liabilities are assumed to be personal liabilities, but I just do not think that’s the case. I have information that says otherwise.” Lovitky is not seeking damages. He asked the court to declare last year’s...

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East Chicago’s Pleas for Clean Drinking Water Go Unanswered as Trump Moves to Weaken EPA

by Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report – Environmental justice is on the chopping block at the Environmental Protection Agency, and that doesn’t bode well for communities like East Chicago, Indiana, where the agency recently discovered that drinking water is contaminated with lead. Nearly three weeks ago, a number of East Chicago churches and community groups petitioned the EPA to take emergency action and protect the majority-Black community from lead poisoning, which can cause a long list of health problems, especially in children. As of Tuesday, the local leaders and their environmentalist allies had yet to hear back from the agency. The EPA’s inaction in East Chicago comes as Trump’s administration considers massive budget cuts that could crush the agency’s environmental justice program, which is supposed to ensure the fair treatment of low-income communities, Native communities and people of color under environmental law. The agency’s environmental justice office is slated...

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Trump Budget: UN Sounds Alarm over Foreign Aid Cuts (VIDEOS)

Spokesman says reduction of US contribution to UN could ‘undermine the impact of longer-term reform efforts’. US President Donald Trump is seeking to reduce his country’s contribution to United Nations programmes, as part of cuts to funding of US diplomacy and foreign aid in his administration’s budget proposal. The spokesman for UN chief Antonio Guterres reacted fiercely to the plans on Thursday, saying “abrupt funding cuts can force the adoption of ad hoc measures that will undermine the impact of longer-term reform efforts”. In its budget the Trump administration stated its intention to “reduce or end funding for international organisations whose missions do not substantially advance US foreign policy interests”. This includes slashing funding for the State Department and USAID, its foreign aid agency, and shifting money towards the military with a $54bn increase in defence spending “The secretary-general fully subscribes to the necessity to effectively combat terrorism but believes that it...

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The Failures of the American Health Care Act

by Jeffrey A. Singer – Here are the problems with the House plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. From the time it was enacted, most Americans disliked the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Republicans, promising to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, rode the wave of public dissatisfaction to repeated election victories. The GOP took the House of Representatives in 2010, the Senate in 2014, and the White House in 2016, largely capitalizing on the skyrocketing premiums, rising deductibles, and disappearing choices that characterize Obamacare. Now, as Republicans control both Congress and the White House, they finally have the chance to deliver on their promise. And not a minute too soon. Because the mandates that Obamacare places on health insurance have sent our health insurance system into a death spiral. Premiums continue to soar as insurance companies are pulling out of the market, leaving consumers with fewer and...

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Why Trump won’t Quit. He can’t

by Otteray Scribe – There has been widespread speculation, complete with polls and betting pools, whether Trump will last six months or a year. There has been speculation whether he might resign, or be removed from office by Congress. I do not have any inside information, and even if I did, I would not reveal it. However, I am not an amateur armchair analyst.  I have been doing what I do for more than four decades, and in that time, I have met some interesting people.  The word “interesting” is used in the broadest sense of the word.  Suffice it to say that in some circles, they don’t care for me at all. During my almost half century of forensic work, I have encountered some of the most dangerous and cunning people you never want to meet. I have learned a lot from them. That leads up to what I am...

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Budget Will Drive Up Republican Voters’ Energy Bills

by Joe Romm – Two key programs that help the elderly and rural poor reduce their energy bills will be cut. President Trump’s new federal budget continues a remarkable pattern of being gratuitously cruel to his own voters. The just-released budget zeroes out the two major programs designed to help low-income and elderly Americans deal with energy costs: the Department of Energy (DOE)’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). “Families receiving weatherization services see their annual energy bills reduced by an average of about $437, depending on fuel prices,” according to DOE data. In 2010, the program saved low-income families a whopping $2.1 billion. Cutting it will save $121 million. The program, though, is targeted toward low-income Americans, “especially low-income persons who are particularly vulnerable such as the elderly, the disabled, and children.” There is a huge...

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Donald Trump… Leaker-in-Chief?

by Tim Koechlin – Donald Trump and his associates have spent much of the past year deflecting questions about Trump’s stubborn refusal to release his taxes. What is Trump hiding? Embarrassing business relationships in Russia or elsewhere? Debts that might indicate conflicts of interest? Or maybe this billionaire’s tax payments have been embarrassingly meager. Or maybe Trump’s fortune – like his inaugural crowd and his stubby hands – isn’t nearly as big as he’d like us to believe. So, when MSNBC‘s Rachel Maddow announced on Tuesday that “we’ve got Donald Trump’s tax returns,” and that she would share them on Tuesday’s edition of The Rachel Maddow Show, the buzz among eager left-wingers was deafening. Finally, the truth about Trump would be revealed. After an excruciatingly long set up, Ms. Maddow (and her guest, the journalist David Cay Johnston) shared two pages of Donald Trump’s 2005 federal tax return. These two pages,...

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“Morally Obscene” Trump Budget Proposal Stands to Make America Cruel Again

by Deirdre Fulton – Environment, public education, worker protections, and cultural institutions all stand to lose under Trump’s “cruel” budget blueprint.   Meals on Wheels. Amtrak. Teacher training, after-school, and summer educational programs. The National Endowment for the Arts. The Appalachian Regional Commission. The National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). All these initiatives and agencies—plus many more—face cuts or wholesale elimination under President Donald Trump’s proposed “skinny budget,” officially unveiled Thursday. Meanwhile, the blueprint calls for increases in military spending, border and immigration enforcement, and money for charter and private schools. The Washington Post has a comprehensive breakdown, with graphics, here. The document was variously denounced as “an all-out assault on our planet;” “dirty and dangerous;” “cruel;” and “unacceptable.” “President Trump’s budget is morally obscene and bad economic policy,” declared Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “It will cause devastating pain to the very people Trump promised to help...

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Death Spiral, Debunked: Facts Undercut Major Argument for GOP Healthcare Plan

by Deirdre Fulton – Republicans’ major argument to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act appears to be, well, bunk. Republicans have spun a lot of stories in their desperate attempt to sell the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare—and among their favorites is the narrative that the law is “imploding,” in a “death spiral,” or otherwise doomed to fail. There are two problems with that argument. First of all, Obamacare is not, in fact, “collapsing.” And secondly, to the extent the ACA is experiencing problems, much of the blame can be placed directly at the feet of Republicans and the insurance companies to whom they are beholden. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis released this week on the GOP’s replacement plan, the American Healthcare Act (AHCA), further exposes the “death spiral” talking point as a myth: “According to the budget office,” the New York Times wrote Wednesday, “the...

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5 Things to Watch in President Trump’s Skinny Budget

by Harry Stein and Scott Nathan – President Donald Trump is preparing to release the first budget proposal of his administration. While this budget likely will only provide limited details on President Trump’s plans—thus why it is nicknamed the “skinny budget”—it will still give the American people a clear look at Trump’s policy agenda and the priorities of his new administration. The skinny budget will not address taxes, and it will only address discretionary spending, the programs that Congress funds in annual appropriation bills. Discretionary spending comprises about one-third of federal spending, and it does not include major programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. In fiscal year 2018, after a two-year hiatus as a result of the 2015 budget deal, discretionary programs will once again be threatened by harsh spending caps known as sequestration. In the past, lawmakers have passed temporary bipartisan budget agreements to provide equal increases for...

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A Timeline: Russia and Trump

by STEVEN HARPER – Investigative reporters have begun to flesh out the Trump/Russia timeline. To keep everything in one location, here’s an updated summary (so far). Trump’s efforts to develop business in Russia date to 1987. In 1996, he applied for his trademark in that country. Discussing ambitions for a Trump hotel in 2007, he declared, “We will be in Moscow at some point.” 2002: Russian-born Felix H. Sater and his company, Bayrock Group — a Trump Tower tenant — began working with Trump on a series of real estate development deals, one of which became the Trump SoHo. Another development partner in Trump SoHo was the Sapir Organization, founded by Tamir Sapir, a Russian immigrant born in the Republic of Georgia who left the Soviet Union in 1973. 2005: In a sworn deposition in 2008, Sater testified that Trump gave Bayrock Group an exclusive deal to develop a...

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Paul Ryan is an Epic Failure

by Ian Millhiser – Trumpcare was a big test for Ryan, and he failed. Let’s briefly take stock of Speaker Paul Ryan’s career. Elected to Congress in 1998, Ryan spent most of his first decade as a backbencher. His most ambitious proposal in those early years was a plan to privatize Social Security that even the Bush White House labeled as “irresponsible.” Then he became the highest-ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee and, later, a committee chair. In these roles, Ryan revealed his two great talents — convincing his fellow Republicans to vote for laissez-faireproposals that had no chance of becoming law, and convincing Beltway pundits and reporters that he was some kind of policy wonk. By the time Ryan’s reputation as the conservative movement’s Great Wonk convinced presidential candidate Mitt Romney to choose Ryan as his running mate, Ryan was the primary sponsor of just two bills that actually became law. One...

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On Trump’s 2005 Tax Return, From a Tax Accountant….

by David B – I’ve read that some people would like to believe that Rachel Maddow got played.  I’ve read tonight that some people are comparing it to Al Capone’s vault.  I respectfully disagree. What we have are the first two pages of his 2005 tax returns, and Rachel put a lot of time into covering this, with my hero, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigator, David Cay Johnston, who received these pages in the mail. First, it showed us that he did earn a ridiculous amount of money that year, and that he paid taxes.  His returns from 10 years earlier show no tax paid. Here he earned and paid a lot. It showed us that he had Interest income and dividend income and it would be good to know from where. This just scratches the surface. We need the schedules, particularly Schedule D and Schedule E, pages one and 2. Line 13 shows...

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A Year of Trump’s Tax Returns Just got Leaked

by Adam Peck – Surprise! He paid a rate far lower than the one he should have. During her primetime show on Tuesday night, Rachel Maddow shared details from one year of Donald Trump’s tax returns. The document, a copy of Trump’s 1040 form from 2005 that Maddow said was obtained and shared with the network by David Cay Johnston of DCReport.org, shows that the president paid $38 million in taxes on income of more than $150 million. But as the Daily Beast reported—they too got a copy of the same tax documents—$31 million of those taxes were paid through the federal “alternative minimum tax,” which Trump has sought to repeal. The Trumps paid just $5.3 million in regular federal income tax in 2005, a rate of less than five percent. In 2005, the highest tax rate for a married couple filing jointly was 35 percent, meaning the Trumps should have been...

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Trump Decides to Gut United Nations Funding by 50%, Embarrassing and Endangering America on the World Stage

by Stephen D Foster Jr – Donald Trump has decided to go through with his threat to defund the United Nations in retaliation for making a decision he didn’t like. America has been the foremost leader on the international stage ever since World War II. After the war, the United States led the way in creating a more united and cooperative world by founding the United Nations to serve as a peacekeeping and humanitarian organization. The United Nations headquarters in located in New York and America has veto power and a seat on the prestigious United Nations Security Council. But now Donald Trump is preparing to slash funding to the United Nations by 50 percent, a move that would be a major blow against international cooperation and our reputation around the globe. Not only will the United Nations be cut by $5 billion, Trump’s plan also makes a 37 percent cut...

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Cambodia Outraged as US Demands Repayment of ‘Blood-Stained’ War Debt

by Nika Knight – The US dropped more than 500,000 tons of bombs on Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Cambodians are responding with outrage to the U.S. government’s demand that the country repay a nearly 50-year-old loan to Cambodia’s brutal Lon Nol government, which came to power through a U.S.-backed coup and spent much of its foreign funds purchasing arms to kill its own citizens, according to Cambodia’s current prime minister Hun Sen. While the U.S. was backing the Lon Nol government, it was also strafing the Cambodian countryside with bombs—a carpet-bombing campaign that would eventually see over 500,000 tons of explosives dropped on the small Asian country, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians and leaving a legacy of unexploded ordnances. “ dropped bombs on our heads and then they ask us to repay. When we do not repay, they tell the IMF not to lend us...

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White House in Deep Denial Over Dumpster Fire Healthcare Plan

by April Hamlin – The Congressional Budget Office released their analysis of the GOP’s Obamacare replacement plan today, and their findings were bad. Really bad. According to the CBO’s report, 14 million people are going to lose their healthcare by the end of the year and 24 million will be without coverage by 2026. But somehow, the White House is in complete denial about what a disastrous bill they are pushing. Health Secretary Tom Price said on Monday afternoon that the administration “strenuously” disagrees with the CBO’s report. Despite the numbers presented to him, he still insists that more people will be covered and costs will be lowered under the Republican plan. The Associated Press  ✔@AP White House says it disagrees “strenuously” with finding that 14M would lose health coverage under GOP plan. http://apne.ws/2mFu3Ql  5:27 PM – 13 Mar 2017 The job of the CBO is to analyze proposed legislation and provide Congress...

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New York AG: SoS Tillerson Used Email Alias for Climate Messages While CEO of ExxonMobil

by Neapolitan – Well, isn’t this special. Bloomberg is reporting that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson allegedly used an email alias account for many years to discuss climate change matters while he was CEO of ExxonMobil in what appears to be an effort to keep sensitive communications out of the eyes of the public, Exxon’s shareholders, and, possibly, investigators. New York says Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used an email alias to discuss climate change while he was chief executive of Exxon Mobil Corp.: Wayne Tracker. Tillerson sent messages from the account to discuss the risks posed by climate change, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a court filing about his office’s fraud investigation of the company. Tillerson, whose middle name is Wayne, used the Wayne Tracker account on the Exxon system from at least 2008 through 2015, Schneiderman said. Schneiderman made the claim in a letter Monday to Justice Barry Ostrager...

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Jared Kushner’s Chinese Miracle

by Judd Legum – Kushner’s family firm scores a miraculous deal with a secretive Chinese company. President Donald Trump has made his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the administration’s primary point of contact with the Chinese government. Now a Chinese firm with mysterious ownership structure and suspected ties to the Chinese government has made an “unusually favorable” deal with Kushner’s family real estate company. The deal, an investment in a Manhattan office building, includes a $400 million cash payout to Kushner Companies. The exceptional transaction between the Chinese firm, Anbang Insurance Group, and Kushner’s family has the appearance of a serious conflict: an effort to buy favor and influence with the Trump administration. In addition to being his son-in-law, Jared Kushner is one of Donald Trump’s closest and most trusted advisers. On issues of foreign policy, Kushner is widely seen as more influential than the Secretary of State. Kushner’s shell game Like his father-in-law, Jared...

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