Economy & Business

Banning Transgender Troops Would Cost 100 Times More Than Letting Them Serve

by Zack Ford – A new study proves that the numbers just don’t add up. A new study from the Palm Center, a think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has found that the cost of implementing President Trump’s proposed ban on transgender military service would far exceed the costs of actually letting transgender people serve their country. According to the study, it would cost $960 million to discharge all of the transgender servicemembers already serving in the military. This is based on an estimate that there are currently 12,800 transgender troops and the cost to recruit and train their replacements would be $75,000 each. Comparatively, the RAND Corporation, a military think tank, estimated last yearthat the military would spend at most $8.4 million per year covering the health care needs of trans servicemembers. Though the RAND study offered a more conservative estimate of how many trans individuals are currently serving in the military,...

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The End of a Political Era: Movement Conservatism Gets Real

by Heather Cox Richardson – The ascendency of Donald Trump empowers movement conservatives to make their rhetoric real, but the reality is that voters don’t want them to. The newly unemployed Reince Priebus recently said on Twitter that the Republican Party is in the best shape it’s been since 1928. And yet, a political circus daily assaults Americans. We have a demonstrably unfit Republican president, a Republican Congress unable to pass the measure on which its members campaigned for eight years, a revolt from military leaders against a presidential policy conveyed by tweet, and now an admission by Republican stalwarts former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake that Republican rhetoric was never more than a means to gain power. These things are not unrelated. We are witnessing the end of a political era, the era in which movement conservatism dominated America. We are seeing the nasty, snarling...

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CBO Finding Will Put Republicans in a Bind: What do They Hate More, Obamacare or Deficits?

by Joan McCarter – At the request of House Democrats, the Congressional Budget Office has released its analysis of the costs of Trump’s Obamacare sabotage. Specifically, it analyzes what will probably happen if the Trump administration stops paying cost-sharing reduction payments to health insurers. Those are the repayments insurers get for subsidizing the deductibles, copayments, and other means of cost sharing to some of the people who purchase plans, as required by the law. Its conclusions: premiums will be hiked 20 percent, then 25 percent in 10 years, and the deficit increased by $194 billion. In addition, about 5 percent of the population will live in an area where there is no individual insurance plan available—on or off the Obamacare exchanges—and more employers would likely end offering employment-based insurance. Noting that these “effects are uncertain and would depend on how the policy was implemented,” the CBO finds: The fraction of people living in areas with no...

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Iran Could Quit Nuclear Deal if New Sanctions Imposed

Iranian leader describes his US counterpart Donald Trump as ‘not a good partner’ after US imposed new sanctions. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that Tehran could abandon its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers within hours if the United States keeps on imposing new sanctions. In a speech to parliament on Tuesday, he also hit out at US counterpart Donald Trump saying he had shown the world that Washington was “not a good partner”. Rouhani’s comments come with the nuclear deal under mounting pressure after Tehran carried out missile tests and Washington imposed new sanctions, with each accusing the other of violating the spirit of the agreement. The US Treasury sanctioned six Iranian firms in late July for their role in the development of a ballistic missile programme after Tehran launched a rocket capable of putting a satellite into orbit. Rouhani warned that Iran was ready to walk out of the 2015 deal, which saw...

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Democrats Want to Force Trump to Reveal How Much He is Pocketing From His New ‘job’

by Mark Sumner – With Donald Trump taking a 17-day vacation from the strenuous 53 days of golfing over his first seven months “on the job,” it’s hard to think of anything he’s done as work. But while he may be spending his time obsessing over Fox & Friends and waiting for his twice daily ego massage, that doesn’t mean he’s not making money, money, money off this sweet gig. Donald Trump’s company turned a $1.97 million profit at its opulent Trump International Hotel so far in 2017, dramatically beating its expectations and giving the first hard numbers to critics who charge that Trump is profiting from his presidency. The Trump Organization had projected that it would lose $2.1 million during the first four months of 2017 as it established a new hotel and convention business in the nation’s capital, according to newly released federal documents. That’s a $4 million turnaround based off Trump’s ability to...

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Hiring the Formerly Incarcerated as a Business Model (VIDEO)

by Jessica Wang – Fair chance hiring gives businesses dedicated workers and the formerly incarcerated a chance to get beyond stereotypes. For nearly two decades, filmmaker Katie Galloway has documented and exposed the flaws in our country’s criminal justice system, with investigative documentaries ranging from a trio of award-winning films for PBS Frontline — Snitch, Requiem for Frank Lee Smith and The Case for Innocence — to the impact of the prison building boom on rural America in Prison Town, USA. Her latest documentary, The Return, examined the effects of California’s Proposition 36, when thousands of people serving life terms under California’s three-strikes law were released after the legislation was amended in 2012. Both aired on PBS’s POVdocumentary film series. Galloway recently collaborated with The Marshall Project on Hot Chicken, Fair Chance, which focuses on a Columbus, Ohio restaurant that practices “fair chance” hiring of formerly incarcerated men and women. Filmmaker Jessica Wang recently interviewed Galloway about her latest project for BillMoyers.com.   Jessica Wang: You’ve built...

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5 Immigration Reform Proposals that Americans Actually Support

by Esther Yu Hsi Lee – The proposal takes data points from recent polls. An immigration reform bill that ensures the United States has the best and brightest foreign workers and also legalizes the current undocumented population in the United States has generally been a non-starter conversation since President Donald Trump took office. But major polls published after the president’s inauguration shows that’s exactly the kind of legislation that Americans could see themselves supporting. Last week, President Donald Trump backed a Senate Republican-led proposal that cuts legal immigration and significantly reduces the annual number of U.S. visas based on a strict definition of merit-based skills. Many voters would support components of the bill, as White House adviser Stephen Miller suggested, according to a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll published Wednesday. “Public support is so immense on this — if you just look at the polling data in many key battleground states across the country —...

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In Louisiana, a Private Company is Operating a Court-Approved Shakedown

by Brandon Buskey, ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project – Imagine being arrested. You haven’t been convicted of a crime, but you are told you have to pay bail to be released. If you don’t have enough money to pay the full bail amount, you could pay a bail bondsman, who will keep 10 percent of your bail fee as profit. Either way, if you cannot afford to purchase your freedom, you stay in jail. But in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, it’s worse than that. Here Judge Trudy White has for years been assigning people to a for-profit company, Rehabilitation Home Incarceration, to supervise the conditions of a person’s release — for a price. RHI then charges people who post bail a $525 fee simply to be released. And it doesn’t stop there. You then have to pay the company a monthly $225 “supervision” fee while awaiting trial. If you...

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Utah Utility Wants to Triple Monthly Charges for Solar Customers

by Mark Hand – Nevada is still recovering from rooftop solar policy similar to Utah utility’s plan. Utah’s largest electric utility company wants to place new charges on rooftop solar customers, a proposal that critics say would unfairly penalize the customers; in addition, they fear it could lead to a scenario similar to the one that recently played out in Nevada, with rooftop solar companies abandoning the state after policymakers weakened the net metering system. Rocky Mountain Power’s plan would nearly triple monthly customer charges and peak-time usage charges for rooftop solar customers, although the company says the new charges are necessary to create an equitable system between solar and non-solar customers. The Utah Public Service Commission is holding a hearing on Wednesday to get public input on the company’s controversial proposal. Next week, the commission plans to hold a multi-day hearing where Rocky Mountain Power, solar companies, and other official intervenors in...

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Wall Street Fines Down 66% Under Trump’s Goldman Sachs-Filled Administration

by Jake Johnson – “You do have to wonder when working-class Trump supporters will start to notice such things.” Since taking office in January, President Donald Trump has chosen ex-Goldman Sachs bankers to fill several key positions within his administration. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis published Sunday, it appears that the nation’s largest financial institutions are benefiting greatly from having their friends in government. “Wall Street regulators have imposed far lower penalties in the first six months of Donald Trump’s presidency than they did during the first six months of 2016, a comparable period in the Obama administration,” the Journal reported. Throughout his campaign for the presidency, Trump promised to loosen regulations on big banks by dismantling Dodd-Frank, which was established following the financial crisis of 2008. But the Journal‘s report indicates that the Trump team has found another way to ease up on Wall Street: namely, by not levying hefty fines for wrongdoing. Attributing the rapid...

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Disaster For Big Pharma As 50% Of People Report Quitting Pills For CBD

by Carey Wedler/ANTIMEDIA – According to a recent survey conducted by cannabis market research firm the Brightfield Group and HelloMD, nearly half of CBD (cannabidiol) users give up prescription drugs and over the counter medications in favor of the non-psychoactive substance. According to a recent survey conducted by cannabis market research firm the Brightfield Group and HelloMD, an online medical cannabis community, nearly half of CBD (cannabidiol) users give up prescription drugs and over the counter medications in favor of the non-psychoactive substance. The survey of over 2,400 respondents found forty-two percent of CBD users — whether they used marijuana-derived CBD or hemp-derived CBD — “have left their traditional medications behind altogether and now use cannabis instead.” The survey summarized that roughly “66% of CBD users indicated that CBD products are either ‘more effective’ or ‘much more effective’ in relieving their medical conditions than are over-the-counter (OTC) products.” Further, “pproximately 52% of this consumer group indicated that their CBD products are either ‘more effective’...

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UN Security Council Adopts New North Korea Sanctions

Security Council votes unanimously to impose new sanctions on North Korea, including banning $1bn in exports. The UN Security Council has approved a resolution toughening sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear and missile programme. The Security Council unanimously adopted on Saturday the US-led resolution, which bans mineral and seafood exports worth more than $1bn. The measures would be the seventh set of UN sanctions imposed on North Korea since it first carried out a nuclear test in 2006. “Today the full Security Council has come together to put the North Korean dictator on notice,” Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, said after the vote. “And this time, the council has matched its actions and words.” The resolution bans North Korean exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood. It also prohibits countries from increasing the current numbers of North Korean labourers working abroad, bans new joint ventures with...

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$3 Billion Foxconn Deal is Biggest Corporate Subsidy in Wisconsin History

by Christian Britschgi – Economists say the deal makes little economic sense. To get Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn to build a $10 billion factory in Southeast Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker is promising nearly $3 billion in tax giveaways, the largest subsidy package, in state history. “This is a great day for America, it’s a great day for Wisconsin, and it’s a great day for Foxconn,” Walker said. Great for Foxconn, almost certainly, but not for most of the people of Wisconsin, Matthew Mitchell, a senior researcher with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, says. “With enough subsidies,” Mitchell tells Reason, “you could get orange growers to relocate to Wisconsin.” Foxconn will get up to $1.5 billion in income tax credits, another $1.35 billion in credits for investment capital, as well as a $150 million sales tax break for funds spent on construction. Included in the state legislation is $252 million in highway upgrades intended to service the eventual...

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Wind Farm with Tesla Battery Storage Proposed for Offshore Massachusetts

by Samantha Page – The development could power 80,000 homes with clean energy. Massachusetts might be getting a massive new wind farm that uses Tesla batteries to store energy. Deepwater Wind, a wind energy development company, has proposed a 144-megawatt wind farm with 40-megawatt hours of battery storage for a site 30 miles from mainland Massachusetts and 12 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, the company announced Tuesday. In 2008, Massachusetts passed a law requiring the state to “establish goals and meet targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.” Under the law, titled the Climate Protection and Green Economy Act, the state pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Last year, a court ruled that the state had not acted adequately to meet its emissions reductions goals. Following the ruling, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) signed an executive order directing state agencies to, essentially, do better....

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Court Tells EPA to Enforce Methane Rule for Oil and Gas Drillers

by Mark Hand – EPA’s failure to enforce rule is causing release of “hazardous air pollutants,” court rules. A federal appeals court ruled late Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency must enforce Obama-era restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas industry. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the EPA’s attempt to suspend methane restrictions for the sector, formally vacating the agency’s 90-day stay of key provisions of New Source Performance Standards. The rule is now in effect. The leak detection and repair provisions of the 2016 rule were set to take effect — and “begin delivering significant benefits”— on June 3. But on June 5, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt “unlawfully stayed these and other requirements of the rule retroactively from June 2 until August 31, 2017,” the court said. Pruitt and his industry allies “have not offered any support for the proposition that compliance”...

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Deregulation and Market Forces Can Lower Pharmaceutical Prices

by Marc Joffe – The pharmaceutical market is anything but free at present. In the rollout of their “Better Deal” program last week, Democrats identified high prescription drug prices as a major challenge facing America and proposed new regulations to rein them in. Their diagnosis is spot on, but their prescription is backwards. The way to roll back pharmaceutical prices is to deregulate and rely on market forces. But for that to happen, both Democrats and Republicans will have to resist the pharmaceutical lobby, which benefits from the status quo and is very generous with its donations. In 2015, spending on prescription drugs totaled $325 billion, or roughly $1,000 for every person in the U.S. according to federal data. Pharmaceutical spending rose by 9 percent from 2014 to 2015, far outstripping the growth of the GDP. Drugs in the U.S. often cost more than twice as much as they do in other developed countries. A 28-day supply of...

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Democrats in Congress Need to Go Bolder, Not Backwards

by Sam Pizzigati – The just-unveiled ‘Better Deal’ agenda features a job-training proposal that demands less from CEOs than the job-training proposal Bill Clinton ran on a quarter-century ago. The Democratic Party’s congressional leadership has just unveiled a new slogan — and set of policy proposals — to help the party prep for the 2018 midterm elections ­­­ The slogan — “A Better Deal” — has underwhelmed just about everyone outside of the Democratic Party’s congressional leadership. The actual policy piece has fared only a little bit better. This policy piece includes three initial specific policy prescriptions, and all three arguably take “the side of working people,” the goal the Senate’s top Democrat, New York’s Chuck Schumer, has spelled out for the “Better Deal” effort. Average Americans would without question be better off if Congress made pharmaceuticals cheaper, expanded on-the-job training, and cracked down on corporate mergers that pad the pockets of investors...

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The Mooch, the Donald, and the Goldmanization of Government

by Richard Eskow – Donald Trump’s White House seems more like a Quentin Tarantino movie every day. Amid allegations of broken laws and self-dealing at the highest levels, the president has now hired a Communications Director called “The Mooch.” The name brings to mind the famous “Mr. Pink” scene from Reservoir Dogs, where a macho Steve Buscemi resents being given that appellation during a heist and wants to trade names with another crook. You can almost hear it now: “Why am I The Mooch?” t’s true that most members of Trump’s team, including the president himself, could easily trade nicknames with Anthony Scaramucci. They’re all moochers. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was tied to a student loan firm and her department’s actions directly benefited the family of a senior DeVos aide, who resigned after the conflict of interest came to light. There are serious questions about Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s financial interest in the administration’s investigation of OneWest...

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On Electric Cars, the U.S. Is Stuck in the Slow Lane

by Oscar Reyes – While Europe races toward electric vehicles, U.S. automakers are actually trying to make cars less efficient. The French government recently announced a plan to ban sales of new gas-powered cars by 2040. Not to be outdone, the UK government is now rolling out a similar plan of its own. These plans sound shockingly radical, but in fact many analysts think those transitions will happen anyway. For instance, the Dutch bank ING recently predicted that all the cars sold in Europe will be electric by 2030. More conservative estimates put it at 2050. Either way, most experts now see this change on the horizon. Electric vehicles — or EVs — are already more efficient than their gas-powered counterparts, and could soon become cheaper too. High-end models already outperform conventional engines for speed and acceleration. Yet potential buyers will continue to be wary as long as the range of batteries remains small, and the network of...

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Justice Department Again Threatens to Snatch Federal Grants from Sanctuary Cities

by Scott Shackford – Hundreds of millions in crime and court funding at stake. The Trump administration keeps trying to punish sanctuary cities that don’t cooperate in enforcing federal immigration policy, even though the feds don’t have the authority to demand all that much. The latest news is that the Department of Justice will attempt to tie a federal crime fighting block grant fund to three demands. Cities or states that want to receive the money must do the following: Prove compliance with federal law that bars cities or states from restricting communications between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) about the immigration or citizenship status of a person in custody. Allow DHS officials access into any detention facility to determine the immigration status of any aliens being held. Give DHS 48 hours’ notice before a jail or prison releases a person when DHS has sent...

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