Economy & Business

Trump’s Business isn’t Keeping the Receipts From Foreign Governments

by Ned Resnikoff – The president vowed to donate all profits from foreign governments to the Treasury. But he can’t donate them if no one can find them. One month ago, the House Oversight Committee asked the Trump Organization to provide documents related to payments it had received from foreign governments — and outline a plan for donating profits to the U.S. Treasury Department, as President Donald Trump vowed he would. Now it appears that Trump’s business empire hasn’t been keeping track of those payments, making compliance with the president’s promise all but impossible. NBC obtained a Trump Organization pamphlet that says the business will not “attempt to identify individual travelers who have not specifically identified themselves as being a representative of a foreign government entity.” Instead, the Trump Organization puts the onus on foreign governments to make those disclosures, voluntarily and without prompting. The Trump Organization forwarded this pamphlet to members of the...

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Seven Things You Need to Know About the G7 Summit (VIDEOS)

What does the G7 stand for, who are the key players and what are the potential bust-ups this year? The leaders of the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan – countries collectively known as the Group of Seven (G7) – are meeting on Friday for a two-day summit in the resort town of Taormina, Italy. The bloc meets annually to discuss a wide range of issues, including global economy, security and energy – and this year will be no exception. But with four out of seven leaders sitting at the G7 table for the first time, including US President Donald Trump, experts will be looking for signs about potential policy shifts amid growing global challenges. Syrian conflict tops G7 summit agenda Trump, in particular, is likely to face peer pressure over his protectionist and climate-sceptic stance, which has put him at odds with some of the...

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‘From Laughable to Inevitable’: $15 Minimum Wage Hits Congress

by Lauren McCauley – Responding to grassroots labor movement, Democratic lawmakers show that they are ready to join the pro-worker fight. Answering the call from millions of underpaid American workers who for years have pounded the pavement demanding a living wage, progressive lawmakers on Thursday unveiled legislation in both the House and Senate that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, “reversing the growing trend of income inequality between the top and everybody else,” as stated by Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who made the $15 minimum wage a pillar of his 2016 presidential bid, said as he introduced the bill alongside Scott and others that he knows the idea “is a radical concept for our Republican friends, but we believe in the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, that if you work 40 hours a week or...

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Trump’s Cruel and Deviant Budget

by Robert Reich – For years, conservatives warned that liberals were “defining deviancy downward.” They said that by tolerating bad social behavior, liberals in effect lowered what was deemed acceptable behavior overall – allowing social norms to decline. There was never a lot of evidence for that view, but there’s little question that Donald Trump is actively defining deviancy downward for the nation as a whole – whether it’s by lying, denigrating basic democratic values, celebrating tyrants around the world, using his office to build his family wealth, or stopping at nothing to win the presidency. Now comes his budget. Budgets are overall expressions of values and priorities. Trump’s budget is cruel and deviant. He proposes to cut federal spending by more than $3.6 trillion over the next decade, much of it for programs that help the poor (Medicaid, food stamps, Social Security disability, and health insurance for poor children) –...

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CBO: Trumpcare Would Strip Coverage From 23 Million, Make It Worse for the Rest

by Deirdre Fulton – In their rush to push the American Healthcare Act through the chamber this month, Republicans did not wait for a revised report from the CBO. The cruel and destructive bill known as Trumpcare would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 23 million, according to the revised Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score released Wednesday afternoon. The GOP-controlled House passed the American Healthcare Act (AHCA) by just two votes earlier this month, after adding an amendment gutting protections for people with pre-existing conditions and allowing states to get waivers on the essential health benefits required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare—including maternity and mental health care. In their rush to push the bill through the chamber, Republicans did not wait for a revised report from the CBO. That assessment, published late Wednesday afternoon, found that 14 million more people would be uninsured under Trumpcare next year. Nineteen...

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Exxon Loses in Court and Must Turn Over Documents to NY AG Schneiderman

by DWG – Exxon must now submit to a document proctological exam conducted by NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. From Reuters: May 23:  A New York state appeals court on Tuesday ruled that Exxon Mobil Corp should be compelled to turn over records in an investigation into how much the company knew about global warming as it continued to publicly downplay the effects it was expected to have on the fossil fuel industry. Exxon has been battling subpoenas from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is probing the company for fraud in its public statements about climate change. The appeals court upheld a lower court’s decision, rejecting Exxon’s argument that the court did not properly consider which state’s laws on turning over evidence in an investigation should apply in the case. The investigation is taking place in New York, but Exxon’s headquarters are in Texas. This is a big deal....

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The Outrageous Assumptions Hiding a $6 trillion Hole in Trump’s Budget

by Judd Legum – The budget is so detached from reality, it’s created its own theory of economic growth. The Trump administration has proposed a massive $6 trillion tax cut, mostly for the wealthy. How does Trump’s budget, released today, account for this massive amount of lost revenue? It doesn’t. In fact, it assumes that revenue would increase by $2 trillion over ten years. This is detailed in table S-2, which states that “economic feedback” will reduce the deficit by $2,062,000,000,000 over 10 years. The “economic feedback” refers to the growth that the Trump administration assumes will come as a result of its tax cut. It is an assumption that far exceeds the beliefs of even the most enthusiastic supply-side economists. The theory in play is that, by reducing taxes, you incentivize economic activity by allowing corporations and people to keep more of what they earn. This is true to some degree....

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Trump to Propose Massive Cuts to Safety Net in ‘Utter Betrayal’ Budget

by Nadia Prupis – ‘Regular folks need Medicaid. Nursing home care especially. These cuts are just cruel, and all because they want to cut taxes for the rich,’ tweeted Sen. Brian Schatz. President Donald Trump’s first major budget proposal on Tuesday will include massive cuts to Medicaid and Social Security, among other safety net programs, according to new reports. The Washington Post wrote on Monday that the budget will include $800 billion in Medicaid cuts over the next 10 years, which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated would slash benefits for 10 million low-income people. It will also call for giving states more power to stiffen work requirements for people receiving federal assistance, which could tighten the limits on who can access anti-poverty payments and for how long, the Post‘s Damian Paletta wrote. “Regular folks need Medicaid. Nursing home care especially. These cuts are just cruel, and all because they...

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Days After Administration Promised not to Touch Food Stamps, Trump Budget Reportedly Will Cut Them

by Alan Pyke – Expect big cuts to SNAP, WIC, and food bank subsidies systems. “As far as I’m concerned we have no proposed changes” to the food stamps program, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue told congressmen last Wednesday. “You don’t try to fix things that aren’t broken.” Perdue’s comments, delivering during a Wednesday House Agriculture Committee hearing, seemed to signal that President Donald Trump would not seek to shrink America’s efforts to help low-income families feed themselves. Yet just five days later, a leaked budget document seems to show the White House is going back on Perdue’s commitment — contemplating some combination of policy changes and outright budget cuts for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) and other key food supports for the poor. The leaked spreadsheet lists proposed budget requests for thousands of different government line items, without any of the accompanying policy information that would...

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Should We Treat Big Pharma as a Public Utility?

by Fran Quigley, Truthout | Op-Ed – Drug prices are skyrocketing in the US, and eye-watering Big Pharma profits are rising right along with them. With millions of Americans skipping medicine doses due to cost, widespread public frustration has spurred lawmakers to propose some good ideas for addressing the crisis. Lifting the ban on Medicare negotiating the price it pays for drugs and allowing prescription drugs to be imported from other countries would be helpful. So would the US government overriding patents and licensing generic manufacture of drugs that were discovered with taxpayer funding. Another popular idea, featured in pending Congressional legislation and more than a dozen state proposals, is forcing pharma corporations to open up their black box on drug pricing and research costs. At first glance, so-called transparency legislation, which is already the law in Vermont and has passed the Maryland legislature, can seem a bit tame. After all, what difference will it really make, as long as companies remain free to hike up their prices, with the limited...

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Trump Administration Announces Its NAFTA Renegotiation Concerns

by Brian Doherty – Many of them echo old labor union and Democratic Party complaints about freer trade. Donald Trump’s rhetorical hostility to free trade and his apparent desire to manage U.S. companies’ investment decisions over an obsession with “balance of trade” has been one of his most alarming characteristics to some libertarians. Letters from Trump’s U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to various congressional leaders sent this week set forth the current contours of the Trump administration’s concerns over renegotiating NAFTA, which can be summed up as, to quote the letter: new provisions to address intellectual property rights, regulatory practices, state-owned enterprises, services, customs procedures, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, labor, environment, and small and medium enterprises. It also notes they want “aggressive enforcement of…commitments made by our trading partners.” And they start with the nerve-wracking declaration that a prime goal in trade deal renegotiating will be to “support higher-paying jobs in...

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Offshore Wind is Now Competitive With Nuclear Power, and Gas is ‘in sight’

by Joe Romm – As prices plummet, offshore wind wins German power auction — with no subsidy. The price of offshore wind power has been dropping so quickly that it threatens to upend the electricity industry around the world. Last month, Denmark’s Dong Energy, the world’s largest provider of offshore wind farms, won a German power auction without needing any subsidies. Dong is a rebranding from Danish Oil and Natural Gas, as the company sells off its fossil fuel businesses to become a clean energy leader. Average global prices of off-shore wind dropped a game-changing 28 percent last year. Ray Thompson, chief of business development at Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy said last month that “it’s staggering to think that in not much more than five years, we could have turned a technology seen as prohibitively expensive into the lowest cost, utility-scale technology available.” By 2016, offshore wind prices had nearly dropped to the level...

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Rollback of Environmental Rules Will Fail to Bring Back Coal, Report Says

by Mark Hand – ‘Responsible policymakers should be honest about what’s going on in the coal sector.’ “Can Coal Make a Comeback?” asks a new report by Columbia University researchers. Spoiler alert: In its first few pages, the report states that President Donald Trump will almost certainly fail to bring jobs back to coal country or dramatically boost coal production. Rolling back environmental regulations, as the Trump administration frantically sought to do during its first 100 days, will not “materially improve” economic conditions in the nation’s coal communities, according to the report. During Trump’s presidential campaign, he repeatedly vowed to end a “war on coal” allegedly waged by the Obama administration. But as long as natural gas prices remain at or near current levels, U.S. coal consumption will continue to decline despite the Trump administration’s plans to roll back Obama-era regulations, the report says. “Responsible policymakers should be honest about what’s going...

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States Have Green Light to Drug Test the Unemployed

by Bryce Covert – An Obama-era rule that restricted drug testing for unemployment insurance is now history. Since the 1960s, federal law has banned states from drug testing jobless people who apply for unemployment benefits. After the recession, however, Republicans wanted to allow states to institute tests for the benefits. They’ve gotten their wish. On Wednesday, the Department of Labor (DOL) officially did away with a regulation it had issued under President Obama that sharply limited states’ ability to implement drug tests. Earlier this year, Congress voted to use the Congressional Review Act to undo the rule issued by the Obama administration in 2012 that kept any potential drug testing of those who apply for unemployment insurance very narrow. President Trump signed Congress’ repeal measure into law in March, and the final step was the DOL removing it from public record. Now Congress is free to either write its own rule or...

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A Shameless GOP and the Moral Travesty of Trumpcare

by Robert Reich – Shame on every one of the 217 Republicans who last Thursday voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and substitute basically nothing. Trumpcare isn’t a replacement of the Affordable Care Act. It’s a transfer from the sick and poor to the rich and healthy. The losers are some 24 million Americans who under the Affordable Care Act get subsidies to afford health insurance coverage, including millions of people with pre-existing conditions and poor people who had access to Medicaid, who may not be able to afford insurance in the future. The winners are wealthy Americans who will now get a tax cut because they won’t have to pay to fund the Affordable Care Act, and healthy people who won’t have to buy health insurance to subsidize the sick. House Republicans say they have protected people with pre-existing health problems. Baloney. Sick people could be charged premiums so...

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The 2020 Census is in Big Trouble

by Bryce Covert – The Census Bureau’s leader just stepped down just as it faces a huge funding crunch. The Census Bureau now has no leader after John Thompson resigned from his position as director on Tuesday. His resignation comes at a critical time as the agency gears up to conduct the 2020 Census — and was already facing big funding problems. The Census counts every person in the country, data that is used to allocate government resources to different states and localities, offer insight to businesses deciding on where to invest, and redraw congressional districts. The effects of unreliable or incomplete data could be devastating. Thompson had been Census director since 2013 and had 27 years of previous experience working in the bureau before that. His term expired at the end of last year but he was given a one-year extension to oversee preparations for the 2020 Census. The kind of experience he...

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“Corruption, Plain and Simple”: Kushner Visa Scandal Snowballs

by Lauren McCauley – While the White House hides behind more alternative facts, the outrage has seemingly multiplied. The latest White House scandal over the president’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner benefiting from the recent extension of the so-called “golden visa” program continues to dog the administration, despite its best efforts to brush it aside. The New York Times on Monday revealed that buried deep (pdf) into the spending package signed by U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday was “one sentence that brought a potential benefit to the president’s extended family: renewal of a program offering permanent residence in the United States to affluent foreigners investing money in real estate projects here.” The EB-5 immigrant investor visa program, also known as the “golden visa,” was part of the controversial sales pitch made by Kushner’s family over the weekend to Chinese business people, who were asked to invest $500,000 in the...

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The Robot Economy: Ready or Not, Here It Comes

by JP Sottile, Truthout | News Analysis – September 17 changed everything. On that day in 2013, Oxford University published an innocuously titled academic paper by two mostly unknown economists. But “The Future of Employment” wasn’t just another number-crunching exercise in opacity by a couple of dreary scientists. No, their bombshell report portended a coming robot apocalypse that could change the nature of human civilization, and perhaps even human beings themselves. Thankfully, the forthcoming carnage described by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne isn’t a doomsday scenario where Skynet systematically wipes out humankind, or a darkly lit near-future where attractive Replicants violently struggle to make sense of their emerging emotions in a perpetually damp Los Angeles. Instead, the economists previewed an all-too-real world where the second-richest man on the planet — Amazon’s Jeff Bezos — gleefully parades around like Sigourney Weaver in a massive robotic exoskeleton built by Hankook...

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Republican Senator Calls for Scrutiny of Trump’s Business Dealings in Russia

by Aaron Rupar – The former director of national intelligence’s comments during a hearing suggest they might already be under investigation. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says an exchange he had with former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper during a hearing on Monday stoked his curiosity about President Trump’s shady business dealings in Russia. At one point during the hearing featuring Clapper and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, Graham asked Clapper if he ever encountered a situation where “a Trump business interest in Russia gave you concern.” “Not in the course of the intelligence community assessment,” Clapper replied, referring to the assessment he helped put together that detailed how Russian officials worked to help Trump get elected. “Since?” Graham followed up. “At all. Anytime.” Clapper’s response was definitely not a no. “Senator Graham, I can’t comment on that, because that impacts an investigation,” he said. Clapper’s response suggests there could...

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“A Scandal”: After FCC Bent Rules, Right-Wing Sinclair Network to Grow Even Bigger

by Deirdre Fulton – ‘Sure looks like a quid pro quo: friendly coverage and full employment for ex-Trump mouthpieces in exchange for a green light to get as big as Sinclair wants.’ Creating the nation’s largest local TV station conglomerate—and raising the frightening prospect of a network that would rival Fox News—conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group announced Monday it will buy Tribune Media for $3.9 billion. Craig Aaron, president of the communications watchdog organization Free Press, called the deal “a scandal,” while former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioner and Common Cause adviser Michael Copps said it was both “expected and disappointing.” “Expected because the new FCC majority is foaming at the mouth to rubber stamp more massive media mergers,” Copps explained, “and disappointing because Sinclair is not known for the best journalism in the land, to put it mildly. Our nation’s civic dialogue suffers yet another blow with this merger.” The deal must...

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Kushner Family Tells Wealthy Chinese: Invest With Us and You Can Immigrate

by Common Dreams staff – ‘We heard that there are rumors that he is the most likely to be impeached president in American history.’ White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s family business  encouraged wealthy Chinese citizens to “invest $500,000″ in their real estate empire and then be allowed to immigrate to the United States. That was the message for an event held Saturday in a ballroom full of wealthy Chinese investors at the Ritz-Carlton in Beijing, The Washington Post reported. Kushner’s sister, Nicole Meyer, encouraged those in the ballroom to invest in her family’s New Jersey real estate project and get an investor visa in return. The visa, known as the EB-5 immigrant investor visa program, gives foreign investors the opportunity to invest in projects in the U.S and then lets them apply to immigrate to the U.S. The program has been used by both the Trump and Kushner family businesses....

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How We Can Make House Republicans Pay for Their Health Care Vote

by LeeAnn Hall – Republicans in the House of Representatives last Thursday voted to repeal the health care of 24 million people. The only people celebrating are the politicians who have put party above constituents, and advanced a giant tax giveaway for corporations and the super-rich. These politicians voted to kill the people they are supposed to represent. We must never let them forget that vote. We must make them regret it every day of their lives. There’s no overstating the cruelty they’ve perpetrated or damage they will cause. Trumpcare doesn’t just roll back the Affordable Care Act by cutting support for coverage, in ways that hit those who are older, poorer, and live in rural areas the hardest. It doesn’t just end the nationwide protections that bar insurance companies from jacking up premiums based on health status or denying coverage of essential care. It also dismantles Medicaid, which now...

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How the “People’s Budget” Can Help Redress Inequality

by Robert Borosage – The Congressional Progressive Caucus released “The People’s Budget” this week, which it dubs a “roadmap for the resistance.” Maybe the mere mention of a federal budget plan makes your eyes glaze over, but the “People’s Budget” is a dramatic document. Representative Mark Pocan of Wisconsin at a press conference for the “People’s Budget” on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Photo via Congressional Progressive Caucus) It presents a compelling alternative to Donald Trump’s “skinny budget.” Unlike Trump’s fanciful promises, it offers a sensible path out of the hole that we are in. Its values and priorities reflect those of the majority of Americans. The Progressive Caucus frames its budget around the central challenge of our time: how to make this economy work for working people, and redress the savage inequality that is undermining our democracy. It offers a strategy to get there, and a budget framed to...

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Did the Marquis de Sade Write This Health Care Bill?

by RoseAnn DeMoro – Nope, Republicans did. Even the great Stephen King might find this story implausible. Republican leaders in the House and White House wanted to implement a massive tax cut for the wealthiest Americans (the health care bill passed Thursday) as a prelude to adopting a second massive tax cut for the wealthiest Americans and big corporations (the tax bill that’s next on their agenda). They needed the first tax cut so they could pass both bills through a process called “reconciliation” which allows them to enact both massive gifts to the 1 percent by a simple majority in the Senate without the 60-vote threshold in the Senate for other legislation. The first tax cut for the very rich is called the American Health Care Act, the not so hidden fine print in a bill that is also a horror story for tens of millions of Americans who would...

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The Russia Investigation Could Finally Unlock Trump’s Tax Returns (VIDEOS)

by Aaron Rupar – It was a recurring theme during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing with FBI Director James Comey. During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, Democrats drew a connection between the tax returns President Donald Trump steadfastly refuses to release and the FBI’s investigation into potential collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia. At one point during the hearing, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) noted that Russians “have a history of using financial investments to gain leverage over influential people and then calling in favors — we know that.” “We know that the Russians interference in our election and they did it to benefit President Trump — the intelligence agencies confirmed that,” he added. “But what I want to know is why they favored President Trump, and it seems to me that in order to answer that question, any investigation into whether the Trump campaign or Trump operation colluded with Russian operative would require a...

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Jared Kushner Left Some Things off His Disclosure Form—Like a Company with $1 Billion in Loans

by Mark Sumner – Just because Jared Kushner doesn’t talk doesn’t mean he’s marshaling great thoughts. He may simply have nothing to say. And the more time passes, the more Donald Trump’s son-in-law seems to be nothing but what he appears to be: a rich kid whose biggest achievement was being born into the right family. However, there are times when Kushner really is failing to speak up about something he knows. Like how he just forgot to mention his involvement with a real estate startup with ties to, who else, Goldman Sachs and real-life vampire Peter Thiel. Kushner turns out to be co-founder of Cadre, a start-up company that is meant to attract investors for high-budget real estate projects. The other two founders are Jared’s brother and a 29-year-old friend. Being one of three founding partners in a firm might not amount to much if Cadre was nothing more than a hobby business or...

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The ACA Reduced Personal Bankruptcies by Fifty Percent

by Pluralist Berry – As Republicans continue to face incredible opposition in their plans to take away healthcare from millions of Americans, some more news has come out showing yet another way that the Affordable Care Act has been benefiting people. Allen St. John of Consumer Reports writes. Since its adoption, far fewer Americans have taken the extreme step of filing for personal bankruptcy. Filings have dropped about 50 percent, from 1,536,799 in 2010 to 770,846 in 2016 … Those years also represent the time frame when the ACA took effect. Although courts never ask people to declare why they’re filing, many bankruptcy and legal experts agree that medical bills had been a leading cause of personal bankruptcy before public healthcare coverage expanded under the ACA. Unlike other causes of debt, medical bills are often unexpected, involuntary, and large. This new report directly undermines the talking points of right-wing cranks like Megan McArdle, who this...

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USDA Rolls Back School Lunch Guidelines Championed by Michelle Obama

by Lauren McCauley – The nutrition rules were long abhorred by industry groups who now have a friend in the White House. In one of his first orders of business, President Donald Trump’s newly confirmed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue took steps to weaken school lunch standards championed by former First Lady Michelle Obama. In an interim final rule, announced by Perdue while he visited an elementary school in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Leesburg, Virginia on Monday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is rolling back nutrition rules that were part of Obama’s Let’s Move campaign that was abhorred by food industry groups. Specifically, Perdue is postponing a regulation that would have required schools to lower the sodium content in lunches. The order has also eliminated requirements that schools serve 100 percent whole-grain rich products, and another that forbade sugary, flavored, one percent milk. As The Hill explains: “Sodium levels in...

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14 Ways Trump Lost Bigly With the Budget Deal

by Ryan Koronowski – The “Art of the Deal.” Congressional negotiators reportedly agreed on a budget deal Sunday night to avert an impending government shutdown. And although the Trump administration talked a big — if confusing — game during negotiations over the past several weeks, it seems to have lost bigly. The $1 trillion deal, which will fund the government through September, is a six-months-overdue piece of major legislation that finishes out the budget for fiscal year 2017. Last week Congress passed, and Trump signed, a one-week extension that funded the government through this Friday at midnight, so passing a broader budget bill this week is essential to avoid a shutdown. Congress goes on recess next week. However, to keep the government open, the Trump administration had to give up, for the time being, large sections of its agenda: building Trump’s wall, defunding Planned Parenthood, and deeply cutting domestic programs, to name a few. 1. No...

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5 Facts About Illegal Immigration in the U.S.

by JENS MANUEL KROGSTAD, JEFFREY S. PASSEL AND D’VERA COHN – For the first time, the number of unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. was lower in 2015 than it was at the end of the Great Recession in 2009. The origin countries of unauthorized immigrants also shifted during that time, with the number from Mexico declining and the number from other regions rising, according to the latest Pew Research Center estimates. Here are five facts about the unauthorized immigrant population in the U.S. 1 There were 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2015, a small but statistically significant decline from the Center’s estimate of 11.3 million for 2009. The Center’s preliminary estimate of the unauthorized immigrant population in 2016 is 11.3 million, which is statistically no different from the 2009 or 2015 estimates because it is based on a data source with a smaller sample size and larger margin...

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Monster Defeat for Trump and GOP: Budget Funds Planned Parenthood but Nothing for Wall

by David Nir – Late on Sunday evening, details emerged about a new spending agreement that congressional leaders had reached to keep the federal government open past this week, when current funding runs out, and through the end of September. The deal is looking like a huge victory for Democrats—and a massive failure for Donald Trump and his Republican Party: The bipartisan agreement includes $12.5 billion in new military spending and $1.5 billion more for border security, a major priority for Republican leaders in Congress. The agreement follows weeks of tense negotiations between Democrats and GOP leaders after President Trump insisted that the deal include funding to begin building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump eventually dropped that demand, leaving Congress to resolve lingering issues over several unrelated policy measures. The new border-security money comes with strict limitations that the Trump administration use it only for technology investments and repairs...

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Key Facts About the U.S. H-1B Visa Program

by NEIL G. RUIZ – President Donald Trump has ordered a comprehensive review of the H-1B visa program, the primary way that companies in the United States hire high-skilled foreign workers. The multiagency review is expected to result in suggested changes to ensure that the most skilled and highest-paid applicants receive H-1B visas. Though the order may be the first step in an overhaul of the program, only a handful of changes have been made for now to the way H-1B visas are awarded. Almost 1.8 million H-1B visas have been distributed in fiscal years 2001 through 2015, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data. The program, created by the Immigration Act of 1990, allows employers to hire foreigners to work on a temporary basis in jobs that require highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher. Visas are awarded to employers on a first-come, first-served...

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Seoul Rejects Trump Demand it Pays for Missile System (VIDEO)

$1bn THAAD defence system in South Korea guarding against threats from North Korea will be operational ‘within days’. South Korea’s government has brushed aside US President Donald Trump’s suggestion that it should pay for a $1bn missile defence system the two allies are installing in South Korea to guard against threats from North Korea. The first components of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system have already been delivered and set up at a former golf course in South Korea – infuriating China – at a time of heightened tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes. Top US officials have said THAAD will be operational “within days”. “I informed South Korea it would be appropriate if they paid. It’s a billion-dollar system,” Trump said in an interview with the Reuters news agency. “It’s phenomenal. It’s the most incredible equipment you’ve ever seen – shoots missiles right out of the sky,” said...

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Tesla’s Solar Roof To Cost Less Than A Regular Roof – Even Before Energy Production, Says Elon Musk

by Fred Lambert/Electrek – Solar energy is already competitive in several markets and while the price of the solar roof could be more expensive than a regular roof as an upfront investment, those electricity savings would quickly add up and made the product competitive with normal roofing solutions. Elon Musk made quite the announcement in November 2016. During the special shareholders meeting to approve the merger with SolarCity, which they approved by 85%, he said that he was coming back from a meeting with the SolarCity engineering team about the solar roof and that he now feels confident that they could deliver the product at a lower cost than a regular roof – even before energy production. That’s different from what the company was claiming before the meeting was held. And it’s an incredibly bold claim since if it turns out to be true, no homeowner would have any reason not...

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Sanctuary Cities Explained

by GAIL ABLOW – The administration can’t define “sanctuary cities,” but it’s ready to punish them anyway. Last week Attorney General Jeff Sessions targeted nine jurisdictions — New Orleans; Philadelphia; Las Vegas; Miami; Milwaukee; New York City; the state of California; Chicago and Cook County, IL — demanding proof, by the end of June, that they have not illegally blocked communications between local law enforcement and federal officials regarding the immigration status of inmates, or they stand to lose federal funds for police force equipment, training and data collection. The demand implies they are all “sanctuary cities,” but no one in the administration has provided a clear definition of what that designation means. A number of mayors from across the country headed this week to the Justice Department in Washington, DC to ask Sessions directly. From what we have learned, there may still be no clear answer. What is a sanctuary...

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The Democratic Party Officially Supports a $15 Minimum Wage

by Bryce Covert – It’s now the party consensus. Nearly five years ago, a group of fast food workers went on strike in New York City, demanding they be paid at least $15 an hour. The demand seemed pretty idealistic at the time. But the movement that one-day strike spawned experienced another huge victory on Wednesday: Democratic Party leaders announced that they will soon introduce a bill to raise the minimum wage across the entire country to $15 an hour. Just two years ago, that was not the party line. In 2015, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Robert Scott (D-VA) put forward a bill to raise the wage to $12 an hour. It was Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison (MN) and Raúl Grijalva (AZ) who introduced a $15 minimum wage a few months later. While Sanders backed a $15 wage in his bid for the party’s...

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Paul Ryan Caught in a Vise Squeeze Between Trump and the Freedom Caucus

by Kerry Eleveld – The White House can’t figure out what’s going wrong. From the health care debacle to keeping the government funded, Donald Trump has been a steady force on one end of Pennsylvania Avenue while Paul Ryan flails all over the place. Politico writes: The Wisconsin Republican’s failure last month to persuade his conference to pass his Obamacare replacement plan forced the White House to intervene. On top of that, the most critical piece of his tax reform plan has been dismissed by many Republicans. The setbacks threaten to relegate the speaker to playing a backup role to the White House in the looming debate over tax reform, the speaker’s longtime pet issue. Okay, please, please let the White House take the lead on tax reform. As GOP Rep. Dave Camp said in an article handicapping their chances for tax success following the Trumpcare fail: “Health care is 20 percent of...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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No, Jeff Sessions, You can’t Just Strip Funding from ‘Sanctuary Cities’ to Hurt Immigrants

by Ian Millhiser – Will someone please introduce the attorney general to a lawyer? The Justice Department threatened to cut off grant funding to eight cities on Friday — unless those cities provide more support to federal officials trying to crack down on undocumented immigrants. But DOJ’s threat is unconstitutional and is highly unlikely to survive a lawsuit. In fact, the Justice Department’s threat against these eight cities appears to be so amateurish and so poorly aligned with longstanding Supreme Court precedent that it raises serious questions about whether the threat was properly vetted. At issue is funding for so-called “sanctuary cities,” a term that’s often used for cities that choose not to cooperate with federal efforts to arrest immigrants. Under the Supreme Court’s “anti-commandeering doctrine,” the feds cannot order a state or local government to participate in a federal program. Thus, while a state or municipality may voluntarily agree to have its police...

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Rush Limbaugh and iHeart Radio in Financial Jeopardy. The End is Nigh!

by pentupnrgy – Limbaugh may finally be history! After all the consumer boycotts of products airing on Limbaugh’s nationally syndicated hate filled spew show, they may finally have worked: The parent company of iHeartCommunications, which syndicates programs by conservative talk-show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, appears to be headed toward bankruptcy.  In a statement filed last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the federal agency charged with regulating companies that offer investments to the public, iHeartCommunications’ parent company, iHeartMedia Inc., said that it had “substantial doubt” that it would be in business by the middle of next year. www.salon.com/… Being in an expensive, dying and controversial industry isn’t good for stock prices, which is why in 2008, iHeartCommunications became a wholly owned subsidiary of iHeartMedia in a $24 billion stock buyout transaction initiated by Bain Capital, the investment firm for which past GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney labored for...

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Brace for Government Shutdown as Republicans Face Impossible Tasks

by Mark Trahant – Can President Donald J. Trump and the Republicans actually govern? As we near the 100th day mark the answer has been a loud “no.” So far. This week the Congress and the president will once again try for wins to fund the government, repeal the Affordable Care Act, extra money for Defense, and to construct a wall on the southern border. A nearly impossible order. The House of Representatives does not have a governing coalition. There remains, essentially, three parties: Republicans, Democrats, and the Freedom Caucus. Two of these three groups must work together in order to pass any legislation. And to complicate the politics even more, many of the Republican members are already worried about their own re-election, so they might not support their own party’s leaders. Especially if that deal is sanctioned by the Freedom Caucus. Yet Speaker Paul Ryan told his caucus Saturday...

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100 Days of Deconstruction: Part 3

by STEVEN HARPER – Across the federal government, Trump is determining the country’s fate. The first 100 days of deconstruction set the stage for 1,360 that will follow. Trump promised to be a transformational leader. It wasn’t an idle threat. He has assembled an unprecedented governmental wrecking crew. This is the third installment on Trump’s a unique combination of kleptocracy and kakistocracy that is reshaping America in ways that most of voters won’t like. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Don’t let the symbolic American missile strike on a Syrian airfield, dropping the “Mother of All Bombs” on tunnels in Afghanistan or threats directed at North Korea distract from a central fact: Trump is Putin’s President. Former ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson is a player in the resulting saga. After Trump announced his choice for secretary of state, former Russian Energy Minister Vladimir Milov said that Tillerson was a “gift for...

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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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