Health & Home

Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Death Toll Likely in Thousands, Far Higher Than Official Count

by Julia Conley – In the weeks after Hurricane Maria pummeled the island, the mortality rate has risen sharply over previous years. Trump critics drew attention to a New York Times report on Saturday regarding the estimated death toll in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria, which left the island devastated after making landfall in September. While the official count of fatalities stands at 64, the Times’ analysis found that a more realistic estimate would be in the thousands. The newspaper reported that since Maria hit 42 days ago, 1,052 more deaths than usual have happened in the U.S. territory. The mortality rate has grown as half of Puerto Rico is still without power. A month after the storm, about one million residents did not have access to safe drinking water, and many were desperately using water from a Superfund site to bathe and drink. The dire conditions Puerto Ricans were faced with following the storm have...

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Mitch McConnell Says Caring About Legislative Process is For Losers. He’s Wrong

by Peter Suderman – Rushing a bill to a vote makes for messy legislation that comes apart over time. Early in the morning on Saturday, after Senate Republicans passed major tax legislation on a party-line vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took a question about the speed with which the bill had been passed. The final text of the bill, which ran nearly 500 pages, had been released just a few hours before the vote, and included pages that were crammed with handwritten notes at the margins, and portions of legislative text crossed out in pen. Last-minute deals were struck with several GOP senators throughout the day, and those changes as well as others had been hastily added into the bill. What did McConnell think of some of the process concerns that Democrats had raised in objection to the bill? McConnell’s response was to dismiss the worriers as losers: “You complain about process...

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CVS Merger With Aetna: Health Care Cure or Curse?

by Sharona Hoffman – The announcement that CVS plans to acquire Aetna for US$69 billion raises hope and concerns. The transaction would create a new health care giant. Aetna is the third-largest health insurer in the United States, insuring about 46.7 millionpeople. CVS operates 9,700 pharmacies and 1,000 MinuteClinics. A decade ago, it also purchased Caremark and now operates CVS/Caremark, a pharmacy benefits manager, a type of business that administers drug benefit programs for health plans. CVS/Caremark is one of the three largest pharmacy benefits managers in the United States. Along with ExpressScripts and OptummRXTogether, these three control at least 80 percent of the market. Should American consumers be happy or concerned about the proposed merger? As a professor of health law and bioethics, I see compelling arguments on both sides. Good for consumers, or for the companies? CVS and Aetna assert they are motivated by a desire to improve services for consumers and that the merger will lower health care costs...

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With Teen Mental Health Deteriorating Over Five Years, There’s a Likely Culprit

by Jean Twenge – Around 2012, something started going wrong in the lives of teens. In just the five years between 2010 and 2015, the number of U.S. teens who felt useless and joyless – classic symptoms of depression – surged 33 percent in large national surveys. Teen suicide attempts increased 23 percent. Even more troubling, the number of 13- to 18-year-olds who committed suicide jumped 31 percent. In a new paper published in Clinical Psychological Science, my colleagues and I found that the increases in depression, suicide attempts and suicide appeared among teens from every background – more privileged and less privileged, across all races and ethnicities and in every region of the country. All told, our analysis found that the generation of teens I call “iGen” – those born after 1995 – is much more likely to experience mental health issues than their millennial predecessors. What happened so that so many more...

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Homelessness: One of Capitalism’s Many Inevitable Products

by Gus Bagakis, Truthout | News Analysis – “As long as the capitalist mode of production continues to exist, it is folly to hope for an isolated solution to the housing question or of any other social question affecting the fate of the workers.” — Friedrich Engels, 1872 “Homelessness exists not because the system is not working but because this is the way it works.” — Peter Marcuse Housing is the necessary precondition for security, identity, emotional well-being, work, leisure and community. There is no greater condemnation of capitalism than its inability to provide adequate housing for those who produce its wealth — the working class. The high percentage of people of color who are homeless points to the wealth divide between the white and non-white working class, based on the historical legacy of racism and the building of capitalism out of slavery. The ruling class explanation relies on blaming the victims, arguing that people experiencing homelessness are in some way individually incompetent. Other, more perceptive,...

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The Anti-LGBTQ Baker is Actually Trying to Convince the Supreme Court That Homosexuality Isn’t Real

by Zack Ford – The Masterpiece Cakeshop case is about delegitimizing homosexuality. As the Supreme Court hears oral arguments Tuesday in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, there will be a lot of discussion about the First Amendment rights of the baker Jack Phillips, the artistry and expression of cake-baking, and “religious freedom.” At its core, however, this is a case in which conservatives are still arguing that homosexuality is unnatural and that gay and bi people are not worthy of protection under the law. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the anti-LGBTQ hate group defending Phillips for having refused to sell a wedding cake to a same-sex couple, argues insistently that his concern was not the couple’s identity, but the nature of the event. As ADF states in its reply brief, the last document filed before oral arguments, “Phillips serves LGBT individuals; he simply declines to create art that celebrates same-sex marriage.” They contend that “a wedding cake...

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US Withdraws From UN Global Compact on Migration

US President Donald Trump‘s administration said it was withdrawing the US from an international pact aimed at improving global migration and refugee issues, prompting criticism from the United Nations. The US has been a part of the non-binding New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants since it was unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly last year. The declaration called for negotiations on a Global Compact for Migration, aimed at protecting the rights of refugees and migrants and helping them resettle. It also seeks to fight xenophobia, racism and discrimination towards refugees and migrants. But late on Saturday, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the declaration’s “approach is simply not compatible with US sovereignty” and that the US will instead define its own migration plan. “No country has done more than the United States, and our generosity will continue,” Haley said in a statement. “But our decisions on immigration policies must...

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White House Liar Kellyanne Conway is Now in Charge of the Opioid Crisis. No, Not Kidding

by Hunter – When last we checked in with Team Garbage Fire, we were under the impression that White House Golden Boy Jared Kushner, who is a brilliant man who can solve all of America’s problems by virtue of his relationship to Donald Trump’s favorite child, was spearheading the administration response to the American opioid epidemic. But we may have imagined that, because looking back that sounds like a ridiculous notion to begin with. Not to worry, we have a new spearheader of the administration’s opioid epidemic response. It’s that White House jackass whose only job appears to be telling fantastically ludicrous lies in front of television cameras. No, not that one, the other one. No, we mean the other other one. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday announced that pollster Kellyanne Conway, 50, counselor to President Donald Trump, would oversee White House efforts to combat the opioid overdose epidemic. At this...

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Republican Tax Bill Paves Way For the Destruction Social Security, Medicare, and Safety Net

by Joan McCarter – Take it from a Republican, not just any Republican but a domestic policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy at the Treasury Department in the Bush 41 White House. The fix is in with this Republican tax bill that spikes the deficit. Bruce Bartlett@BruceBartlett Literally the second the ink is dry on the tax cut, deficit hawks will emerge from their hibernation, where they have had nary a word of criticism about increasing the deficit by $1.5 trillion, to demand that SS & Medicare be slashed b/c the deficit has mysteriously increased. 2:03 PM – Nov 27, 2017 As he warned in the Washington Post, “They’ve played this game before.” he stealth goal of GOP tax cuts is to start down the path toward gutting the New Deal and the Great Society—and if tax cuts pass, they might get away with it. If anything, by...

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Not All Men Are Pigs

by Lynn Sherr – But the ones who are, are swine. And let’s stop pretending that we didn’t know. One splendid July day five years ago, during the last presidential campaign when the bar of civility rested comfortably above the waist, I traveled to New Hampshire to interview Republican candidate Mitt Romney for a magazine piece. Before my sit-down with the governor and his wife, there was a photo shoot, and at the request of the photographer I stood back quietly, out of the way. It wasn’t my turn, and I was happy to watch as he engaged the couple, snapping away before their lakeside home for the perfect cover image. He’d shot the Romneys before, and kept up a pleasant patter to keep them relaxed and lens-ready. At one point, with Romney about to attend the Summer Olympics in London, the cameraman zoomed in and asked playfully, “If you’d been...

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New Mexico Study Suggests Medical Cannabis Helps Chronic Pain Patients Reduce Opioid Use

by Mike Riggs – Yet another cohort study finds a correlation between medical marijuana and reduced reliance on opioids. Chronic pain patients who enroll in New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program while using prescription opioids are likely to reduce their dosage of opioids and even to cease using opioids altogether, according to a new study from researchers at the University of New Mexico. Participants in the program also reported “improvements in pain reduction, quality of life, social life, activity levels, and concentration, and few side effects from using cannabis one year after enrollment in the MCP.” Published earlier this month in the open access journal PLOS One, the study had a small sample size: 37 of the surveyed patients enrolled in the marijuana program, while 29 used opioids alone. The study also relied on a cohort model rather than a randomized control trial. That means investigators had no say over who ended up...

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The Republican Tax Bill Will End Cancer Treatment for Medicare Patients

by Joan McCarter – If the Republican tax cuts bill becomes law, it will immediately trigger a $25 billion cut in Medicare. That’s because of mandatory spending cuts that will kick in as a result the tax bill’s $1.5 trillion increase to the deficit. The last time this happened, that Medicare cuts were forced, wasn’t that long ago. It was 2013. And as Sarah Kliff reminds us, what happened then was that cancer patients were turned away from clinics, because the clinics couldn’t afford the expensive chemotherapy drugs they were administering without Medicare offsetting the costs. In 2013, it was temporary, part of the government shutdown. This time around it would be a permanent cut. In light of that, Kliff followed up with an oncologist who sees that threat again as a result of this bill. I talked to one Long Island oncologist who said he and his staff held an emergency...

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Federal Judge Orders Military to Begin Accepting Transgender Troops on January 1

by Zack Ford – The Trump administration can’t delay it anymore even if they wanted to. A federal judge clarified Monday that her ruling against the Trump administration requires that the military allow transgender people to begin enlisting on January 1. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, a Clinton appointee to the D.C. circuit, had previously ordered back in October that President Donald Trump’s order banning transgender people from serving in the military be suspended and that the retention and accession policies revert to the status quo. Before Trump’s order, the retention policy was that trans servicemembers already serving could not be removed for their gender identity, and the accession policy was set to allow trans people to begin joining the military as of January 1, 2018 — having been delayed six months by Defense Secretary James Mattis. The Trump administration appealed this decision last week, and also sought clarification about whether Mattis was, in fact, prohibited by the order from...

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Chef José Andrés to Extend His ‘Chefs for Puerto Rico’ Campaign Through Christmas

by Gabe Ortiz – After serving more than 2 million meals in Puerto Rico following the Hurricane Maria disaster, chef José Andrés announced that his “Chefs for Puerto Rico” campaign would be winding down operations on the island and leaving only a core crew working through Thanksgiving—or at least, that’s what he thought. According to Eater, the chef’s World Center Kitchen now plans to stay through at least Christmas to focus “on remote areas and harder-hit communities—those that, according to Andrés, aren’t receiving much aid from other groups”: Last week, World Central Kitchen’s kitchen on Vieques, an island off the coast of Puerto Rico, served its 20,000th meal. And today, from the World Central Kitchen in Ponce, Andrés praised chef Ventura Vivoni for cooking more than 36,000 meals for “the often forgotten center of the island.” While it’s true that local stores and food stands are reopening to reestablish their vital roles in their local economies and communities—“an NGO...

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The GOP Has a Problem With Paying for Kids’ Basic Care

by Rebekah Entralgo – Congress is driving nearly 10 million kids and pregnant women into a health insurance crisis. Fifty-six days after Congress failed to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), some American children are at risk of losing their health insurance. The deadline to renew the program’s funding was Sept. 30, and Congress hasn’t granted the program $15 billion to continue. As a result, the popular state-level insurance program for low-income children and pregnant women is facing a funding cliff. While some states may be able to keep the program going through some of next year, half a dozen are projected to run out of funding by late December or early January. It takes time to make program changes and alert families they’ll be left in the lurch, so States are starting to take action now. States closest to the funding cliff are preparing to warn customers that funding might disappear, leaving kids...

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In These States, Past Marijuana Crimes Can Go Away

by Sophie Quinton – When Californians voted to legalize marijuana last year, they also voted to let people petition courts to reduce or hide convictions for past marijuana crimes. State residents can now petition courts to change some felonies to misdemeanors, change some misdemeanors to infractions, and wipe away convictions for possessing or growing small amounts of the drug. “We call it reparative justice: repairing the harms caused by the war on drugs,” says Eunisses Hernandez of the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group that helped write the California ballot initiative. Colorado, Maryland, New Hampshire and Oregon also have made it easier for people convicted of some crimes of marijuana possession, cultivation or manufacture to get their records sealed or expunged, which generally means removing convictions from public databases. Massachusetts lawmakers are considering a criminal justice bill that would, among other changes, allow people to expunge any conviction that’s no...

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Saving Lives in the ‘Overdose Capital of America’ (VIDEO)

by Titi Yu – A new documentary streaming on Netflix is a window into what it’s like to be on the front lines of the opioid crisis.  Heroin(e) is a powerful film that follows the stories of three women in Huntington, West Virginia, who are battling the opioid crisis on its front lines. Drug addiction is so common in Huntington, the “overdose capital of America,” that it’s weaved into the fabric of everyday life. In one scene, paramedics work to revive an overdose victim at a convenience store while people step around the commotion and move along the checkout line as if nothing is happening. Fire Chief Jan Rader is the first responder who carries not only the film, but also the weight of the crisis in her community as she works to save as many people as possible and get addicts into long-term recovery. Judge Patricia Keller is part mother-hen,...

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Judge Strikes Down Texas Ban on Common Abortion Procedure

by Shannon Najmabadi for The Texas Tribune – A federal district judge handed a victory to abortion rights groups Wednesday when he struck down part of a Texas law curbing access to the most common second-trimester abortion procedure, called dilation and evacuation.   A federal district judge handed a victory to abortion rights groups Wednesday when he struck down part of a Texas law curbing access to the most common second-trimester abortion procedure, called dilation and evacuation. In a decision that will be appealed before the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Lee Yeakel said the provision imposes an “undue burden” on women seeking second-trimester abortions in the state. It had been slated to go into effect Sept. 1 as part of Senate Bill 8, a law signed by Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this year. But the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood filed suit in July on behalf of several women’s health providers in the state....

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Congress Still Hasn’t Renewed CHIP Funding, 9 Million Children Could Soon Lose Health Coverage

by Elham Khatami – Three states and the District of Columbia are expected to run out of CHIP funds by next month. It has been 51 days since Congress allowed the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to expire. Since then, states have been grappling with the reality that nine million children may soon lose critical health care coverage. While CHIP has historically received support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, this year, Congress has allowed disagreements over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to take precedence over reauthorizing funding for the program. Things are now especially dire for Arizona, the District of Columbia, Minnesota, and North Carolina — all of which are expected to run out of CHIP funds by next month. Thirty-one states will likely exhaust their funding by March 2018. “We’re in an unprecedented situation,” Joan Alker, executive director of Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families, told ThinkProgress. Referring...

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The Drag Show Must Go On!

by Mandy Strickland Floyd, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Tennessee – On Monday night, the attempt by the town of Portland, Tennessee, to ban drag shows came to an end. For months, the town’s aldermen have been searching for a way to regulate drag shows out of existence. But the First Amendment got in their way. It all started in August, when performers with Elite Productions put on a drag show at Envy Restaurant Bar & Grill in downtown Portland. The show was sold out, and the performers went on to hold several more successful performances. Though popular with the public, the show became a target for the Portland board of aldermen, which has spent much of the past several months trying to find a way to ban drag shows. In September, board members introduced an ordinance that sought to classify drag shows as “adult cabaret,” which the town described as a...

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Ban on Transgender Military Service Just Took Another Blow

by Zack Ford – The arbitrary ban “cannot possibly constitute a legitimate governmental interest”, the judge wrote. A second federal judge has ruled against President Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military, issuing a preliminary injunction prohibiting it from taking effect. Unlike the first such injunction, issued last month, this order also ensures transition-related medical procedures remain covered. Senior United States District Judge Marvin Garbis, a George H.W. Bush appointee, ruled Tuesday that Trump’s ban, first tweeted out in July, could not be enforced: President Trump’s tweets did not emerge from a policy review, nor did the Presidential Memorandum identify any policymaking process or evidence demonstrating that the revocation of transgender rights was necessary for any legitimate national interest. Based on the circumstances surrounding the President’s announcement and the departure from normal procedure, the Court agrees with the D.C. Court that there is sufficient support for Plaintiffs’ claims that “the decision to exclude...

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House Approves $700B ‘Cash Cow for Weapons Companies’—But Single Payer ‘Too Expensive’

by Jake Johnson – “What if we tell House Republicans and Democrats that North Korea wanted to close schools, take our healthcare away and pump CO2 into our air—we could suddenly, magically find $700 billion dollars for all of it.” In a bipartisan show of support for endless war and out-of-control military spending, the House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the nearly $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act of 2018 that aims to boost war outlays by $80 billion—an amount that critics noted would easily cover the costs of free public college tuition and other initiatives that are frequently dismissed as too expensive. The final vote tally was 357-70, with 127 Democrats throwing their support behind the bill. Sixty-seven Democrats—including Reps. Barbara Lee of California, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, and John Conyers of Michigan—voted against the legislation. In addition to providing cash for 90 F-35 jets—20 more than President Donald Trump requested—the measure also approves...

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Australians Overwhelmingly Expressed Support for Marriage Equality. Now What?

by Zack Ford – The big survey has come to a conclusion, but no outcome is guaranteed. Around 79 percent of all eligible voters participated in Australia’s national postal survey on marriage equality, and now the results are in. As projected, there was very strong support for legalizing marriage for same-sex couples, with 61.6 percent calling for it to be legalized and 38.4 percent percent opposing it. Every state and territory recorded a yes vote, and only New South Wales’ yes result fell below 60 percent (57 percent). But because it was a survey, not a referendum, the results have no immediate effect. The government promised, if the “yes” vote prevailed, that it would allow the Parliament of Australia to hold a conscience vote on a marriage equality bill. But nothing requires the MPs to vote according to the survey. Multiple versions of marriage equality legislation have also been proposed that...

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Evangelical Attack on Women’s Rights Hidden in GOP Tax Reform

by Rmuse – Religious Republicans made another sneak attack on American women’s right to self-determination last week and there was barely a whimper; which is the reason the attack was done through subterfuge. And besides a lack of outrage,  there was a lack of media reporting that Republicans are embracing a Vatican dictate as their official legislative weapon of choice in the evangelical Republicans’ war on women. Based on the machinations Republicans are using to eliminate women’s reproductive rights, including the right to use contraceptives, they certainly know their agenda is highly unpopular; it is precisely why they ensconced a “personhood” provision deep in the 429-page Republican House tax reform legislation. Despite several varied states rejecting the bizarre, and frankly absurd, idea of “personhood,” as a legal provision and as a concept, Republicans are pushing the issue as a means of completely controlling women’s reproductive lives. For the second time in Trump and preacher Pence’s burgeoning theocracy, the federal...

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‘Why Not Freddy Krueger?’ Trump Picks Big Pharma Exec Alex Azar to Head HHS

by Jake Johnson – “Just when you think it can’t get anymore disgraceful. Pity the poor people who need medication and safety—that would be all of us.” In a move critics said betrays President Donald Trump’s expressed commitment to lowering drug prices and taking on the power of Big Pharma, Trump on Monday announced that he has chosen Alex Azar, former top executive of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). While Trump insisted in a tweet on Monday that Azar “will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices,” many argued that the president’s choice of an industry insider will only be a further boost for the bottom lines of drug companies—and a disaster for public health. “Trump tells us Azar will be a ‘star’ who will lower prescription prices. Maybe he should have asked the six million diabetic Americans whose insulin prices have more than tripled under Azar’s...

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‘Giant Leap Backwards’ as Global Carbon Emissions in 2017 Soaring to All-Time High

by Julia Conley – “The urgency for reducing emissions means they should really be already decreasing now.” Warning of a “giant leap backwards for humankind,” the Global Carbon Project said in a report (pdf) released Monday that carbon emissions are expected to hit a record high in 2017, following three years of stable CO2 levels. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen about two percent in 2017 according to climate scientists, dashing hopes that the world had already seen the highest emission levels from the coal, oil, and gas industries. The findings carry urgent implications for the next three years. A report released earlier this year by scientists at Carbon Tracker, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and Yale University showed that global emissions must begin falling quickly after 2020 in order to keep the global temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Professor Corinne Le Quéré...

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Jimmy Kimmel is a Genius. Boosts Sign Ups for Trumpcare at Healthcare.gov

by SemDem – In this era of fake news where right-wingers insist on taking marching orders from Russian trolls, Jimmy Kimmel turned all of their gullibility and stupidity on their little ditto heads.  He recently launched a campaign that, as you will see, has been immensely successful. During his opening monologue, he praised Trump for the new plan that Trump administers, which starts Nov 1 and ends Dec. 15:  the open enrollment period for Trumpcare. FINALLY, no more government control of healthcare. These are private insurance companies which deliver Trumpcare, and they now offer the following benefits: It covers pre-existing conditions It has no lifetime caps Your kids can stay on it It caps administrative fees for overhead It is VERY affordable for people making under 50K a year He even made a video with Donald Trump himself to support Trumpcare. Please share this video on twitter and Facebook with anyone...

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GOP Tax Bill Would Trigger $25 Billion in Automatic Cuts to Medicare, Warns CBO

by Julia Conley – Senior citizens’ healthcare spending would be on the chopping block to make up for the $1.5 trillion deficit increase brought on by the House tax plan. Progressives on Tuesday urged Trump critics to voice their opposition to the tax bill that House Republicans are hoping to push through, after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that the legislation could put billions of dollars in Medicare spending in danger. Because the bill would add an estimated $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade, the CBO said in a letter to Congress, the government would be required to automatically cut mandatory spending should the bill pass, under “pay-as-you-go” rules, also known as PAYGO. To make up for the deficit increase, the government would have to cut $150 billion in spending every year for the next decade. Under PAYGO, Medicare spending could legally be cut by up to four...

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The Deadly Link Between Domestic Violence and Mass Shootings

by Sher Watts Spooner – The fight for rational gun safety laws is frustrating. But the information that the perpetrator of the latest mass shooting also was guilty of domestic abuse—a conviction that should have kept him from buying a gun—seems to be opening some eyes. Devin Patrick Kelley, who opened fire with an assault rifle to kill 26 people at a church service in Sutherland Springs, Texas, had been court-martialed for trying to strangle his wife and for fracturing his stepson’s skull. Kelley is just the latest in a series of mass shooters who also have committed domestic violence. Of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history, nine were committed by domestic abusers. According to research by Everytown for Gun Safety, which has analyzed all mass shootings since 2009, more than half of all mass shootings in the United States are related to domestic or family violence. In at least 54...

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U.S. Silent as Egypt Considers New Law Outlawing Homosexuality — and it’s Worse Than You Think

by D. Parvaz – In order to score political points with Islamists, the government has stepped up its horrifying crackdown on LGBTQ community, accusing them of endangering national security. Egypt is considering a draft of a new law officially criminalizing same-sex relations, as part of a wider crackdown on LGBTQ rights after a concert in late September, when a few audience members waved rainbow flags. Reuters reported on Thursday that the proposed law, if passed, would introduced up to a decade in prison for “people engaging in or promoting same-sex relations.” While the White House has refrained from condemning the arrests and the proposed law (the United States provides Egypt $1.3 billion in military aid each year), rights groups have been calling out the Egyptian state on this issue. Amnesty International said that the law would “further entrench stigma and abuse against people based on their perceived sexual orientation.” Human Rights Watch has also spoken out...

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Three Richest Americans Now Own More Wealth Than Bottom Half of US Combined: Report

by Jake Johnson – “The elite ranks of our billionaire class continue to pull apart from the rest of us,” a new Institute for Policy study analysis finds. In the United States, the 400 richest individuals now own more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the population and the three richest own more wealth than the bottom 50 percent, while pervasive poverty means one in five households have zero or negative net worth. Those are just several of the striking findings of Billionaire Bonanza 2017, a new report (pdf) published Wednesday by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) that explores in detail the speed with which the U.S. is becoming “a hereditary aristocracy of wealth and power.” “Over recent decades, an incredibly disproportionate share of America’s income and wealth gains has flowed to the top of our economic spectrum. At the tip of that top sit the nation’s richest 400 individuals, a group...

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‘America Last’: US vs. Entire World After Syria Agrees to Join Paris Accord

by Jessica Corbett – “Every single other country in the world is moving forward together to tackle the climate crisis, while Donald Trump has isolated the United States on the world stage in an embarrassing and dangerous position.” At the COP23 United Nations climate summit in Bonn, Germany on Tuesday, war-torn Syria announced that it would sign on to the Paris agreement, leaving the United States—after President Donald  withdrew his support earlier this year—as the only nation on planet Earth to oppose the international accord opponent. “As if it wasn’t already crystal clear, every single other country in the world is moving forward together to tackle the climate crisis, while Donald Trump has isolated the United States on the world stage in an embarrassing and dangerous position,” said Sierra Club president Michael Brune, following the announcement. “Trump’s desperate moves to help corporate polluters by refusing to acknowledge the reality of the climate crisis shows...

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Anti-LGBTQ Lawmaker Defeated in Virginia, Will be Replaced by First Transgender State Representative

by Adam Peck – She becomes the first transgender state representative in the country. Danica Roem, a former journalist turned candidate for Virginia’s House of Delegates, handily won her election on Tuesday night to become the country’s first transgender state representative. She unseats 25-year incumbent Bob Marshall, among the state’s most vocal anti-LGBTQ lawmakers. Marshall was the sponsor of Virginia’s transphobic “bathroom bill,” which sought to ban transgender residents from using public restrooms that corresponds to their gender identity. Throughout the race, Marshall refused to refer to Roem by female pronouns and refused to debate with her. With 95 percent of the vote in, Roem’s margin stands at 54.6 percent to 45.4 percent. She will represent Virginia’s 13th district, an area that encompasses most of Prince William County in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. That district heavily favored Hillary Clinton in 2016, but in his last election in 2015, Marshall beat Democratic candidate 56.1...

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Bernie Sanders Goes to Canada for Health Care Inspiration

by Michael Corcoran, Truthout | Report – For decades, myths about the Canadian health care system have been widespread in the US. Conservative think tanks, the for-profit health industry, Third Way Democrats and the dominant media have advanced falsehoods about Canada’s single-payer health system. In September, Vice President Mike Pence went as far as to cite Canada as the glaring case study “for the failings of national socialized health care.” All of this occurs despite the fact that Canada’s health care outranks the US health system by virtually every metric available. “These are not misunderstandings,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders on October 29 in Toronto, during a weekend tour of Canadian hospitals. “These are very intentional lies convince the American people that the current dysfunctional system we have now is the best that we can do.” The tour of the Canadian health system by the country’s most popular politician is another reminder of how far the single-payer movement has come, in part due to the awareness Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign raised. The single-payer movement has...

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Barber Who has Been Giving Free Haircuts to Homeless is Gifted Barbershop by Stranger

by Walter Einenkel – Philadelphia-based barber Brennon Jones has been working as a mobile haircutting unit, in a project he called Haircut 4 Homeless. Jones started this project in January, and as CBS local news explains, it’s exactly what it sounds like. “I look past their outer appearance. I look past whatever addiction they may have. I see the person for who they are,” he said. “My very first haircut, his name is Braden. I cut his hair on 15th & Walnut . A few days later, I went to check up on him and he wasn’t there. I was hoping nothing bad happened to him. When we did catch up weeks later, he got offered a full-time job.” Taper’s Barber Shop is owned by Sean Johnson. As word of Jones’ Haircuts 4 Homeless project got out, Johnson wondered what he could do to help. Sean Johnson wanted to help, so he...

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Trump to Nominate Notorious Anti-feminist to be ‘Ambassador for Women’

by Zack Ford – “This would be putting an arsonist in charge of the fire department.” President Trump is expected to nominate Penny Nance, an anti-LGBTQ, anti-abortion, and anti-feminist activist, to be the “Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues,” a position created under President Obama. Since 2010, Nance has led the Concerned Women for America (CWA), a Christian social policy organization that has been listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ hate group. She doesn’t believe that efforts to restrict health coverage for women are part of a “war on women,” but she used that term to describe the Violence Against Women Act. And she claims that legal abortion is worse than the Holocaust. Planned Parenthood slammed the choice this weekend, with executive vice president Dawn Laguens saying the nomination “would be putting an arsonist in charge of the fire department.” According to Laguens, CWA called the Office of Global Women’s Issues, which Nance would oversee, a...

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Trump’s Betrayal: One Broken Promise After Another

As a candidate, President Donald Trump made grandiose promises to the people he referred to as the “forgotten men and women of our country.” He said that he would bring back jobs, improve health care, and protect their retirement. Yet one year after being elected president, it is clear that Trump’s policies and plans are a betrayal of the American people—including some of his strongest supporters. Trump said, “I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created,” but in reality: Job growth is slower than it was during the previous six years. Under President Trump, the economy has generated a little more than 164,000 jobs a month, compared with 187,000 jobs a month in 2016 and 226,000 jobs a month in 2015. In fact, in 2017, average job growth has been lower than it was in any of the previous six years. At least 66,000 American jobs have been moved offshore. Since President Trump...

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Mila Kunis Set Up a Monthly Donation in Mike Pence’s Name to Planned Parenthood

by wagatwe – Actress Mila Kunis has her own sly way of protesting the vehemently anti-choice Vice President Mike Pence: setting up an anonymous monthly donation to the major reproductive healthcare provider Planned Parenthood in his name. During an interview on TBS’s CONAN with host Conan O’Brien, she shared a juicy tidbit about a small form of resistance she practices every week. She explained, in part: I disagreed with some of the stuff that Pence was doing and was trying to do. And so, as a reminder that there are women in the world that may or may not agree with his platform, I put him on a list of recurring donations that are made in his name to Planned Parenthood. Love it. Watch the clip below: Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

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Maryland Investigating Kushner Real Estate Practices

by Alec MacGillis – The probe by the Maryland attorney general comes after reports by ProPublica, The New York Times and The Baltimore Sun about the firm’s aggressive treatment of tenants. The office of the Maryland attorney general is investigating the management practices at the many large apartment complexes in the state that are owned and overseen by Kushner Companies, the family company of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner. A spokesman for Kushner Companies confirmed that the office of Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat elected in 2014, has been in contact with the New York-based company. “We have been working with the Maryland Attorney General’s Office to provide information in response to its request,” the company said in a statement issued by the spokesman. The statement concluded: “We are in compliance with all state and local laws.” A spokeswoman for the attorney general, Christine Tobar,...

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U.S. Beer Giant’s Big Investment in Canadian Cannabis May be Killing Jeff Sessions’ Buzz

by Alan Pyke – Constellation Brands is buying 10 percent of a Canadian weed firm, as capitalism’s embrace of the green boom tightens. Attorney General Jeff Sessions continues to hint that his team is working up reasons to crack down on states that have legalized cannabis, despite a surprising quiescence on the issue over his first eight months in office. A new high-profile corporate deal may help to explain why Sessions has thus far disappointed allies in the anti-pot cause. The biggest obstacle to his would-be retrenchment may lie not in the law nor with legalization’s fecund popularity among voters, however, but in the business community’s tightening embrace of the multi-billion-dollar market for legal cannabis products. Constellation Brands, the firm behind major Mexican light beer brands Corona and Modelo, announced Monday it had purchased a 10 percent stake in the Canadian firm Canopy Growth Corporation. The $190 million acquisition is in part about...

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Nearly Half of Americans Have a Family Member or Close Friend Who’s Been Addicted to Drugs

by John Gramlich – It’s common for Americans to know someone with a current or past drug addiction – and it’s an experience that mostly cuts across demographic and partisan lines. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in August found that 46% of U.S. adults say they have a family member or close friend who is addicted to drugs or has been in the past. Identical shares of men and women say this (46% each), as do identical shares of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents when compared with Republicans and Republican leaners (also 46% each). There are no statistically significant differences between whites (46%), Hispanics (50%) and blacks (52%). Data from the federal government provide context for these survey findings. In 2016, about 7.4 million Americans ages 12 and older (2.7%) reported behavior in the past year that meets the criteria of an “illicit drug use disorder,” according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services...

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Fears of Radiation Leak Soar After North Korea Nuclear Site Collapse

by Jake Johnson – The disaster is believed to have resulted from Pyongyang’s hydrogen bomb test, which sparked earthquakes and landslides. Experts are issuing urgent warnings of a possible radiation leak following the collapse of a tunnel at North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site, an accident that reportedly killed at least 200 people. “Should sink, there is a possibility” that hazardous radioactive gas could be released into the atmosphere, warned South Korea weather agency chief Nam Jae-cheol during a parliamentary meeting on Monday, ahead of reports of the incident. The tunnel’s collapse, first reported by the Japanese outlet TV Asahi on Tuesday, is presumed to have occurred as a result of the destabilization caused by Pyongyang’s powerful hydrogen bomb test last month. The Telegraph, citing South Korean news agency Yonhap, reported that the original incident took place on Oct. 10 though it remains unclear exactly when the secondary collapse may have occurred. Business Insider‘s Alex Lockie reports that according to...

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New Zealand Poised to Legalize Cannabis

by TheWeedBlog – Will New Zealand Legalize Cannabis? WELLINGTON, New Zealand – New Zealand has just voted in a new prime minister according to the New York Times. Jacinda Ardern of the Labour party was confirmed last Thursday as New Zealand’s next prime minister. Her confirmation will end nine years of conservative leadership, and Ardern has been supportive of decriminalizing marijuana during her campaign. On Friday, Ardern said that she thought imprisonment for people using marijuana was unjust while also voicing concerns about the potential of the country’s youth becoming at risk. “I’ve always been very open about the fact that I do not believe that people should be imprisoned for personal use of cannabis. On the flip side, I also have concerns around young people accessing a product which can clearly do harm and damage to them.” The new Prime Minister said that before she makes a decision about legalizing recreational...

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‘Floodgates Are Opening’ as Allegations Against Powerful Men Reveal Scope of Sexual Assault and Harassment

by Jake Johnson – “Every sexual predator in every walk of professional life is—and should be—nervous that they will be exposed by this uprising.” As a slew of powerful and influential men—from former President George H.W. Bush to MSNBC political analyst Mark Halperin to filmmaker James Toback—are facing hundreds of new sexual assault and harassment accusations in the aftermath of the explosive and horrifying Harvey Weinstein revelations, activists and commentators are increasingly coming to believe that something of a “culture-rattling revolution” is underway, one that many hope will change the way such behavior is perceived, discussed, and addressed in the United States and around the world. “There is Harvey Weinstein-like behavior in every industry,” wrote Buzzfeed journalist Alex Berg. “The floodgates are just opening up.” “Harvey Weinstein will go down as an historic figure, just not for the reasons he assumed,” added Axios‘s Mike Allen. “His outing as a sexist, dangerous pig triggered an uprising rarely seen: Abused women feel liberated to bring down powerful...

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GOP House Bill Bans Abortion Before Women Know They’re Pregnant

by Rmuse – The horrendous saga known as the evangelical Republican war on women continues unabated with a simply horrific bill rapidly advancing in the theocratic House of Representatives. Every week there has been a new development informing the Vatican-influenced “Personhood” movement and evangelicals led by Mike “preacher” Pence have made their raison d’être banning all forms of birth control as well as bestow full constitutional rights on a single-celled organism that supersedes those of the impregnated woman. None of these vicious evangelical attacks on women are unexpected, and it is the primary reason a few journalists are heartsick after writing prolifically for years on the dangers of allowing theocratic-minded Republicans to take control of the government. It is with no satisfaction that those journalists can legitimately say “we told you so.” The latest abomination is a bill banning abortion at six weeks, before most women know their egg was fertilized...

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Hate Group Faces Defeat in Anti-gay Calligraphy Case

by Zack Ford – ADF’s challenges to nondiscrimination protections keep failing. For the second month in a row, a court has rejected the Alliance Defending Freedom’s attempts to overturn LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections. It’s the latest in a long line of defeats leading up to the Supreme Court’s consideration of an anti-gay baker’s case later this year. An Arizona state judge ruled earlier this week that Brush & Nib, a custom calligraphy studio run by Joanna Duka and Breanna Koski, does not have the right to refuse service to same-sex couples for their weddings. The Brush & Nib case was the first of ADF’s now many “pre-enforcement challenges,” in which businesses challenge sexual orientation nondiscrimination protections, seeking permission to refuse service to same-sex couples without actually being found in violation of the law. Brush & Nib contend that they shouldn’t have to create custom art for a same-sex couple’s wedding (invitations, programs, etc.)...

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New Investigative Website Fights Rich and Powerful ‘Who Call the Shots’

by Michael Winship – Corporate insider-turned-whistleblower Wendell Potter starts up an investigative website to expose corruption and show the public how to fight back. EDITOR’S NOTE: In 2009, he came to us at Bill Moyers Journal because he wanted to tell the truth and needed someone to hear him. As Wendell Potter told his story, we listened — and what we heard was sickening: a story of corruption in the health insurance industry that not only raised the cost of coverage to consumers but put lives at risk. Potter had seen it up close, as head of corporate public relations pulling down a six-figure salary for one of the country’s biggest insurers. He had watched in disbelief as he saw how Wall Street’s hunger to force up quarterly profits gave insurers every incentive to deny coverage, as every dollar not paid out to a claim added to profits and to the soaring paychecks and bonuses of...

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Trump Declares Public Health Emergency Over Opioids, Adds No New Funding

by Amanda Michelle Gomez – Here’s what the declaration misses. President Donald Trump has finally declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, two months after he first said he would. The belated declaration is short of what is immediately needed to combat this epidemic. It offers no new funding that experts on the frontlines of the crisis say is needed — one expert says hundreds of billions in investment is necessary —  and does not seem to yet prioritize increased access to the critical overdose reversal drug naloxone. Thursday’s public health emergency declaration frees up very limited resources to combat the opioid epidemic that killed more than 33,000 people in 2015 alone. The declaration lasts 90 days but can be renewed. The new order allows for the following: Access to the Public Health Emergency Fund: The declaration opens up access to a limited pot of money. The public health emergency fund currently stands at $57,000, an...

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Gallup Finds Record Support for Legalizing Marijuana, Including Most Republicans

by Jacob Sullum – According to the latest survey, 64 percent of all American adults and 51 percent of Republicans think pot should be legal. The latest Gallup poll finds record public support for legalizing marijuana, including a majority of Republicans for the first time in the half a century the organization has been asking the question. According to the poll, which was conducted October 5 to 11, 64 percent of all American adults and 51 percent of Republicans think “the use of marijuana should be made legal,” up from 60 percent and 42 percent, respectively, last year. Overall support for legalization has been rising since the mid-1980s, but the upward trend has accelerated in recent years as more and more states have moved away from prohibition. After rising by 10 points (29 percent) between 2001 and 2009, the percentage of Americans who say pot should be legal rose by 20 points (45...

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As Luxury Apartments Rise, Homelessness in New York City Reaches Record Levels

by Alex Jacobs, Truthout | News Analysis – According to the Coalition for the Homeless, as of August 2017 homelessness in New York City has reached its highest levels since the Great Depression. Of the more than 61,000 people without homes, nearly 23,000 are children. During a three-month period of 2016 in just the Bronx alone, there were over 15,000 warrants of possession entered in housing court, meaning a landlord could subsequently evict the tenant. There is an invidious racial component to homelessness in New York as well. About 58 percent of shelter residents are Black and another 31 percent are Latinx. Giselle Routhier, the policy director for Coalition for the Homeless, the nation’s oldest direct service organization assisting those without homes, describes the current situation in New York as a “lost decade.” Back in 2005, Mayor Michael Bloomberg restricted access to federal subsidies, and instead instituted a series of time-limited rental subsidies. “Between 2005 and 2014,...

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