Aggregated News & Analyses
Today’s posts in bigger type–>
Prior 2 days are in smaller type.
From Wall Street to the pope, many increasingly see fossil fuels as anything but a sure bet. That gives us reason to hope
...don’t look to Washington DC, where the unlikely survival of the EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, continues to prove the political power of the fossil fuel industry. It’s as if he’s on a reality show where the premise is to see how much petty corruption one man can get away with.
But from somewhat less likely quarters, there’s been reason this month for hope – reason, at least, to think that the basic trajectory of the world away from coal and gas and oil is firmly under way.
At the Vatican, the pope faced down a conference full of oil industry executives – the basic argument that fossil fuel reserves must be kept underground has apparently percolated to the top of the world’s biggest organization.
And from Wall Street came welcome word that market perceptions haven’t really changed: even in the age of Trump, the fossil fuel industry has gone from the world’s surest bet to an increasingly challenged enterprise. Researchers at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis minced no words: “In the past several years, oil industry financial statements have revealed significant signs of strain: Profits have dropped, cash flow is down, balance sheets are deteriorating and capital spending is falling. The stock market has recognized the sector’s overall weakness, punishing oil and gas shares over the past five years even as the market as a whole has soared.”
The IEEFA report labeled the industry “weaker than it has been in decades” and laid out its basic frailties, the first of which is paradoxical. Fracking has produced a sudden surge of gas and oil into the market, lowering prices – which means many older investments (Canada’s tar sands, for instance) no longer make economic sense. Fossil fuel has been transformed into a pure commodity business, and since the margins on fracking are narrow at best, its financial performance has been woeful. The IEEFA describes investors as “shell-shocked” by poor returns...
The world’s biggest waste importer is no longer buying. So where’s all that trash going to go?
...By 2030, an estimated 111 million metric tons of used plastic will need to be buried or recycled somewhere else—or not manufactured at all. That's the conclusion of a new analysis of UN global trade data by University of Georgia researchers.
Everyone's bottles, bags and food packages add up. Factories have churned out a cumulative 8.3 billion metric tons of new plastic as of 2017, the same Georgia team reported last year. Even 1 million metric tons, the scale that this material trafficks in every year, is hard to visualize in the abstract. It's 621,000 Tesla Model 3s. It's 39 million bushels of corn kernels. The world’s 700 million iPhones make up roughly a tenth of a million metric tons.
Nearly four-fifths of all that plastic has been thrown into landfills or the environment. A tenth of it has been burned. Several million tons reach oceans every year, sullying beaches and poisoning vast reaches of the northern Pacific. Just 9 percent of the total plastic ever generated has been recycled. China took in just over half the annual total in 2016, or 7.4 million metric tons.
As the industry matured and the negative effects on public health and the environment became clear, China got more selective about the materials it was willing to buy. A "Green Fence" law enacted in 2013 kept out materials mixed with food, metals or other contaminants. Exports consequently dropped off from 2012 to 2013, a trend that continued until last year, when the world's biggest buyer warned that its scrap plastic purchases would stop altogether...
The ALEC bill offered by DeGroot would mean that many victims would not live to see their day in court.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) named Missouri Republican state Rep. Bruce DeGroot as a “Legislator of the Week” in June.
Why is ALEC so fond of DeGroot? Because he has cheerfully championed ALEC legislation to restrict the right of terminally ill, asbestos victims to sue over mesothelioma. In doing so, DeGroot is helping the many U.S. companies, including ALEC funders Koch Industries and Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, that have asbestos-related liability.
Nationwide, Not on Your Side
Mesothelioma is an aggressive type of lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Even though the dangers of deadly asbestos have been known for over 100 years, industry worked hard to bury evidence that workers were being harmed by asbestos exposure. Three thousand people are diagnosed each year with mesothelioma in the United States and most die within a year or two. Most victims are public servants, veterans, firefighters, even teachers exposed to asbestos in schools.
In addition to being an ALEC politician, Degroot is an attorney for an insurance defense firm, Brown & James, which represents dozens of insurers who, in turn, have as clients companies responsible for mesothelioma-related claims. One of the firm’s clients is Nationwide. Sources tell the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) that Nationwide was actively pushing the bill in Missouri, although it was not publicly listed as a supporter of the bill....
Climate change study predicts ‘staggering impact’ of swelling oceans on coastal communities within next 30 years
...Under this scenario, where planet-warming emissions are barely constrained and the seas rise by around 6.5ft globally by the end of the century, 311,000 homes along the US coastline would face flooding on average 26 times a year within the next 30 years – a typical lifespan for a new mortgage.
The losses would multiply by the end of the century, with the research warning that as many as 2.4m homes, worth around a trillion dollars, could be put at risk. Low-lying states would be particularly prone, with a million homes in Florida, 250,000 homes in New Jersey and 143,000 homes in New York at risk of chronic flooding by 2100.
Unfortunately, many coastal communities will face declining property values as risk perceptions catch up with reality
This persistent flooding is likely to rattle the housing market by lowering property prices and making mortgages untenable in certain areas. Flood insurance premiums could rise sharply, with people faced with the choice of increasing clean-up costs or retreating to higher ground inland.
"North American governments have shown the 'fortitude' necessary to kill indigenous people often enough that this is no idle threat," warns Bill McKibben.
As Canada's controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project faces ongoing opposition, the former governor of the Bank of Canada said that protesters may die but that the government should push the project through anyway.
Speaking at an event Wednesday, David Dodge said, "We're going to have some very unpleasant circumstances," the Edmonton Journal reported. "There are some people that are going to die in protesting construction of this pipeline. We have to understand that."
"Nevertheless, we have to be willing to enforce the law once it's there," Dodge said. "It's going to take some fortitude to stand up."
In an interview with the Journal, he elaborated by saying, "We have seen it other places, that equivalent of religious zeal leading to flouting of the law in a way that could lead to death."
Dodge's comments prompted outrage from climate activists.
Author and 350-org co-founder Bill McKibben warned, "North American governments have shown the 'fortitude' necessary to kill indigenous people often enough that this is no idle threat," while Canandian author Naomi Klein called the threat a "disgrace." She added, "If the worst happens, we now know they went into this with their eyes wide open."
Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema, meanwhile, wondered if Canadian Prime Minister Justine Trudeau would weigh in on Dodge's remarks.....
Dust storms come months before the start of city’s traditional ‘pollution season’
....India, home to 14 of the world’s top 20 most polluted cities, has the highest rate of respiratory diseases of any country. A leading lung specialist, Arvind Kumar, says the cancer patients he sees Delhi are younger, more often female and more likely to be non smokers than those outside the city.
Children are the most vulnerable: a 2015 study concluded about half Delhi’s 4.4m schoolchildren had stunted lung development and would never completely recover...
In explaining Canada's decision to nationalise the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5bn, Bill Morneau went hard on the economic argument. “Make no mistake,” the finance minister said. “This is an investment in Canada’s future.”
In fact, since 1999, more than $200bn has been invested into the Alberta oil sands for that future. But what if that cash had gone into wind energy instead?
Enbridge wants to build a new tar sands pipeline
Tar sands are the dirtiest fossil fuels. These are low-quality heavy tar-like oils that are mined from sand or rock. Much of the mining occurs in Alberta Canada, but it is also mined elsewhere, in lesser quantities.
Tar sands are the worst. Not only are they really hard to get out of the ground, requiring enormous amounts of energy; not only are they difficult to transport and to refine; not only are they more polluting than regular oils; they even have a by-product called ”petcoke” that’s used in power plants, but is dirtier than regular coal.
This stuff is worse than regular oil, worse than coal, worse than anything. Anyone who is serious about climate change cannot agree to mine and burn tar sands. To maintain climate change below critical thresholds, tar sands need to be left in the ground.
This fact is what motivated me to testify to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission last November, to inform my state’s ruling commission about the impact of tar sands on the climate. Canadian energy company Enbridge has petitioned to put a pipeline through my state to carry this dirty tar to refining sites on the coast.
The proposed pipeline is called “Line 3.” The pipeline would carry approximately 760,000 barrels per day – the new pipeline would make it easier and cheaper for the oil companies to transport tar sands and consequently, would boost their bottom line. We already move over two million barrels per day through Minnesota in Enbridge pipelines. This new pipeline would encourage them to extract and sell more tar sands...
The Antarctic ice sheet has lost more than 2,500 billion tonnes of ice in the past 25 years and nearly half of that has happened since 2012.
Emerging Antarctic sea-level rise research points to 'worst case scenarios'
An international team of polar scientists found that melting in Antarctica has jumped sharply from an average of 76 billion tonnes per year prior to 2012, to around 219 billion tonnes each year between 2012 and 2017.
"The rapid increase in Antarctic ice loss is due to ocean melting of glaciers in the Amundsen Sea, and ice shelf collapse on the Antarctic Peninsula," he said in a statement.
....The increase in melting should act as a wake-up call, according to project leader Professor Andrew Shepherd from the University of Leeds.
"These events and the sea-level rise they've triggered are an indicator of climate change and should be of concern for the governments we trust to protect our coastal cities and communities."
Recycling alone will never stem the flow of plastics into our ocean. We must address the problem at the source
Demise of four out of 13 of the ancient landmarks linked to climate change by researchers
A new report found the seafood contains an alarming amount of plastic – and in fact no sea creature is immune. It’s as if the ocean is wreaking its revenge
Pontiff says clean energy is needed as climate change risks destroying humanity
....The pontiff said climate change was a challenge of epochal proportions, and that the world needed to come up with an energy mix that combatted pollution, eliminated poverty and promoted social justice.
The unprecedented conference, held behind closed doors at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, brought together oil executives, investors and Vatican experts. Like the pope, they back scientific opinion that climate change is caused by human activity and that global warming must be curbed.
“We know that the challenges facing us are interconnected. If we are to eliminate poverty and hunger ... the more than 1 billion people without electricity today need to gain access to it,” Francis told them.
“But that energy should also be clean, by a reduction in the systematic use of fossil fuels. Our desire to ensure energy for all must not lead to the undesired effect of a spiral of extreme climate changes due to a catastrophic rise in global temperatures, harsher environments and increased levels of poverty,” he said.
Farming livestock for food threatens all life on earth, and ‘free-range’ steak is the worst of all
Whether human beings survive this century and the next, whether other lifeforms can live alongside us: more than anything, this depends on the way we eat. We can cut our consumption of everything else almost to zero and still we will drive living systems to collapse, unless we change our diets....
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'
"As it happens, I personally believe that it is totally appropriate for the U.N. Special Rapporteur to focus on poverty in the United States," Sanders responded
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, attended an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Monday, September 4, to discuss reports on Sunday of North Korea testing a hydrogen bomb. (Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
Responding to Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) call for the Trump administration take immediate action to address extreme poverty in the U.S. after a United Nations report found that tens of millions of Americans are suffering "massive levels of deprivation," U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley declared in a letter to Sanders on Thursday that it is "patently ridiculous" for the U.N. to even examine poverty in America because it is "the wealthiest and freest country in the world."
Sanders was quick to issue a forceful response to Haley on Thursday, arguing that the U.N. should examine widespread poverty in the U.S. precisely because it is the wealthiest nation on the planet.
"You are certainly right in suggesting that poverty in many countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi is far worse than it is in the United States," Sanders wrote in a letter to Haley on Thursday. "But what is important to note about poverty in America is that it takes place in the richest county in the history of the world and at a time when wealth and income inequality is worse than at any time since the 1920s."
The Vermont senator continued:
As I'm sure you know, in America today despite low unemployment, some 40 million people still live in poverty, more than 30 million have no health insurance, over half of older workers have no retirement savings, 140 million Americans are struggling to pay for basic living expenses, 40 percent of Americans cannot afford a $400 emergency and millions of Americans are leaving school deeply in debt. I hope you will agree that in a nation in which the top three people own more wealth than the bottom half, we can and must do much better than that.
The scathing U.N. report that Haley denounced in her letter to Sanders as "misleading and politically motivated" found that more than 18 million Americans are living in "extreme poverty," and that the Trump administration's attacks on the remnants of America's social safety net are going to make this crisis worse.
In his response letter to Haley on Thursday, Sanders concluded: "As it happens, I personally believe that it is totally appropriate for the U.N. Special Rapporteur to focus on poverty in the United States."
Only real access for all to quality public services—education, health care, childcare services, decent retirement, public transport, efficient justice systems and quality infrastructures—will allow the fight for social justice and the reduction of inequalities to progress.
"This battle is a tough one, as public sector workers are constantly under attack, all over the world." (Photo: Poor People's Campaign/Twitter)
....Fifty years later, this agenda is more relevant than ever in the United States, as it is in the rest of the world. Public capital – as opposed to private - has shrunk to nearly zero everywhere since 1970 – and less than zero in the US and Britain - due to austerity programs and regressive tax systems, along with political framing that considers public companies as obsolete, and public servants as a class of privileged workers, expensive and inefficient. Not to mention trade unionists, seen as dangerous dinosaurs that should be mocked at best, and even imprisoned.
The consequences are devastating. Income inequality has increased in all world regions in recent decades as the global top 1% earners have captured twice as much of that growth as the 50% poorest individuals, as shown by the World Inequality report 2018.
The phenomenon is impressive in the United States, where the top 1% wealth share rose from 22% in 1980 to 39% in 2014. Most of that increase in inequality was due to the rise of the top 0.1% wealth owners.
This battle is a tough one, as public sector workers are constantly under attack, all over the world. The number of countries with arbitrary arrests and detention of workers increased from 44 to 59 in 2017, according to the International Trade Union Confederation's Global Rights Index. About 2.5 billion people - in the informal economy, migrants and those in precarious jobs - are excluded from any protection under labor laws.
But this is not a fatality. At Public Services International (PSI), a Global Union Federation dedicated to promoting quality public services, we are convinced that now, more than ever, working people need strong unions to fight back and get good jobs and fair salaries.
Just like Martin Luther King 50 years ago, we have a dream: that one day workers of all races and backgrounds will have a decent life - "One Day" is the title of a PSI series of films on the world of labor which presents the extraordinary lives of ordinary public sector workers around the globe.
On this Public Service Day, we want to celebrate these workers again. But it is not about one day or one moment. It is about building a movement that will last. It is a long journey, but when social movements and trade unions get together, we tend to win.
It is time to shift the narrative. The struggle for universal rights, such as a living wage, good working conditions and access to quality public services will never be outdated.
By 2030 the nation will have access to half the water it needs. The city of Shimla has already run out
People queue to collect drinking water in buckets from a truck in Shimla. Photograph: -/AFP/Getty Images
....India is undergoing the worst water crisis in its history, a government thinktank announced last week. About 600 million Indians face “high to extreme water stress” and about 200,000 die each year because they can’t get a clean supply.
And the situation is getting worse. By 2030, water availability will be half what India needs. The thinktank quoted predictions that up to 6% of GDP could be lost to extreme water scarcity. Put another way, millions of Indians could be too thirsty, or sickened by contaminated water, to study, work or live.
Signs of crisis are already apparent. While wealthier residents of major cities such as Delhi still drink from reliable supplies cleansed by home filters, in a northern Delhi slum in March, a father and son were killed in a brawl over a water tanker – the first reported deaths in the capital from a water dispute.
An estimated 21 major cities could exhaust their groundwater supplies within two years, government advisors believe. Several smaller cities have said they also are teetering on the edge. In the past month, Shimla, in the hills of Himachal Pradesh, has emerged as the frontline of the emergency.
Officials in the city have blamed an 82% shortfall in winter rain and snow. “There is climate change all over India and the world,” says Jai Ram Thakur, the Himachal Pradesh chief minister.
Others say Shimla is an example of how negligence can create a water crisis, one they warn will be repeated in cities and villages across India...
EU liberal values face a direct threat from populist nationalist forces. The democratic-minded have a clear choice to make
Illustration: Sébastien Thibault
The battle lines are now drawn for Europe’s ultimate test: the May 2019 elections for the European parliament. That’s when far-right and populist parties will attempt to complete their power grab in the EU. In the elections of 2014, they made gains. Next year, they’ll seek to dominate. The dramatic events we’ve witnessed over the past fortnight, in Germany and Italy have been a mere foretaste of the showdown that lies ahead.
It’s often said that anti-establishment and nationalist parties want to dismantle the European project altogether. But what’s at stake is more likely to be a full-on effort to redraw it to their liking. The migration issue is the starting point of a continental power struggle pitching two very different versions of the principles that should bind Europe together. One is liberal democratic, and attuned to the notion of an open society; the other is fortress-minded, illiberal and intolerant. This has global implications: anti-EU leaders in Washington and Moscow want to reap their own rewards from the mayhem – which they are playing their own part in fomenting...
Given your successful tax avoidance mania, you should be ashamed of yourself. Because of your company’s insatiable greed, you have decided to ignore the plight of the homeless.
"Amazon has been a leading corporate welfare King and is about to reap more of this extorted harvest once you decide where to locate your second headquarters." (Photo: Mathieu Thouvenin/flickr/cc) Dear Mr. Bezos:
You’ve come a long way from being a restless electrical engineering and computer science dual major at our alma mater, Princeton University. By heeding your own advice, your own hunches and visions, you’ve become the world’s richest person – at $141 billion and counting. You must feel you are on top of the world.
You are crushing your competition—those little stores on Main Street, USA, and other large companies that are still in business.
Your early clever minimizing of sales taxes gave you a big unfair advantage over brick and mortar stores that have had to pay 6, 7, 8 percent in sales taxes. Your tax-lawyers and accountants are using the anarchic global tax avoidance jurisdictions to drive your company’s tax burden to zero on a $5.6 billion profit in 2017, plus receiving about $789 million from Trump’s tax giveaway law, according to The American Conservative magazine (see Daniel Kishi’s article, “Crony Capitalism Writ Large,” in the May/June 2018 edition).
Amazon has been a leading corporate welfare King and is about to reap more of this extorted harvest once you decide where to locate your second headquarters. By the way, if you are considering the Washington, D.C. area, where you are building an extended mansion worthy of an emperor, consider the fact that there is a higher concentration of public interest lawyers per square mile there than any other metropolitan area. These lawyers stand opposed to further housing price spirals, gentrification, congestion, and huge crony capitalistic subsidy demands.
Your expansion into retail stores and warehouses will further highlight the low wages and sometimes hazardous working conditions and assembly line pressures of your corporate model. Other companies are exploiting their workers—as in Walmart (which by the way pays far more income taxes than you do on a percentage basis even under its tax avoidance schemes)— but few companies are as blatant in their planning to replace with robotics the warehouse workers and truck drivers delivering goods.
Your small Board of Directors is clueless about both their responsibility for Amazon shareholders and their overall social responsibility. Your board will rubberstamp all of your proposals as they tally how rich you’ve made them with stock options, at the expense of your workers. I wrote you (see enclosed letter) as a shareholder to start paying a dividend—your horde of cash belongs to the shareholders, doesn’t it? You have not had the courtesy to reply to this letter
Amazon and Starbucks have just succeeded in a grotesque power play reversing the Seattle City Council’s vote to impose a mere $48 million a year tax on large, local corporations to combat the crisis of homelessness and unaffordable housing in your hometown. Given your successful tax avoidance mania, you should be ashamed of yourself. Because of your company’s insatiable greed, you have decided to ignore the plight of the homeless....
A Rare Look at Yemen’s War, Where Children Starve and Hospitals Are on Life-Support
Yemeni families and nurses walk through the malnutrition wing at Sabaeen Hospital in Sanaa on May 4, 2018. Most hospitals in the north are functioning at a minimal levels, constantly short on supplies, while their staff have remained unpaid for months. Photo: Alex Potter for The Intercept
...The front-line battles are far from Sanaa, but the entire north is suffering the consequences of a blockade by the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi forces that have controlled the region since 2014. No civilian flights are allowed from the Sanaa airport, and international aid is often stopped and delayed. In addition to the skyrocketing price of goods, the Yemeni riyal has dropped from 250 to 450 on the dollar. The resulting economic crisis from the loss of jobs and trade has left 80 percent of the population in need of humanitarian aid, most often in the form of financial support and food. The markets are full, but no one is buying. Many Yemeni families go hungry, subsisting on only one meal a day, and while there is no outright famine, familiar faces, once full of life, are now hollow and drawn with worry.
Since March 2015, the Iran-allied Houthis and other factions in Yemen have been entwined in a civil and international war with Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, who are fighting to restore the government that the Houthis overthrew. Coalition airstrikes — supported by refueling, munitions, and intelligence from the U.S. military — have pummeled not only Houthi military positions, but also homes, schools, business, and essential infrastructure in an attempt to bring Yemen to its knees. The strikes have often been indiscriminate, and Saudi Arabia has been accused by Human Rights Watch of war crimes. Last week, the port city of Hodeidah came under attack by pro-government forces backed by coalition partner the United Arab Emirates, threatening to plunge the country deeper into humanitarian crisis. At least 10,000 civilians have been killed during the war, although many deaths go unreported, and the true number is likely much higher.
Ordinary Yemenis have suffered in many other quieter ways. Those with chronic illnesses are dying in droves. With limited access to dialysis, chemotherapy, diabetes medications, and supplemental feeding for malnourished children, and almost no possibility of leaving, poorer families are simply giving themselves up to fate.
Sabaeen Hospital, on a main road near a mosque in Sanaa, is the final stop for severe cases of malnutrition in children. Most families come here from rural areas where the closest basic health facility may be over two hours away. Those who can afford to travel to Sabaeen bring little with them — only a few changes of clothes and the hope that their infant or toddler will survive....
Donald Trump's move to end family separations won't solve the deeper problems of abuse and plaguing the facilities housing adults and children.
As of Wednesday morning, the Trump administration seemed to be recalculating its cruel, widely criticized policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border, with the president issuing an executive order that announced the administration would detain children and parents together from now on.
That does not mean that the crisis—which was manufactured by the administration from the beginning—is over, however. For one thing, thanks to a longstanding court ruling the government won't be able to detain families for longer than 20 days. For another, it doesn’t appear Donald Trump will be doing anything to address the broader problem of inhumane conditions in detention facilities where border crossers are housed.
The Department of Homeland Security’s own inspector general criticized these conditions in a December report that documented the improper housing of detainees in facilities meant for people with criminal records, strip searches that violated standards, abusive behavior by guards, and frequent threats of segregation from the rest of the detainees....
Would Hillary Clinton be in the White House – and the world a better place – if not for the former FBI director? He talks conscience, regret, and why the US public will vote Trump out
...“I’m optimistic that, as the conversation continues in our country, which I’m trying to be part of for the next two and a half years, the sleeping giant will be awakened. I think of America as a bell curve. There’s wingnuts at either end and then the great lump in the middle is everybody else. And they’re busy and distracted and that giant, that lump, only awakens every so often in America. And I think the giant is stirring. I think the giant is stirred by images of children.”
When you stare at children crying, it forces your eyes above statutes and numbers, to ask: ‘What kind of people are we?'
He has brought us to the infants and babies separated from their parents at the US border. For him, those images have recalled the internment of Japanese-Americans during the second world war, but also pictures of black children being bitten by police dogs in Birmingham, Alabama during the civil rights struggles in the 1960s. “The giant awakened in our country in 1963 and 1964 and that changed our country. Martin Luther King wrote to that giant in Letter from Birmingham Jail, basically saying: ‘You busy, moderate people need to get in the game.’ And that happens every so often in American history. Again, I could be convincing myself of this, but I think the giant is awakening...
A growing number of hopefuls say they won’t back her for speaker if Democrats win the House. Pelosi has little margin for error.
A trend that started in earnest with Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), who won a special election deep in Trump country, has spread rapidly to encompass a growing cadre of candidates — many in must-win districts for Democrats — that threatens Pelosi’s nearly sixteen-year grip on the party’s leadership.
If Democrats win the House by a narrow margin, the 78-year-old leader could lose only a handful of lawmakers' support and still secure the 218 votes needed to clinch the speakership in a floor vote.
In that scenario, Pelosi would face a freshman class with a significant bloc of Democrats who are on record promising to oppose her or calling for new leadership. Of the more than a dozen Democratic candidates who have survived their primaries and rejected Pelosi, most are in districts that top the list of targeted 2018 seats.
Whether those statements translate into “no” votes against Pelosi — when she’ll have enormous sway over new lawmakers’ committee assignments and other perks, and a presumably fierce whip effort on her behalf — is impossible to know...
The Republican budget's "extreme cuts to healthcare, retirement security, anti-poverty programs, education, infrastructure, and other critical investments are real and will inflict serious harm on American families."
With the nation's attention rightly fixated on President Donald Trump's horrific treatment of immigrant children, House Republicans on Tuesday quietly unveiled their 2019 budget proposal that calls for $537 billion in cuts to Medicare, $1.5 trillion in cuts to Medicaid, and four billion in cuts to Social Security over the next decade in an effort to pay for their deficit-exploding tax cuts for the wealthy.
"It's morally bankrupt, patently absurd, and grossly un-American," the advocacy group Patriotic Millionaires said of the GOP's budget proposal, which calls for $5.4 trillion in spending cuts from major domestic programs.
Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), argued in a statement that the Republican proposal demonstrates clearly shows the "House majority's fiscal priorities haven't changed."
"It’s easy to become numb to the harshness of these budgets and to brush aside their policy implications based on the assumption (likely correct) that few, if any, of these policies will be enacted this year," Greenstein said. "But this budget reflects where many congressional leaders—and the president—would like to take the country if they get the opportunity to enact these measures in the years ahead. Rather than help more families have a shot at the American dream, it asks the most from those who have the least, and it would leave our nation less prepared for the economic and other challenges that lie ahead."
Progressives have been warning for months about the GOP's plan to axe crucial safety net programs following the passage of its deeply unpopular $1.5 trillion tax bill, which has sparked a boom of corporate stock buybacks while doing little to nothing for most American workers.
"Each GOP budget is more fraudulent than the last," Seth Hanlon, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, wrote on Tuesday. "We know what they stand for: tax cuts paid for with healthcare cuts."
In addition to proposing devastating safety net cuts, the House GOP budget also calls for partial privatization of Medicare and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a move that would throw tens of millions off their health insurance.
"The 2019 Republican budget scraps any sense of responsibility to the American people and any obligation to being honest," Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), the ranking member on the House Budget committee, said in a statement on Tuesday. "Its repeal of the Affordable Care Act and extreme cuts to healthcare, retirement security, anti-poverty programs, education, infrastructure, and other critical investments are real and will inflict serious harm on American families."
Had the Pentagon's budget simply remained the same as it was in 2017, Congress "could have funded public college for every student in the U.S. and had $12 billion left over," noted media analyst Adam Johnson
In a vote that further "entrenches endless war and bloated Pentagon spending" and places greater nuclear capacity in the hands of President Donald Trump, 38 Democrats and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) joined nearly every Senate Republican on Monday to pass a $716 billion defense bill that boosts military spending by over $80 billion and authorizes another $21.6 billion for nuclear weapons programs.
"We cannot spend more on our military than the next 10 nations combined while millions of Americans do not have food and housing and healthcare...That is why I voted against spending $716 billion on the military today."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders
Had the Pentagon's budget simply remained the same as it was in 2017, Congress "could have funded public college for every student in the U.S. and had $12 billion left over," noted media analyst Adam Johnson.
But Democrats and Republicans decided to join hands once more late Monday—in an overwhelming 85-10 vote—to affirm that militarism and massive handouts to defense contractors top education, healthcare, and anti-hunger programs on the list of congressional priorities.
Slamming the bipartisan vote to pass the military measure—officially titled the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 5515)—Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote: "We cannot spend more on our military than the next 10 nations combined while millions of Americans do not have food and housing and healthcare...That is why I voted against spending $716 billion on the military today."...
The president bowed to outrage over his migrant family separation policy, but his executive order may cause yet other cruelties.
....Changing the Flores agreement would be a notable change in federal immigration policy. As Vox’s Dara Lind and Dylan Scott recently noted, the agreement was the result of a legal battle over the treatment of migrant children in the 1980s, and its terms require federal officials to keep those children in the “least restrictive setting” possible for as little time as possible with adequate access to food, water, and medical care.
The Trump administration has cited the Flores agreement as an obstacle that forced it to pursue family separation. In 2016, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that immigrant children could only be detained for 20 days before they must be released. But earlier this year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy, which requires federal prosecutors to seek criminal charges against anyone who crosses the U.S. border with Mexico without authorization. Because every adult who is caught crossing the border illegally is now being detained and prosecuted, and children cannot be housed in U.S. jails, the Trump administration says it had no choice but to separate the families.
This is a false choice, however. Officials could simply release migrants pending their immigration hearings, as past administrations have done. BuzzFeed’s John Stanton noted that, contrary to the administration’s hyperbole about lawlessness at the border, almost 90 percent of released migrants appear for their hearings.
By seeking to modify Flores in federal court, Trump will force one of two outcomes. If successful, he will have a modicum of judicial cover for indefinite detention of migrant families. If unsuccessful, he can blame the judges responsible for that decision, as he has done so many times before. The overall policy—using cruel and draconian measures to deter asylum-seekers from traveling to the United States—would remain intact.
“The devil is in the details,” Anthony Romero, the ACLU’s executive director, said in a statement. “This crisis will not abate until each and every single child is reunited with his or her parent. An eleventh-hour executive order doesn’t fix the calamitous harm done to thousands of children and their parents. This executive order would replace one crisis for another.”
Trump’s executive order is not a policy solution for the resurgent migrant crisis. It’s a slapdash legal gambit that, even if it survives judicial scrutiny, may well create a horror of another sort: massive concentration camps on America’s southern border. But if that happens, Trump already knows who to blame. “It is unfortunate,” his order says, “that Congress’s failure to act and court orders have put the Administration in the position of separating alien families to effectively enforce the law.” In reality, Trump bears full responsibility for the cruelties being committed to enforce his immigration policy. And if his latest move creates yet new cruelties, those will be on his head, too.
A Canadian province is giving people money with no strings attached—revealing both the appeal and the limitations of the idea.
....In a three-year pilot funded by the provincial government, about 4,000 people in Ontario are getting monthly stipends to boost them to at least 75 percent of the poverty line. That translates to a minimum annual income of $17,000 in Canadian dollars (about $13,000 US) for single people, $24,000 for married couples.
The trial is expected to cost $50 million a year in Canadian dollars; expanding it to all of Canada would cost an estimated $43 billion annually. But Hugh Segal, the conservative former senator who designed the test, thinks it could save the government money in the long run. He expects it to streamline the benefits system, remove rules that discourage people from working, and reduce crime, bad health, and other costly problems that stem from poverty. Such improvements occurred during a basic-income test in Manitoba in the 1970s.
People far beyond Canada will be watching closely, too, because a basic income has become Silicon Valley’s favorite answer to the question of how society should deal with the massive automation of jobs. Tech investors such as Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes and Sam Altman, president of the startup incubator Y Combinator, are funding pilot projects to examine what people do when they get money with no strings attached. Hughes’s Economic Security Project will pay for 100 people in Stockton, California, to get $500 a month for 18 months. Y Combinator ran a small-scale test in Oakland, California, last year; beginning in 2019 it will give $1,000 a month to 1,000 people over three to five years, in locations still to be determined.
This momentum figures to keep building as AI and robotics make even more inroads. Legislators in Hawaii are beginning to study the prospects for a basic income. The lawmaker who has led the effort, Democrat Chris Lee, worries that self-driving cars and automated retail checkout could be the beginning of the end for a lot of human labor in Hawaii’s service-based economy. If machines can handle tasks in tourism and hospitality, Lee says, “there is no fallback industry for jobs to be created in.”...
Move decried as latest "example of how unconditional support for Israel means you can't support human rights standards anywhere for anyone. Israel threatens entire international system for defending human rights, such as it is."
In what critics framed as Orwellian 'up-is-down, down-is-up' remarks from the State Department on Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo officially announced that the U.S. is withdrawing from its participation in the U.N. Human Rights Council, claiming the body responsible for upholding international standards for human rights was no longer "worthy of its name."
"The Trump administration seems to have determined that it has more to gain by dismantling human rights protections for some than raising the bar for everyone." —Abby Maxman, Oxfam America
Haley—who has steadfastly refused to acknowledge the human rights violations of close U.S. ally Israel, including multiple charges regarding that country's alleged war crimes carried out against Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza—said the withdrawal from the council was necessary "because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights."...
The deaths do not just occur at sea – but in detention blocks, asylum units and even town centres. Here’s how the List is put together
....Faced with a lack of official data, the activist group has gathered newspaper articles, NGO records and coastguard reports to collect details of the deaths of migrants travelling to Europe since the early 1990s. The List is revealing: deaths do not just occur at sea, but in detention blocks, asylum units and town centres. Some 400 have taken their own lives; more than 600 have died violently at the hands of others.
....The vast majority of migrants who have died trying to reach Europe have drowned. Volunteers have logged more than 27,000 deaths by drowning since 1993, often hundreds at a time when large ships capsize. These account for nearly 80% of all the entries.
The list points up the marked increase in drownings that occurred after 2014, when the conflict in Syria accelerated, adding to numbers from south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In 2013, it reports more than 900 deaths by drowning. By 2017 that number had increased to around 3,500.
A wave of public sympathy for the plight of refugees in Europe was quickly displaced by a backlash against the rising number of arrivals in 2015 and 2016, when almost three million people claimed asylum in Europe.
The EU responded by trying to export the problem back to Africa, with a €2bn (£1.75bn) EU-Africa trust fund designed to encourage African countries to stop people making the journey to Europe. The figures show the impact of this policy shift: in 2014, there were around 1,700 deaths recorded in and off the coast of Africa ascribed to migrants trying to get to Europe; by 2017 this had almost doubled, while deaths in Europe halved over the same period....
The first comprehensive study of CEO-to-worker pay reveals an extraordinary disparity – with the highest gap approaching 5,000 to 1
The first comprehensive study of the massive pay gap between the US executive suite and average workers has found that the average CEO-to-worker pay ratio has now reached 339 to 1, with the highest gap approaching 5,000 to 1.
The study, titled Rewarding Or Hoarding?, was published on Wednesday by Minnesota’s Democratic US congressman Keith Ellison, and includes data on almost 14 million workers at 225 US companies with total annual revenues of $6.3tn.
Just the summary makes for sober reading.
In 188 of the 225 companies in the report’s database, a single chief executive’s pay could be used to pay more than 100 workers; the average worker at 219 of the 225 companies studied would need to work at least 45 years to earn what their CEO makes in one.
It also shows how some of the most extreme disparities in CEO-to-worker pay exist in industries that are considered consumer discretionary, such as fast food and retail, with a 977 to 1 disparity, one of the widest gaps.
“Now we know why CEOs didn’t want this data released,” says Ellison, who championed the implementation of the pay ratio disclosure rule as it was written into the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill of 2010. “I knew inequality was a great problem in our society but I didn’t understand quite how extreme it was.”...
"America is getting crushed by big, unresponsive, powerful corporate monopolies, the modern version of the trusts of the gilded age."
Thanks to a federal judge's decision this week to approve AT&T and Time Warner's $85 billion merger—which, if allowed to stand by the Trump Justice Department, will spawn a "massive media-telecom behemoth"—anti-monopoly advocates are ominously warning that a flood of major corporate acquisitions once considered "unthinkable" due to their potentially disastrous effects on consumers could be coming in the very near future.
"When big companies become so large they threaten to swallow government, the entire system is corrupted."
—Zephyr Teachout, New York attorney general candidate
"The gates are wide open for more deals [and] for the closure of these existing deals," billionaire investor and hedge fund manager Jamie Dinan acknowledged in an interview shortly before the AT&T-Time Warner deal officially closed on Thursday.
Confirming the fears of corporate critics, Dinan went on to cite just two examples of the kinds of deals Americans can expect to see finalized in the coming months following AT&T's successful acquisition of Time Warner, including CVS's proposed purchase of health insurance giant Aetna and Cigna's attempt to swallow the pharma company Express Scripts.
Comcast also moved to get in on the merger-fest this week, offering $65 billion in cash to purchase the television and film assets of 21st Century Fox just a day after the AT&T-Time Warner merger was approved.
As New York attorney general candidate Zephyr Teachout noted in an op-ed for the Guardian this week, these recently proposed mega-mergers are part of a broader trend of corporate consolidation that is "especially disturbing" in the aftermath of the FCC's net neutrality repeal, which gives telecom giants the power to discriminate against online content and raise costs on consumers.
"America is getting crushed by big, unresponsive, powerful corporate monopolies, the modern version of the trusts of the gilded age," Teachout wrote. "This isn't happening organically, but through mergers...These mergers hurt everyone except for the CEOs and the investors who make money off of monopolistic prices."...
OECD report says it could take 150 years for a child from a poor UK family to earn national average
Income inequality has increased and social mobility stalled across the world’s richest countries since the 1990s, trapping families on low incomes at the bottom of the earnings ladder, according to an in-depth report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The Paris-based body, which counts 34 countries as members, said barriers to social mobility were harming economic progress by shutting out vital workers and undermining political stability as people became cynical about their prospects.
In the UK the report found it could take at least five generations, or 150 years, for the child of a poor family to reach the average national income, currently about £27,000 for those in full-time employment, compared with two generations in Denmark and three in Sweden....
Suit brought by Barbara Underwood says Trump Foundation is ‘little more than an empty shell’ and seeks $2.8m in restitution
While senators demand answers from the Pentagon, anti-war advocates are calling the attack on Hodeida a failure by the U.S. to stop it and demanding an end to American military support for the coalition
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