News & opinion that matter
Most recent posts in bigger type–>
Prior 2 days are in smaller type.
The unprecedented downpour and severe flooding was also 15% more intense due to climate change, which is making weather more violent around the world
....The researchers said their new work shows global warming is making extreme weather events worse right now and in the US. The cost of the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey has been estimated at $190bn (£140bn), which would make it the most costly weather disaster in US history, more than Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy combined.
....Hurricane Harvey made first landfall on 25 August and then stalled over Texas, with torrential downpours dumping a year’s worth of rain on Houston and surrounding areas in a few days. In east Harris County, a record 132cm (52 inches) of rain fell over six days, the highest storm total in US history.
The WWA scientists used both historical rainfall records and high-resolution climate models to determine the influence of global warming. “This multi-method analysis confirms that heavy rainfall events are increasing substantially across the Gulf Coast region because of human interference with our climate system,” said Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) and lead author of the new study published in Environmental Research Letters.
“It was very a rare event – they were very unlucky,” said van Oldenborgh. But the research shows the chance of it happening was raised threefold by climate change.
The team also estimated that, even if the world limits warming to the internationally agreed 2C limit, the likelihood of such extreme downpours will triple again. “But, if we miss those targets, the increase in frequency and intensity could be much higher,” said Karin van der Wiel, also at KNMI.
“The link between global warming and more extreme weather is nowhere more obvious than in the US. Even if Donald Trump isn’t seeing the picture, many others are,” said Richard Black at the ECIU.
Fidel Sandi’s Achuar community has been plagued with oil contamination for decades – but he is now able to collect and gather evidence for his claims
Scientists have identified 2 million species of living things. No one knows how many more are out there, and tens of thousands may be vanishing before we have even had a chance to encounter them.
....Although insecticides have been blamed for the declines in Europe, Erwin thinks the ultimate culprit is climate change. The location he has been observing in Ecuador is pristine, virgin rainforest. “There’s no insecticides, nothing at all,” he said. But gradually, almost imperceptibly, in the time he has been there, something has changed in the balance of the forest. Studying the data, Erwin and his collaborators have found that over the past 35 years, the Amazon rainforest has been slowly dying out. And if the forest goes, Erwin tells me, “everything that lives in it will be affected”.
If this trend were to continue indefinitely, the consequences would be devastating. Insects have been on Earth 1,000 times longer than humans have. In many ways, they created the world we live in. They helped call the universe of flowering plants into being. They are to terrestrial food chains what plankton is to oceanic ones. Without insects and other land-based arthropods, EO Wilson, the renowned Harvard entomologist, and inventor of sociobiology, estimates that humanity would last all of a few months. After that, most of the amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals would go, along with the flowering plants. The planet would become an immense compost heap, covered in shoals of carcasses and dead trees that refused to rot. Briefly, fungi would bloom in untold numbers. Then, they too would die off. The Earth would revert to what it was like in the Silurian period, 440m years ago, when life was just beginning to colonise the soil – a spongy, silent place, filled with mosses and liverworts, waiting for the first shrimp brave enough to try its luck on land.
As America is battered by climate-intensified weather disasters, Republican politicians are trying to slash climate research funding
Click for bigger image.
Billion-dollar weather and climate disasters in the US in 2017. Illustration: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
....Extreme weather fueled by human carbon pollution is occurring around the world. But in the midst of this, President Trump and many Republican elected officials want to decrease our spending on climate science. In the United States, we have flagship organizations like Nasa and Noaa that are our eyes and ears on the climate. But throughout the year, Trump has worked to get Nasa to sharply reduce or even stop climate research. Nasa has two main missions. One mission is exploration – going to Mars, the moon, and sending exploration satellites that look outward. The other part of Nasa’s mission is to look inwards, at our own planet. To do this, they use many instruments, including satellites to measure what is happening on Earth.
Trump and his administration want to jettison the Earth research portion of Nasa’s mission. This obviously isn’t to save money; the amount we spend on Earth-focused missions is very small. Rather, it is to halt research into the Earth’s climate. The following chart compares the cost savings from budget cuts with the extreme weather costs just this year in the USA.
Climate scientists have won the war on the facts. We know it is warming, we know how fast it is warming. We know what is causing the warming. And, we know what to do about it. Since Trump (and sadly the Republican Party as a whole) have lost that battle, they have decided to blind us so we just won’t know what is happening.
We should be investing in science and the instruments that scientists need (satellites, airplanes, computers, other sensors). And we should invest in the people. Without funding and jobs in climate science, how will we encourage the next generation of bright minds to enter this field?
...It is so sad that an entire political party has become branded as anti-science. It is sad, but their actions justify the branding.
....A lack of regulation on drug sales can be owed to the influence of the pharmaceutical industry in U.S. politics. The pharmaceutical industry has reportedly spent $2.5 billion in the past decade lobbying politicians, the most of any industry. Only 3 U.S. Senators have not taken donations from “Big Pharma” and only 1 out of 10 members of the House; the industry also employs 2 lobbyists for every member of Congress to ensure they are protected from regulations. The Pain Care Forum, an industry-funded interest group, spent $740m over a decade lobbying state and federal lawmakers against enacting limits on painkiller prescriptions.
- Sea ice also melting at fastest pace in 1,500 years, US government scientists find
- ‘The Arctic is a very different place than it was even a decade ago’ – author
Neonicotinoids, banned on flowering crops, were found in nearly all rivers tested, increasing concerns over their impact on fish and birds
Evidence is growing that neonicotinoids – the world’s most widely used insecticide – harm other species, such as songbirds. Neonicotinoids have been in use since the early 1990s and now contaminate landscapes around the world. But very little monitoring of their concentration in soils or water is done, a failing recently condemned by a UK government chief scientific adviser.
The first systematic testing of neonicotinoids in rivers in Britain was mandated by EU water regulations and conducted in 2016. The results, obtained by the conservation charity Buglife, show that half of the 16 rivers tested in England had either chronic or acute levels of contamination. Of the 23 rivers tested across Britain, neonicotinoids were not detected in six.
Partners in Health wants to rebuild entire countries’ medical systems, and bring health care to some of the poorest people on earth.
....Recently, Ophelia Dahl was in Rwanda, speaking to a group of graduate students at the University of Global Health Equity, which was opened in 2015 by Partners in Health, an aid organization that Dahl co-founded when she was very young. “For the first time in a lecture like that, I included my father as an example of the suggestion that you can transcend your training. Don’t do this thing where you say, ‘Well, I don’t know that that can be done.’ You have to keep pushing. You don’t say, ‘I’m sorry, I’m not an inventor, I’m a writer.’ I think it’s connected to feeling entitled in the right way: ‘Fuck it. I’m not going to stand for that.’ You push. You push, push, push.”
In the final version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Willy Wonka exhorts Grandpa Joe, “You mustn’t despair! Nothing is impossible!” On the Partners in Health Web site, the organization’s stated purpose is to bring the benefits of modern medical science to some of the poorest people in the world. (The group operates in Haiti, Peru, Mexico, Siberia, the Navajo Nation, Sierra Leone, Malawi, Lesotho, and Liberia, in addition to Rwanda.) But Partners in Health also aspires to do something more amorphous, more imaginative, and more improbable: “to serve as an antidote to despair.”
....William Easterly, the economist, pointed to a fundamental difficulty with P.I.H.’s approach. “If you’ve said, ‘There’s a right to health care,’ you haven’t said whose obligation it is to provide it,” he told me. “From an economist’s point of view, that’s kind of fatal. That is the major flaw of positive rights: Who is to blame if they’re not met?” A moral imperative is not the same as a financial solution. Regan Marsh, who spent four weeks wearing spacesuit-like protective gear to treat Ebola patients, said that, as P.I.H. was getting involved in Sierra Leone, Dahl handled government agencies with trepidation: “Ophelia was sitting with people saying, ‘O.K., we will do this, but we are not a disaster-relief program. We will come only if you say that you are going to stay.’ Everyone said, ‘Yes, yes, we will be your partner to put a health system in here.’ And then, as soon as Ebola appeared to be stabilized, the money evaporated.” Dahl told me that you could “hear the sucking sound” as aid was pulled out of West Africa in the wake of the disease. “But, without an effective health-care system, it’s a matter of time before it resurfaces.”
It was crucial, Dahl said, that during crises people could count on organizations like Médecins Sans Frontières—“I mean, thank God for M.S.F.”—to set up self-contained triage units. But it was frustratingly difficult to persuade donors that long-term solutions are as necessary as emergency intervention. M.S.F. receives more than a billion dollars a year from donors, whereas P.I.H. takes in about seventy million. (Both organizations have four-star ratings, the highest, from Charity Navigator.) P.I.H. Sierra Leone started with an annual budget of seventeen million dollars, which has declined to five million, as donations have trailed off. “I wish we had more money,” Dahl said. “The idea that we’re constrained because we can’t find enough money, and not because we’ve failed to adapt. . . . But that’s what money forces you to do: make a series of terrible tradeoffs.”
Kittiwakes and gannets are among seabirds that have joined endangered species on IUCN red list as food stocks dwindle, says study
....“Birds are well studied and great indicators of the health of the wider environment. A species at higher risk of extinction is a worrying alarm call that action needs to be taken now.”
The study found that overfishing and changes in the Pacific and north Atlantic caused by climate change have affected the availability of sand eels which black-legged kittiwakes feed on during the breeding season.
This has caused “disastrous chick survival rates”, it says, with nesting kittiwake numbers plummeting by 87% since 2000 on the Orkney and Shetland Islands, and by 96% on the Hebridean island of St Kilda.
Globally, the species is thought to have declined by about 40% since the 1970s, justifying its move from the “least concern” category to “vulnerable” on the Red List.
“The alarming decline of the black-legged kittiwake and other North Atlantic and Arctic seabirds, such as the Atlantic puffin, provides a painful lesson in what happens when nations take an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach to conservation,” said Marguerite Tarzia, European marine conservation officer for BirdLife International.
Ajit Pai's plan would leave the U.S. with a "gaping consumer protection void," say 39 senators
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'
"The internet has given ordinary people more power than ever before. We're going to fight tooth and nail to make sure no one takes that power away."
"Now every member of Congress will have to go on the record and decide whether to stand up for the free and open internet or face the political consequences of awakening its wrath in an election year," said Fight for the Future in a statement. (Photo: Fight for the Future)
The Republican-controlled FCC voted along party lines on Thursday to repeal net neutrality, but open internet defenders are urging the public to not be swayed by the proliferation of "net neutrality is officially dead" headlines—the fight is "not over," they say.
"The backlash to the FCC's attack on the Internet has reached a boiling point."
—Fight for the Future
Just hours after the FCC's vote, the coalition of activist groups behind Team Internet and BattlefortheNet.com announced the launch of "a massive internet-wide campaign" calling on members of Congress to overturn the FCC's move by passing a Resolution of Disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which only requires a simple majority in the House and Senate.
The CRA gives Congress the power to review newly passed regulations and overturn them through a joint resolution.
"Think of it as a double negative," explained Free Press's Dana Floberg. "If we repeal Pai's repeal, we could end up right back where we started—with strong Net Neutrality rules.
Fight for the Future (FFTF), one of the groups that helped launch the campaign to nullify Pai's plan, said in a statement on Thursday that "lawmakers cannot hide from their constituents on this issue."
"The backlash to the FCC's attack on the Internet has reached a boiling point," FFTF observed. "Now every member of Congress will have to go on the record and decide whether to stand up for the free and open internet or face the political consequences of awakening its wrath in an election year."
As Common Dreams has reported, the American public overwhelmingly supports net neutrality. FFTF argues that now, more than ever, Americans must place pressure on their representatives to do the same.
"The internet has given ordinary people more power than ever before," FFTF concluded. "We're going to fight tooth and nail to make sure no one takes that power away."
Sexual violence against women of color in the 40s went largely unpunished and a new film aims to shed light on one of the most courageous figures from the era
Recy Taylor in 1944. Photograph: Courtesy of The People's World/Daily Worker and Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University
The titular crime in The Rape of Recy Taylor and the miscarriage of justice that follows occurred in 1944 and the spring of 1945. But amid a wave of sexual assault claims that is sweeping powerful men off their perches, the modern analogues are hard to miss. Specifically, the question of where this moment leaves women with no power, no leverage, no fame.
Director Nancy Buirski’s timing was an accident, but one she is grateful for.
“This is such an important time in this country’s path to recognize Recy Taylor,” said Buirski, best known for directing The Loving Story, about Mildred and Richard Loving, the couple who toppled laws against interracial marriage. “With women being singled out on Time magazine’s cover, as part of the #MeToo campaign, I really want to draw attention to the black women who spoke up when their lives were seriously in danger.”
On the night of 3 September 1944, in Abbeville, Alabama, six white men kidnapped Taylor at gunpoint as she walked home from church, blindfolded her and raped her. After Taylor reported her assault to Abbeville law enforcement, her and her extended family’s homes came under a series of attacks. Meanwhile, the Abbeville legal system worked instead to protect her assailants. The town’s sheriff asked Taylor to keep silent about the crime while a grand jury refused to hand down indictments.
Then, Taylor and her plight experienced a predigital version of virality. The modern analogues are striking. Hers was a story white, mainstream media outlets initially ignored. In their place, it was black-owned newspapers which sounded the first alarms about the cover-up in Abbeville and would eventually focus countrywide pressure on Alabama’s governor to act.
Rosa Parks, who was already well-known as an NAACP activist, came to Abbeville to organize on Taylor’s behalf and raise her profile.
“If you look at the list of people who ultimately supported the Committee for Equal Justice for Mrs Recy Taylor” – the group borne of Parks’ efforts – “it was celebrities and entertainers and people who had a certain power to communicate, and that finally had a corrective impact,” Buirski said. “It takes a powerful group of people to draw attention [to] the people who didn’t have power.”
Democratic men are 31 points more likely to say that the “country has not gone far enough on women’s rights” than Republican women.
Protesters hold up signs at the Women's March on Washington on January 21, 2017. Credit: John Minchillo / AP
Amidst the exhilaration of Roy Moore’s defeat, and the broader cultural revolution sparked by women’s willingness to expose the sexual misdeeds of powerful men, it’s worth remembering this: Ninety percent of Republican women in Alabama, according to exit polls, cast their ballots for a man credibly accused of pedophilia. That’s a mere two points less than Republican men. By contrast, Democratic men voted for Moore’s opponent, Doug Jones, at the same rate as Democratic women: 98 percent. In early December, The Washington Post and the Schar School at George Mason University asked Alabamians whether they believed the allegations against Moore.
At my request, researchers from the Schar School broke down the answers by party and gender. The results: Party mattered far more. Republican women in Alabama were only four points more likely than Republican men to believe Moore’s accusers. In fact, Republican women were 40 points less likely to believe Moore’s accusers than were Democratic men. All of which points to a truth insufficiently appreciated in this moment of sexual and political upheaval: It’s not gender that increasingly divides the two parties. It is feminism.
This September, Leonie Huddy and Johanna Willmann of Stony Brook University presented a paper at the American Political Science Association. (The paper is not yet published, but Huddy sent me a copy.) In it, they charted the effects of feminism on partisanship over time. Holding other factors constant, they found that between 2004 and 2016, support for feminism—belief in the existence of “societal discrimination against women, and the need for greater female political power”—grew increasingly correlated with support for the Democratic Party. The correlation rose earlier among feminist women, but by 2016, it had also risen among feminist men. A key factor, the authors speculated, was Hillary Clinton. A liberal woman’s emergence as a serious presidential contender in 2008, and then as her party’s nominee eight years later, drove feminists of both genders toward the Democratic Party and anti-feminists of both genders toward the GOP.
Its government is virtual, borderless, blockchained, and secure. Has this tiny post-Soviet nation found the way of the future?
The Estonian government is so eager to take on big problems that many ambitious techies leave the private sector to join it. Illustration by Eiko Ojala
....Within this gated community lives a man, his family, and one vision of the future. Taavi Kotka, who spent four years as Estonia’s chief information officer, is one of the leading public faces of a project known as e-Estonia: a coördinated governmental effort to transform the country from a state into a digital society.
E-Estonia is the most ambitious project in technological statecraft today, for it includes all members of the government, and alters citizens’ daily lives. The normal services that government is involved with—legislation, voting, education, justice, health care, banking, taxes, policing, and so on—have been digitally linked across one platform, wiring up the nation. A lawn outside Kotka’s large house was being trimmed by a small robot, wheeling itself forward and nibbling the grass.
“Everything here is robots,” Kotka said. “Robots here, robots there.” He sometimes felt that the lawnmower had a soul. “At parties, it gets close to people,” he explained.
....“We had to set a goal that resonates, large enough for the society to believe in,” Kotka went on.
....It was during Kotka’s tenure that the e-Estonian goal reached its fruition. Today, citizens can vote from their laptops and challenge parking tickets from home. They do so through the “once only” policy, which dictates that no single piece of information should be entered twice. Instead of having to “prepare” a loan application, applicants have their data—income, debt, savings—pulled from elsewhere in the system. There’s nothing to fill out in doctors’ waiting rooms, because physicians can access their patients’ medical histories. Estonia’s system is keyed to a chip-I.D. card that reduces typically onerous, integrative processes—such as doing taxes—to quick work. “If a couple in love would like to marry, they still have to visit the government location and express their will,” Andrus Kaarelson, a director at the Estonian Information Systems Authority, says. But, apart from transfers of physical property, such as buying a house, all bureaucratic processes can be done online.
Estonia is a Baltic country of 1.3 million people and four million hectares, half of which is forest. Its government presents this digitization as a cost-saving efficiency and an equalizing force. Digitizing processes reportedly saves the state two per cent of its G.D.P. a year in salaries and expenses. Since that’s the same amount it pays to meet the nato threshold for protection (Estonia—which has a notably vexed relationship with Russia—has a comparatively small military), its former President Toomas Hendrik Ilves liked to joke that the country got its national security for free.
The UN’s Philip Alston is an expert on deprivation – and he wants to know why 41m Americans are living in poverty. The Guardian joined him on a special two-week mission into the dark heart of the world’s richest nation
A patient who came into the clinic needing all 30 of his teeth to have root canal surgery. Photograph: Doctors at Health Right
....Doctors at Health Right, a volunteer-based medical center in Charleston that treats 21,000 low-income working people free of charge, presented the UN monitor with a photograph of one of its dentistry clients.
The man is only 32, but when he opened his mouth he turned into one of Macbeth’s witches. His few remaining rotting teeth and greenish-blue gums looked like the festering broth in their burning cauldrons.
Adult dentistry is uncovered by Medicaid unless it is an emergency, and so people do the logical thing – they do nothing until their abscesses erupt and they have to go to ER. One woman seen by the center’s mobile dentistry clinic was found to have nothing but 30 roots in her mouth, all of which needed surgery.
In other briefings, Alston was given a picture of life under siege for West Virginia’s low-income families. If Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty, then Trump is waging a war on the poor.
People are jailed for years because they cannot afford bail awaiting trial; private detectives are used to snoop on disability benefit claimants; mandatory minimum drug sentences are back in fashion; Jeff Sessions is scrapping federal rehabilitation schemes for those released from prison; tenants in subsidized housing are living in fear that they will be evicted for the slightest infraction – the list goes on and on.
And the result of this relentless drubbing? “People end up fighting each other,” said Eli Baumwell, policy director of the ACLU in West Virginia. “You become so obsessed with what you’ve got and what your neighbor has got that you become resentful. That’s what Trump is doing – turning one against the other.”
And so it was that Philip Alston boarded one last plane and headed for Washington, carrying with him the distilled torment of the American people.
At one point in the trip Alston revealed that he had had a sleepless night, reflecting on the lost souls we had met in Skid Row.
He wondered about how a person in his position – “I’m old, male, white, rich and I live very well” – would react to one of those homeless people. “He would look at him and see someone who is dirty, who doesn’t wash, who he doesn’t want to be around.”
Then Alston had an epiphany.
“I realized that’s how government sees them. But what I see is the failure of society. I see a society that let that happen, that is not doing what it should. And it’s very sad.”
Under the constitution, our courts are obliged to provide equal justice regardless of wealth, status, or political connections. But in a new report, the latest in the series The Politics of Judicial Elections, we found that the integrity of our state supreme courts is increasingly under threat from a torrent of special interest money, often from secret sources. Using data from every state supreme court election in the most recent 2015-16 cycle, the report is the only comprehensive analysis of these and other trends, and includes examples of what big spenders hope to achieve, the kinds of ads the fund, and the threats they pose to the appearance and reality of evenhanded justice.
The nearly three-month funding lapse has raised the profile of a program that’s spent most of the year in the shadows of Republican efforts to overhaul the tax code .
Everyone in Congress claims to be a champion of children’s health.
But funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program ran out Sept. 30. And some lawmakers worry it might not be replenished until early next year.
It’s a mess that can happen only in Washington: Even a bipartisan program that covers 9 million poor and middle-class children is caught up in partisan squabbling, with Republicans and Democrats split over how to pay for renewed funding and placing blame on the other party.
But with unified GOP control of the government, voters and the program’s enrollees — who are beginning to get notices that money could be running out — could hold Republicans responsible if the program remains in limbo.
The nearly three-month funding lapse has raised the profile of a program that’s spent most of the year in the shadows of Republican efforts to overhaul the tax code and fund the government. Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel this week called for CHIP funding while holding his young son, who just went through heart surgery. So did Alabama’s Sen.-elect Doug Jones, who used his victory speech Tuesday night to urge lawmakers to address CHIP before he is seated in Washington.
A POLITICO-Harvard poll shows CHIP is now the top priority for Democratic voters — and a separate Morning Consult/POLITICO poll found 67 percent of the public would "definitely" or "maybe" support shutting down the government, if that’s what it takes to get CHIP funded.
So far, Democrats in the Senate say they’re not yet ready to issue such a threat...
"Trump's utter lack of morality, ethics and simple humanity has been underscored during his 11 months in office," editorial states.
USA Today, the most widely-circulated newspaper in the U.S, has penned a scathing takedown of President Donald Trump, calling him "uniquely awful," unfit to clean the toilets in his predecessor's presidential library, and a person "who can always find room for a new low."
The blistering editorial, published Tuesday evening, is especially striking as its comes, as one observer noted, from a "centrist-to-conservative editorial board."
It comes on the heels of Trump's "sexist smear" against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), which the editorial says showed the president "is not fit for office."
Brushing off White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders's defense of the tweeted attack, the editorial board writes: "A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush."
Beyond the unsurprising attack on Gillibrand, the piece references other "sickening behavior" by Trump, including his mocking of the numerous women who have accused him of sexual assault or harassment.
The take-away from his time at the White House thus far is clear: "Trump's utter lack of morality, ethics and simple humanity has been underscored during his 11 months in office."
The piece goes on to offer a bulleted list of this display, including his enthusiastic support of accused child molester Roy Moore; his "contempt for ethical strictures that have bound every president in recent memory"; his seizing of various incidents to promote anti-immigrant sentiment; and the fact that he appears to be "going for some sort of record for lying while in office."
That there are only half a dozen senators calling on Trump to resign is "a shock," the editorial states.
USA Today's editorial board also took an usual step ahead of the presidential election, writing that it "has never taken sides in the presidential race. We're doing it now."
That editorial also called Trump "unfit for office," and warned its readers: "Whatever you do... resist the siren song of a dangerous demagogue. By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump."
"This tax bill was written for Republicans' wealthy campaign contributors," concluded Sen. Bernie Sanders
Bipartisan backing for the bill, which would protect immigrant youth like us and aid the economy, extends from Fortune 500 companies to faith leaders
- This piece is part of We're Here To Stay, a Guardian series edited by Dreamers — young immigrants who arrived in the US as children, and who are now in danger of losing their right to stay here legally.
Diana Pliego, Bruna Bouhid and Jonathan Jayes-Green | The Guardian
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Five years after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school, advocates who are disappointed with the failure of efforts to limit access to firearms are changing their strategy.
Instead of pressuring lawmakers to push new gun-control measures through the U.S. Congress, volunteers from groups including Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America are now running for office themselves.
Nine of 13 volunteers trained by the group ran for office this year and won seats, ranging from New Hampshire state representative to city council member in West University Place, Texas. Fourteen more have already declared their intentions to run for office in 2018, seeking seats in Congress, state legislatures and local government, all running as Democrats.
“The reality is that the work doesn’t really start in Congress. That’s where it ends,” said Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts, who launched her group the day after the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
The group began training candidates after more than 400 of its 70,000 members said they were interested in running for office.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” Watts said. “It’s going to take several election cycles.”
Even if the next class of candidates, none of whom are running as Republicans, succeed in winning office, they will face an uphill battle against a U.S. Congress controlled by Republicans, who are staunch defenders of the right to bear arms protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Sandy Hook was at the time the second-deadliest mass shooting carried out by a single gunman in U.S. history. It sparked new energy among gun-control advocates who pushed for fresh federal restrictions on assault weapons, which were blocked by Republican lawmakers and the powerful National Rifle Association lobby.
A steady stream of mass shootings have continued across the United States since Sandy Hook, including two deadlier incidents - the slaughter of 58 people at a Las Vegas concert in October and the massacre of 49 people at an Orlando gay nightclub last year.
Environmental racism, extreme poverty, and disease thrive on a breathtaking scale in U.S. Black communities in the South, shocking a UN investigator.
New York Times reported Jones statistics as 671,151 votes (49.9%), while Moore received 650,436 (48.4%) following 100 percent of precincts counted.
After watching her home state struggle with budget shortfalls, a concerned Illinois reader urges fellow citizens to take action on pending legislation.
Footage shows officers posing as protesters before pulling out pistols and seizing stone throwers in West Bank
Of more than 50,000 killings of women since 1985, nearly a third took place in last six years, official report says
....The rise in such killings coincided with Mexico’s militarised offensive against drug cartels launched in late 2006 by then-president Felipe Calderón. It also roughly tracks overall homicide trends during the period.
About 12% of homicide victims in Mexico last year were women, compared with about 10% in 1985. That was down slightly from the early and mid-2000s.
“Violence against women and girls – which can result in death – is perpetrated, in most cases, to conserve and reproduce the submission and subordination of them derived from relationships of power,” the report said.
The tiny state of Colima registered the country’s highest femicide rate in 2016, with 16.3 per 100,000. It was followed by the states of Guerrero, Zacatecas, Chihuahua and Morelos.
....Most of those are states with a heavy presence of organized crime gangs. Guerrero, in particular, is a hotspot of cartel violence. The Pacific coast resort city of Acapulco in Guerrero registered more killings of women last year than any other municipality, with 107.
Nearly 2.7 million people have been displaced internally by conflict, violence or disasters, per the latest figures released by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, IDMC, in Africa and Norwegian Refugee Council, NRC, earlier this December.
A summit of Islamic nations has issued a unified response to counter the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The draft declaration has also called on the US to withdraw from the Middle East peace process.
“The U.S. is now the most unpredictable actor in the world today.”
As conflicts ignite and burn and flicker out around the world, U.S. officials assess the dangers they represent back home. Not all of these conflicts directly threaten American interests, which is why the Council on Foreign Relations conducts an annual survey to help U.S. leaders prioritize threats in the year ahead. For the past decade, this survey has focused on the risks posed to America by foreign actors. Now it’s reckoning with the risks America poses to the world—and to itself.
“The U.S. is now the most unpredictable actor in the world today, and that has caused profound unease,” said Paul Stares, the director of CFR’s Center for Preventive Action, which produces the annual survey. “You used to be able to pretty much put the U.S. to one side and hold it constant, and look at the world and consider where the biggest sources of unpredictability, insecurity are. Now you have to include the U.S. in that. ... No one has high confidence how we [Americans] would react in any given situation, given how people assess this president.” This president might welcome the development. “I don’t want people to know exactly what I’m doing—or thinking,” Donald Trump wrote in 2015. “It keeps them off balance.”
America’s newfound unpredictability is most evident in two scenarios that emerged as the highest-priority risks identified by this year’s report, which drew on the feedback of 436 government officials and foreign-policy experts: 1) military conflict involving the United States, North Korea, and North Korea’s neighbors, and 2) an armed confrontation between Iran and the United States or a U.S. ally over Iran’s involvement in regional conflicts and support of militant groups.
France is to impose a total ban on pupils using mobile phones in primary and secondary schools starting in September 2018, its education minister has confirmed.
Phones are already forbidden in French classrooms but starting next school year, pupils will be barred from taking them out at breaks, lunch times and between lessons.
Teachers and parents are divided over a total ban, however, with some saying children must be able to "live in their time". In France, some 93 per cent of 12 to 17-year-olds own mobile phones.
Document suggests at least five camps are being set up as Beijing prepares for possible influx of refugees should Kim Jong-un’s regime collapse
Although Americans are optimistic about the ordinary person's ability to help fight corruption, about 70 percent believe the U.S. government is failing at it
Inequality report also shows UK’s 50,000 richest people have seen their share of the country’s wealth double since 1984
The richest 0.1% of the world’s population have increased their combined wealth by as much as the poorest 50% – or 3.8 billion people – since 1980, according to a report detailing the widening gap between the very rich and poor.
The World Inequality Report, published on Thursday by French economist Thomas Piketty, warned that inequality had ballooned to “extreme levels” in some countries and said the problem would only get worse unless governments took coordinated action to increase taxes and prevent tax avoidance.
The report, which drew on the work of more than 100 researchers around the world, found that the richest 1% of the global population “captured” 27% of the world’s wealth growth between 1980 and 2016. And the richest of the rich increased their wealth by even more. The top 0.1% gained 13% of the world’s wealth, and the top 0.001% – about 76,000 people – collected 4% of all the new wealth created since 1980.
“The top 0.1% income group (about 7 million people) captured as much of the world’s growth since 1980 as the bottom half of the adult population,” the report said. “Conversely, income growth has been sluggish or even nil for the population between the global bottom 50% and top 1%.”
The economists said wealth inequality had become “extreme” in Russia and the US. The US’s richest 1% accounted for 39% of the nation’s wealth in 2014 [the latest year available], up from 22% in 1980. The researchers noted that “most of that increase in inequality was due to the rise of the top 0.1% wealth owners”.
At the launch of their World Inequality Report, Thomas Piketty and colleagues explain the past, present and future trends of inequality around the world
....The tax bill just passed by the US Senate will not only reinforce this trend, it will turbocharge inequality in America. Presented as a tax cut for workers and job-creating entrepreneurs, it is instead a giant cut for those with capital and inherited wealth. It’s a bill that rewards the past, not the future.
Critically, the bill massively cuts corporate income taxes, mainly by reducing the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20%. Whatever one believes about the long-term effects of cutting corporate taxes, it is clear that in the short and medium term, the cut overwhelmingly benefits shareholders who can reap their additional profits without any extra work. The bill also reduces the estate tax (and even eliminates it in the version of the bill approved by the House of Representatives), and reduces income tax rates for business income that largely accrues to the top 1%. This tax plan makes the US look more and more like a rentier society.
Facundo Alvaredo, Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman | The Guardian
With its assault on the estate tax, the GOP is demonstrating that it’s not even under the thumb of the 1 percent, but the 0.2 percent.
The estate tax is good. It acts as a modest brake on the growth of inherited wealth and the power of private dynasties, and brings money into the public coffers to boot.
That didn’t used to be very controversial. Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson were proponents of inheritance taxes, as were the nineteenth-century steel baron Andrew Carnegie and the right-wing economist Friedrich Hayek. For roughly two hundred years, outside a fringe of reactionary plutocrats, there was broad accord on the question of the estate tax. Even conservative philosophers and statesmen found it difficult to defend letting economic elites pass on large bequests to heirs unfettered.
Then something seemed to change. In the last two decades, the Republican Party began to make a show of its opposition to the estate tax. This about face is one sign, among many, of how far the GOP and American democracy generally have gone off the rails. The Republican Party now represents something unique: untethered to any intelligible political philosophy, it’s increasingly guided by nothing but a hatred for the Left and a blind devotion to the billionaire class.
The closer Mueller gets to Trump, the likelier it is that Trump will act to try to end his investigation. That’s why he must be protected now
....We are headed for a collision. Congress needs to act now to protect the Mueller investigation, head off a crisis, and make clear that the president is not above the law.
Fortunately, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are currently crafting legislation designed to deter Mueller from being fired. While this legislation is far from a panacea, it will help to tie Trump’s hands. But most importantly, it would send a signal to the country that the rule of law reigns supreme.
Whether or not this legislation makes it to the floor for a vote depends on Republican congressional leaders. Some in Congress say the legislation is unnecessary; if Mueller is fired, there will be bipartisan support on the Hill for action.
But the point is to stop the crisis before it starts. It’s not enough to let Trump act as a petty dictator and then try to pick up the pieces only after he destroys our democratic norms. Congress needs to be clear now that firing Mueller is unacceptable and un-American – we’re a nation of laws, laws that no one is above.
The authors of a new book argue that government regulations have been giving an unfair advantage to those already on top.
Copyright © 2017 The Baltimore Chronicle and the SENTINEL. All rights reserved.
Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.