Sunday, June 26, 2016

15 Steps the Democratic Party Must Take to Reverse Wage Stagnation Across America

The party's platform committee gets an earful.

By Steven Rosenfeld

The causes and remedies for the economic stagnation facing most American households are no mystery and should be clearly stated in the Democratic Party’s 2016 platform. That was the message from Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute's Policy Center, as he testified this month at hearings in Washington and said the nation’s key economic challenge was generating “robust wage growth for the vast majority.”

Mishel’s comments, which listed trends and solutions Democrats should call out and embrace, run counter to the oft-cited resignation that economic trends are larger than government can address. The 2016 campaign has brought inequality center stage, he said, underscoring that federal and state government have big roles to play in rebalancing the economy.

Neonicotinoid pesticides cause harm to honeybees

Mainz researchers discover new mechanism associated with the worldwide decline of bee populations

Johannes Gutenberg Universitaet Mainz

One possible cause of the alarming bee mortality we are witnessing is the use of the very active systemic insecticides called neonicotinoids. A previously unknown and harmful effect of neonicotinoids has been identified by researchers at the Mainz University Medical Center and Goethe University Frankfurt. They discovered that neonicotinoids in low and field-relevant concentrations reduce the concentration of acetylcholine in the royal jelly/larval food secreted by nurse bees. This signaling molecule is relevant for the development of the honeybee larvae. At higher doses, neonicotinoids also damage the so-called microchannels of the royal jelly gland in which acetylcholine is produced. The results of this research have been recently published in the eminent scientific journal PloS ONE.

A ‘Brexit’ Blow to the Establishment

Exclusive: British voters turned a deaf ear to scary warnings about leaving the E.U. and struck a blow against an out-of-touch, self-interested and incompetent Western Establishment, a message to the U.S., too, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The United Kingdom’s “Brexit” vote may cause short-term economic pain and present long-term geopolitical risks, but it is a splash of ice water in the face of the West’s Establishment, which has grown more and more insular, elitist and unaccountable over recent decades.

The West’s powers-that-be, in both the United States and the European Union, too often display contempt for real democracy, maintaining only the façade of respecting the popular will, manipulating voters at election time with red-meat politics and empty promises – before getting back to the business of comforting the comfortable and letting the comfortable afflict the afflicted.

The Most Important Agency You’ve Never Heard Of

The Office of Financial Research is meant to be the early-warning system for the next financial crisis. Is it doing its job?

by Victoria Finkle

Among the many lessons learned from the 2008 financial crisis, one thing stands out: ignorance—willful or otherwise—drove the system to the brink of collapse. While banks were busily writing mortgages destined to default, there was a blithe, system-wide failure to recognize what those toxic mortgages could do to the economy. Not only were regulators asleep at the wheel, they didn’t even know the car was moving.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, passed in 2010, took a number of steps aimed at righting the wrongs of the financial crisis. One was the creation of a new agency, the Office of Financial Research (OFR), tasked with ensuring that Washington would never get caught so flat-footed ever again. Headquartered in a nondescript office building in downtown D.C., the 225-person bureau collects data and produces reports aimed at identifying potential threats to the financial system. Although technically part of the Treasury Department, the body is by law independent. Its budget, $99 million in fiscal year 2016, is funded through fees paid by the country’s largest banks. To help the OFR carry out its mission, Congress granted it sweeping powers, including the right to demand certain data from banking regulators and financial institutions, either voluntarily or with a subpoena, as well as from banking regulators.

Friends In High Places: Who Endorses America’s Troubled For-Profit Colleges?

by David Halperin

Today Republic Report is releasing a brand-new investigative report: Friends In High Places: Who Endorses America’s Troubled For-Profit Colleges?

Our report describes in detail the network of prominent Americans — lawyers, lobbyists, board members, university presidents, politicians, celebrities, and others — who continue to lend their credibility and talents to defending or promoting seven of America’s biggest for-profit college companies, amid growing indications, including law enforcement investigations, that these companies have engaged in predatory practices that harm students and taxpayers.

How neoliberalism’s moral order feeds fraud and corruption

Jörg Wiegratz, David Whyte

Corporate fraud is not just present, but is widespread in many neoliberalised economies of both income-rich and income-poor countries. Volkswagen’s emissions cheating scandal is perhaps the most recent and most startling example, but the automobile industry is only one of many sectors, including banking and the arms industry, where scandals have become commonplace. Certain practices and norms that many people in the global North considered shocking only a while ago have become routine in public life.

The financial industry, whether in the US, UK, or Germany, has become characterised for years now by extensive and escalating fraud. Arguably, bankers have never been as unpopular as they are right now. It is not difficult to see why. The most vulnerable in society have suffered the most as a result of public sector cuts in western Europe. You can draw a straight line between these cuts and the post-2008 bank bailouts and market-saving interventionism of governments.

The Fraudulent Case for a Syrian Escalation

Exclusive: Washington’s armchair warriors are pounding the drums for a major U.S. military escalation in Syria but a new report shows there’s little reason to think that would help, writes Jonathan Marshall.

By Jonathan Marshall

The recent call by 51 dissenting State Department officials for U.S. military escalation in Syria is merely one of dozens of similar demands by neoconservatives and anguished liberals who accuse President Obama of moral failure for not dictating peace in Syria at the end of a gun.

At almost the same time as the dissent went public, in fact, the hawkish Center for New American Security issued similar recommendations under the auspices of Michele Flournoy, Hillary Clinton’s likely pick for Secretary of Defense. Its report called for more “arming and training” of anti-government rebels, launching of “limited military strikes” against the Assad regime, and eliminating “artificial manpower limitations” on military missions in the country.

The 13 Democrats Who Just Did Wall Street’s Dirty Work

Richard Eskow

A “D” beside a politician’s name doesn’t necessarily mean they’re fighting for the public’s interests. In fact, 13 Democratic members of Congress recently joined Republicans in voting to protect private equity and hedge funds. This vote demonstrates the corrupting force of money in politics. If the media were doing a better job, it would be a national scandal.

Democrats like these need to be encouraged to find new jobs. But don’t expect the party establishment to do it. In fact, one of these 13 representatives is running in the Florida Senate primary as the Democratic National Committee’s hand-picked candidate.

Oklahoma Lawmaker Shares Article Arguing Islam Isn’t A Religion, Calls For ‘Final Solution’

by Jack Jenkins

An Oklahoma lawmaker personally propagated an article over the weekend calling for a “final solution” regarding “radical Islam,” arguing that the 1,400-year-old faith is not a religion and should not be protected under the first amendment of the Constitution.

On Sunday, Oklahoma State Rep. Pat Ownbey re-published an article to his Facebook page entitled “Radical Islam – The Final Solution.” The article was originally published on the personal blog of Paul R. Hollrah, an Oklahoman who touts himself as a “retired government relations executive,” but Ownbey appears to have copy-pasted the piece and reposted it in its entirety, citing Hollrah.

Jewel v. NSA Moves Forward—Time For NSA To Answer Basic Questions About Mass Surveillance

By Jamie Williams

It’s time to lift the cloak of secrecy that has until now shielded the NSA from judicial scrutiny. EFF served the agency with information requests late last week in Jewel v. NSA, EFF’s signature case challenging government surveillance. Since we filed the case in 2008, leaks about government spying—much of which have been confirmed by intelligence agencies—have vindicated our claims that the U.S. government is and was illegally spying on millions of innocent Americans. Now, we are seeking answers to basic questions about the nuts and bolts of the government’s Internet and telephone mass surveillance programs.

Not only does this mark the first opportunity to obtain evidence since the case was filed nearly eight years ago, but it’s also the first time any party has been allowed to gather facts about the programs’ inner workings from the NSA in a case involving the agency’s warrantless surveillance.

WPost’s ‘Agit-Prop’ for the New Cold War

Exclusive: The Washington Post, the neocons’ media flagship, has fired a broadside at a new documentary after it blasted a hole in the side of the anti-Russian Magnitsky narrative, which helped launch the new Cold War, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

A danger in today’s Western journalism is that the people in charge of the mainstream media are either neocon ideologues or craven careerists who will accept any official attack on geopolitical “enemies” without checking out the facts, such as with the Iraq War’s WMD myth or the curious case of Sergei Magnitsky.

Magnitsky’s 2009 death in a Russian jail became a Western cause célèbre with the accountant for hedge-fund executive William Browder hailed as a martyr in the cause of whistleblowing against a profoundly corrupt Russian government. After Magnitsky’s death from a heart attack, Browder claimed his “lawyer” had been tortured and murdered to cover up official complicity in a $230 million tax-fraud scheme involving companies ostensibly under Browder’s control.

Ted Rall: Get Over It: Mass Shootings are the New Normal in America

What is wrong with Americans?

Okay, that’s a very open-ended question with many potential answers.

What I’d like to talk about this time is: why is it that Americans only begin to get serious about a problem after it’s too late to solve it?

Currently, I’m thinking about the latest, depressingly predictable response to the Orlando massacre.

Bernie Sanders: Here’s what we want

My supporters and I want real change in this country.

As we head toward the Democratic National Convention, I often hear the question, “What does Bernie want?” Wrong question. The right question is what the 12 million Americans who voted for a political revolution want.

And the answer is: They want real change in this country, they want it now and they are prepared to take on the political cowardice and powerful special interests which have prevented that change from happening.

What’s Really Behind the Washington Post’s Efforts to Marginalize Bernie Sanders?

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens

An article in the Washington Post yesterday continued the paper’s unrelenting efforts to marginalize Senator Bernie Sanders and his effort to press forward on his call for a political revolution in America. The Post article brandished its most preposterous cudgel yet: the cost of Senator Sanders’ continuing protection by the Secret Service, which it suggested was a drain on taxpayers. Calling Sanders the “now-vanquished Democratic presidential candidate,” the Post’s John Wagoner laments that even though “Hillary Clinton has clinched the party’s nomination,” Sanders is still receiving Secret Service protection which could be costing taxpayers more than $38,000 a day.

In fact, Clinton hasn’t clinched anything until there is an official vote taken at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 25-28, no matter how much corporate media might wish otherwise. And since there has never been a Presidential candidate like Clinton, who is under an active criminal FBI investigation for violating State Department policy and transmitting classified material over a private server in her home, anything is possible before the July convention — or thereafter.

Why it’s so hard for students to have their debts forgiven

Neal H. Hutchens, Richard Fossey

Outstanding student loan debt in the United States reached a record US$1.35 trillion in March, up six percent from a year earlier.

About 10 million people who borrowed from the government’s main student loan program – 43 percent – are currently behind or no longer making payments, with more than a third of them in default. Some students are especially at risk, such as those who attended for-profit institutions.

Meanwhile, the loan default rates widely reported by the U.S. Department of Education fail to account for borrowers who default more than three years after repayment begins. These rates also fail to account for the millions of borrowers who are struggling or unable to repay their loans but aren’t included in the numbers because they’ve claimed an economic hardship deferment.

Researchers link childhood hunger, violence later in life

University of Texas at Dallas

Children who often go hungry have a greater risk of developing impulse control problems and engaging in violence, according to new UT Dallas research.

The study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found that people who experienced frequent hunger as kids were more than twice as likely to exhibit impulsivity and injure others intentionally as adolescents and adults.

How the European Union Turned Into a Neoliberal Nightmare

Workers across Europe are rallying against a union which has used its undemocratic structures to force neoliberalism on a continent.

By Enrico Tortolano

Voting to leave the EU is a no-brainer for the Left. The European Union is remote, racist, imperialist, anti-worker and anti-democratic: It is run by, of, and for the super-rich and their corporations. A future outside austerity and other economic blunders rests on winning the struggle to exit the EU, removing us from its neoliberal politics and institutions. Corporate bureaucrats in Brussels working as agents of the big banks and transnationals’ now exert control over every aspect of our lives. Neoliberal policies and practices dominate the European Commission, European Parliament, European Central Bank, European Court of Justice and a compliant media legitimises the whole conquest. This has left the EU constitution as the only one in the world that enshrines neoliberal economics into its text. Therefore the EU is not—and never can be—either socialist or a democracy.

Against the left’s strategic case for exit is relentless blither and blather from the elitist liberal commentariat: the EU is a social-democratic haven that protects us from the nasty Tories is their litany and verse. This is an absurd fantasy: by design the EU is a corporatist, pro-capitalist establishment. Therefore, it strains credulity that the bulk of the Parliamentary Labour Party and a rump of the trade union movement believe in the myth of Social Europe. The late Bob Crow was bang on the money when he said: “social EU legislation, which supposedly leads to better working conditions, has not saved one job and is riddled with opt-outs for employers to largely ignore any perceived benefits they may bring to workers. But it is making zero-hour contracts and agency-working the norm while undermining collective bargaining and full-time, secure employment.”

Paul Krugman: A Tale of Two Parties

Do you remember what happened when the Berlin Wall fell? Until that moment, nobody realized just how decadent Communism had become. It had tanks, guns, and nukes, but nobody really believed in its ideology anymore; its officials and enforcers were mere careerists, who folded at the first shock.

It seems to me that you need to think about what happened to the G.O.P. this election cycle the same way.

The Republican establishment was easily overthrown because it was already hollow at the core. Donald Trump’s taunts about “low-energy” Jeb Bush and “little Marco” Rubio worked because they contained a large element of truth. When Mr. Bush and Mr. Rubio dutifully repeated the usual conservative clichés, you could see that there was no sense of conviction behind their recitations. All it took was the huffing and puffing of a loudmouthed showman to blow their houses down.

We Buried the Disgraceful Truth

Steve Coll

Since 2001, at least 2.5 million members of the American armed services have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. Among returnees, between 11 and 20 percent are estimated to suffer in any given year from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to the Department of Veteran Affairs. The PTSD label is loosely used, but under the clinical definition of the National Institute of Mental Health, an afflicted person may experience for at least one month a combination of symptoms including flashbacks, bad dreams, guilt, numbness, depression, sleeplessness, angry outbursts, and partial amnesia. The sheer size and diversity of this injured population are astounding.

Newspaper reporters including Dana Priest and Anne Hull of The Washington Post and David Phillips, now of The New York Times, have documented the military’s shabby, at times cynical response to this social and medical crisis. The subject has also given rise to memorable written accounts of personal experience. David Finkel, in his remarkable book Thank You for Your Service, chronicles returning veterans of brutal combat in Baghdad and presents nuanced accounts of dysfunction, suicide temptation, and redemption. Matthew Green, in his book Aftershock, introduced British readers to the same crisis and showed how that country’s military health system has failed to reduce the stigma of PTSD. Redeployment, a collection of short stories by Phil Klay, a former Marine officer who fought in Iraq, which won the National Book Award in 2014, is one volume among several that suggest the emergence of raw, distinctive fiction by and for America’s post–September 11 generation that sometimes touches on the PTSD crisis.

Yet Another Failed Attempt to Discredit Bernie Sanders, Courtesy of the New York Times

by Jake Johnson

Democratic Party liberals have made quite a show of their desire for Bernie Sanders to leave the presidential race so that, the story goes, Hillary Clinton can focus her energy solely on the looming threat of Donald Trump.

But, judging by their behavior, and by the writings of pundits and analysts, it is these very same liberals who cannot resist a daily whack at the Sanders campaign — and at Bernie Sanders, himself. Liberals who frequently articulate both their horror at the prospect of a Trump presidency and the role we all share in preventing him from reaching the White House still, somehow, muster the energy to take pot-shots at the democratic socialist they so breezily dismissed as a non-entity just a few months ago.

Paul Krugman: Fear, Loathing and Brexit

There are still four and a half months to go before the presidential election. But there’s a vote next week that could matter as much for the world’s future as what happens here: Britain’s referendum on whether to stay in the European Union.

Unfortunately, this vote is a choice between bad and worse — and the question is which is which.

Not to be coy: I would vote Remain. I’d do it in full awareness that the E.U. is deeply dysfunctional and shows few signs of reforming. But British exit — Brexit — would probably make things worse, not just for Britain, but for Europe as a whole.

Dean Baker: Paul Krugman, Brexit, and Unaccountable Government

Paul Krugman devoted his column on Friday to a mild critique of the drive to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union. The reason the column was somewhat moderate in its criticisms of the desire to leave EU is that Krugman sympathizes with the complaints of many in the UK and elsewhere about the bureaucrats in Brussels being unaccountable to the public. This is of course right, but it is worth taking the issue here a step further.

If we expect to hold people accountable then they have to face consequences for doing their job badly. In particular, if they mess up really badly then they should be fired. There is a whole economics literature on the importance of being able to fire workers as a way of ensuring work discipline. Unfortunately this never seems to apply to the people at the top. And this is seen most clearly in the cases of those responsible for economic policy in the European Union.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Feel the Hate

by Paul Street

Many Bernie Sanders activists and supporters are understandably disgusted by the contemptuous mistreatment they and their candidate have received from the corporate-Clintonite Democratic Party and its numerous media allies. The examples of this disrespect and abuse include:
The discourteous rapid-fire inquisition that the New York Daily News editorial board conducted with Sanders and then released as an interview transcript prior to the New York Democratic presidential primary last April.

Hillary Clinton telling MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough that the Daily News grilling “raise[d] a lot of questions” about Sanders’ qualification for the presidency.

Bill Clinton in New Hampshire calling Sanders and his team “hermetically sealed” purists, hypocrites, and thieves and mocking Sanders as “the champion of all things small and the enemy of all things big.”

Secret-money groups, some with Southern ties, may have broken election laws

By Alex Kotch

Nonprofits that spend on elections but are not required to disclose their donors have grown dramatically in number since 2010, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Citizens United v. Federal Elections Committee decision loosening restrictions on money in politics. That year, secret-money groups spent roughly $7.2 million on federal elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. So far in the current election cycle, they have spent more than five times as much — $36.9 million, already surpassing the 2014 total.

But as nonprofit political activity has increased, many of these so-called "social welfare" nonprofits appear to have broken campaign finance laws — and watchdog groups are demanding the government take action.

What's Really Happening to the Humanities Under Neoliberalism?

By Dan Falcone, Truthout | Op-Ed

The number of college students majoring in English, according to some contested reports, has plummeted. In general, the humanities are taking a back seat to more "pragmatic" majors in college. Students, apparently, are thinking more about jobs than about general learning. Given this trend, should schools be scaling back on the humanities?

I understand these sentiments and concerns completely. I've worked at schools where math and science were esteemed, and for good reason. When parents attend school assemblies, the college counselors and deans present course selection mappings. The flow charts for math and science look very impressive, intricate and complex, with many boxes, lines, twists, turns and explanations that require qualifications. Meanwhile, history and English get a few boxes and they appear straightforward. What is this illustrative of? The fact that more time and energy are dedicated to upholding math and science as gospel? It's possible.

Caving to Post-Orlando Fear, House Betrays Civil Liberties

Massie-Lofgren amendment fails 198-222 in turnaround for House

by Nadia Prupis, staff writer

Late Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives blocked an amendment that would have prohibited warrantless surveillance of Americans' electronic communications and banned the government from forcing technology companies to install backdoors to encrypted devices.

The amendment to the House's annual military spending bill, introduced by Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), failed by a vote of 198-222. The roll call is here.

The Conservative Backlash Against Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave Victories Sweeping The Nation

by Bryce Covert & Evan Popp

Antoin Adams likes working, and working hard. In his job at a KFC in Birmingham, Alabama, he’s responsible for cooking food, cleaning the restaurant, and keeping track of the inventory. But all that hard work has yet to even nudge his boss to discuss a raise from his current pay: $7.25 an hour, or the very least a worker in America can be paid.

“I don’t have a problem with working, I love working,” he said. “But I want to feel like I’m working for something… I know how hard I work and I work too hard for $7.25.”

Making minimum wage is rough on him. He has rent, utilities, and car payments to worry about. Adams says he doesn’t get food stamps, so he has to buy all of his groceries on that wage too. “On $7.25, you can’t really pay your rent or anything or utilities,” he said. “It’s hard.”

Richard Eskow: Would You Trust Henry Kissinger with Your Social Security?

Years ago a political scientist said that the mass media can’t influence what people think, but it can influence what people think about. Today it does both. If you’re a billionaire who wants to manipulate public opinion, that means you’ll keep feeding it stories that serve your ideology and self-interest.

Hedge fund billionaire Peter G. “Pete” Peterson is a master of the art. At a time when 47 million Americans (including one child in five) live in poverty, when our national infrastructure is collapsing and the middle class dream is dying before our eyes, he’s managed to convince a few voters, a lot of politicians, and far too many major-media journalists that our most urgent problem is … federal deficit spending.

"Nothing for Other People": Class War in the United States

By Noam Chomsky, Metropolitan Books | Book Excerpt

The following is an excerpt from Noam Chomsky's new book, Who Rules the World?

Norman Ware's classic study of the industrial worker appeared ninety years ago, the first of its kind. It has lost none of its significance. The lessons Ware draws from his close investigation of the impact of the emerging industrial revolution on the lives of working people, and on society in general, are just as pertinent today as when he wrote, if not more so, in the light of the striking parallels between the 1920s and today.

It is important to remember the condition of working people when Ware wrote. The powerful and influential American labor movement that arose during the nineteenth century was being subjected to brutal attack, culminating in Woodrow Wilson's Red Scare after World War I. By the 1920s, the movement had largely been decimated; a classic study by the eminent labor historian David Montgomery is entitled The Fall of the House of Labor. The fall occurred in the 1920s. By the end of the decade, he writes, "corporate mastery of American life seemed secure.... Rationalization of business could then proceed with indispensable government support," with government largely in the hands of the corporate sector. It was far from a peaceful process; American labor history is unusually violent. One scholarly study concludes that "the United States had more deaths at the end of the nineteenth century due to labor violence -- in absolute terms and in proportion to population size -- than any other country except Czarist Russia." The term "labor violence" is a polite way of referring to violence by state and private security forces targeting working people. That continued into the late 1930s; I can remember such scenes from my childhood.

Gingrich: Let's Create New Version Of House Un-American Activities Committee

By Allegra Kirkland

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich proposed the creation of a new version of the controversial House Un-American Activities Committee to root out American citizens who plan to commit terrorist attacks in the U.S.

“We originally created the House Un-American Activities Committee to go after Nazis. We passed several laws in 1938 and 1939 to go after Nazis and we made it illegal to help the Nazis. We're going to presently have to go take the similar steps here,” Gingrich said in a Monday appearance on “Fox and Friends.”

How Plutocrats Cripple the IRS

You pay more because elites use their influence to pay less.

By Martin Lobel

For every dollar appropriated to the Internal Revenue Service, the public collects more than $4 in taxes. Nonetheless, Congress has cut the IRS appropriations by $1.2 billion since 2010 while expanding the service’s administrative burdens by giving it responsibility for enforcing laws extraneous to tax collection, such as the Affordable Care Act. The IRS is also responsible for administering innumerable socioeconomic incentives in the tax code, including tax preferences for health care, retirement, social welfare, education, energy, housing, and economic stimulation, none of which are related to the IRS’s primary function of raising revenue—all with reduced funding.

Plutocrats, the richest 0.1 percent of Americans, get the most benefit from a weakened IRS. Because they have the money, the lawyers, the lobbyists, the accountants, and the secret campaign funds, they are able to ensure that the IRS won’t have the resources to effectively collect the money they owe to it. Plutocrats do this by devising tax shelters too complex for the IRS to challenge at an acceptable cost, and by having allies in Congress who intimidate the IRS from issuing tough regulations and who cut IRS funding to prevent adequate enforcement. (The top 0.1 percent consists of 115,000 individuals and families with an average income of $9.44 million. 40.8 percent of the top 0.1 percent are executives, managers, or supervisors of non-finance firms, and 18.4 percent are in the financial professions.)

Hundreds of Cancer-Causing Chemicals Pollute Americans’ Bodies

From EWG, First Complete Inventory of Carcinogens in the U.S. Population

Environmental Working Group (EWG)

WASHINGTON - Hundreds of cancer-causing chemicals are building up in the bodies of Americans, according to the first comprehensive inventory of the carcinogens that have been measured in people. EWG released the inventory today.

EWG spent almost a year reviewing more than 1,000 biomonitoring studies and other research by leading government agencies and independent scientists in the U.S. and around the world. The nonprofit research group found that up to 420 chemicals known or likely to cause cancer have been detected in blood, urine, hair and other human samples.

Cable and telecom companies just lost a huge court battle on net neutrality

By Brian Fung

A federal appeals court has voted to uphold a series of strict new rules for Internet providers, handing a major victory to regulators in the fight over net neutrality and ensuring that one of the most sweeping changes to hit the industry in recent years will likely remain on the books.

The 2-1 court ruling Tuesday forces Internet providers such as Verizon and Comcast to obey federal regulations that ban the blocking or slowing of Internet traffic to consumers. The regulations from the Federal Communications Commission also forbid carriers from selectively speeding up websites that agree to pay the providers a fee — a tactic critics have said could unfairly tilt the commercial playing field against startups and innovators who may not be able to afford it.

After SCOTUS Gutted Voting Rights, An Explosion of Democratic Suppression

Millions of minority voters remain 'vulnerable to voter suppression schemes in towns, counties, and states across the country,' NAACP analysis shows

by Nadia Prupis, staff writer

State and local threats to voting rights have exploded in the three years since the U.S. Supreme Court attacked a critical constitutional protection for minority voters, despite overwhelming evidence of discrimination, a new report by the NAACP reveals.

Democracy Diminished, released by the NAACP's Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF), looks at disenfranchisement around the country since the Supreme Court effectively blocked Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act—which requires certain jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination against voters to submit proposed voting changes to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) or a federal court in Washington, D.C. for pre-clearance—in its 2013 ruling on Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder.

Did the Press Take Down Bernie Sanders?

The rebellious nature of the Vermont senator's presidential bid didn't fit the mainstream media's predetermined scenario.

By Neal Gabler

Earlier this week, even before Hillary Clinton’s primary victory in California assured her the Democratic presidential nomination, the Associated Press had already declared her the presumptive nominee. Bernie Sanders and his supporters were sore, and they had a right to be.

Although the AP defended its decision, saying that Clinton’s crossing the delegate threshold was news and they had an obligation to report it when they did (the day before the clinching primaries) the timing and the circumstances were suspicious. It appears that AP had been hounding superdelegates to reveal their preferences, and blasting that headline just before those primaries threatened either to depress Sanders’ vote or Hillary’s or both because the contest was now for all intents and purposes over.

Paul Krugman: A Party Agrift

This is not a column about Donald Trump.

It’s not about the fraudulent scheme that was Trump University. It’s not about his history of failing to pay contractors, leading to hundreds of legal actions. It’s not about how he personally profited while running his casinos into the ground. It’s not even concerned with persistent questions about whether he is nearly as rich as he claims to be, and whether he’s ever done more than live off capital gains on his inheritance.

No, my question, as Democrats gleefully tear into the Trump business record, is why rival Republicans never did the same. How did someone who looks so much like a cheap con man bulldoze right through the G.O.P. nomination process?

An End of Power? The Weakening of the Transnational Ruling Class

By Cynthia Kaufman, Truthout | Book Review

We are entering a period where the social structures and mechanisms that have channeled and controlled power for the past few hundred years are shifting radically. In The End of Power, Venezuelan politician and former director of the World Bank, Moisés Naím, describes some serious ways in which the systems we have lived under for the past 50 years are becoming deeply unstable. In Europe and in the US, the political parties that have ruled nations since the end of World War II are crumbling before our eyes; dominant military forces are increasingly challenged by and unable to control small non-state actors; and small new companies are emerging with incredibly rapidity while older ones, once seen as the bedrocks of capitalism, sometimes crumble overnight.

The End of Power

Naím argues that three deep social transformations have undermined old barriers to new forces gaining power. He calls these transformations more, mobility and mentality. The fact that there are many more of us than there used to be has led to systems of control being overwhelmed. There are more people in the world, who are generally living longer and doing better than in past times. This is leading people all around the world to have rising expectations. "When people are more numerous and living fuller lives, they become more difficult to regimen and control," he writes.

Ralph Nader: It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over for Bernie Sanders

The Democratic candidate has many good reasons not to descend to the bended-knee posture of a toady

Ralph Nader

Quo Vadis, Senator Bernie Sanders? For months Sanders has scored higher in the national polls against Donald Trump, than Hillary Clinton, highlighting some of her drawbacks for the November showdown. Yet, with one primary to go next Tuesday in the colony known as the District of Columbia, the cries for him to drop out or be called a “spoiler,” are intensifying. Don’t you understand that you have been vanquished by Hillary? You must endorse her to unify the party.

No, Bernie has other understandings beyond his principled declaration in speech after speech that his campaign is going all the way to the Democratic Party Convention. Between the June 14th D.C. Primary and the July nominating convention, lots can happen. As Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” (The run-up to the primary is a perfect time for Sanders and Clinton to forcefully advocate for DC Statehood.)

Matt Taibbi: Democrats Will Learn All the Wrong Lessons From Brush With Bernie

Instead of a reality check for the party, it'll be smugness redoubled

Years ago, over many beers in a D.C. bar, a congressional aide colorfully described the House of Representatives, where he worked.

It's "435 heads up 435 asses," he said.

I thought of that person yesterday, while reading the analyses of Hillary Clinton's victories Tuesday night. The arrival of the first female presidential nominee was undoubtedly a huge moment in American history and something even the supporters of Bernie Sanders should recognize as significant and to be celebrated. But the Washington media's assessment of how we got there was convoluted and self-deceiving.

This was no ordinary primary race, not a contest between warring factions within the party establishment, á la Obama-Clinton in '08 or even Gore-Bradley in '00. This was a barely quelled revolt that ought to have sent shock waves up and down the party, especially since the Vote of No Confidence overwhelmingly came from the next generation of voters. Yet editorialists mostly drew the opposite conclusion.

Another Neocon Endorses Clinton, Calling Her '2016's Real Conservative' and 'the Candidate of the Status Quo'

James Kirchick joins a slew of right-wing pundits who support Clinton over Trump.

By Ben Norton

Wall Street has thrown its weight behind Hillary Clinton.

In addition, several members of the U.S. right-wing establishment have expressed support for her. Another neocon added his name to the pro-Clinton list on Thursday. James Kirchick penned an op-ed in the Daily Beast titled “Hillary Clinton Is 2016’s Real Conservative—Not Donald Trump.”

“Clinton is the candidate of the status quo, something that conservatives, by definition, are supposed to uphold,” Kirchick writes.

Experiment 'turns waste CO2 to stone'

By Jonathan Amos

Scientists think they have found a smart way to constrain carbon dioxide emissions - just turn them to stone.

he researchers report an experiment in Iceland where they have pumped CO2 and water underground into volcanic rock.

Reactions with the minerals in the deep basalts convert the carbon dioxide to a stable, immobile chalky solid.

Paul Krugman: Hillary and the Horizontals

I spent much of this politically momentous week at a workshop on inequality, where papers were presented on everything from the causes of wage disparities to the effects of inequality on happiness. As so often happens at conferences, however, what really got me thinking was a question during coffee break: “Why don’t you talk more about horizontal inequality?”

What? Horizontal inequality is the term of art for inequality measured, not between individuals, but between racially or culturally defined groups. (Of course, race itself is mainly a cultural construct rather than a fact of nature — Americans of Italian or even Irish extraction weren’t always considered white.) And it struck me that horizontal thinking is what you need to understand what went down in both parties’ nominating seasons: It’s what led to Donald Trump, and also why Hillary Clinton beat back Bernie Sanders. And like it or not, horizontal inequality, racial inequality above all, will define the general election.

Paul Krugman. VSP


Leaders should, I think, bring out the best in people: not just appeal to our better selves but get us to find better, more accurate answers and drive better solutions – that’s simply how you make things better. Of course, as Paul Krugman often notes, Republican talking heads often, if not always, get their analysis wrong. What I think is interesting and very disturbing is that Hillary Clinton is getting the same bad quality analysis and positions out of her supporters – chief among them is Krugman himself. Take this quote from a damning column on Bernie Sanders view on financial market reform:
“Many analysts concluded years ago that the answers to both questions were no. Predatory lending was largely carried out by smaller, non-Wall Street institutions like Countrywide Financial; the crisis itself was centered not on big banks but on “shadow banks” like Lehman Brothers that weren’t necessarily that big. And the financial reform that President Obama signed in 2010 made a real effort to address these problems. It could and should be made stronger, but pounding the table about big banks misses the point.”
– from Krugman’s “Sanders Over the Edge” column dated April 8, 2016

Thomas Frank: Anthem for Bummed Youth

As the Democratic primary campaign comes to a close, let us recall how strange and improbable it has been all along. Hillary Clinton started out as her party’s hand-picked standard-bearer, the baddest and brightest of the nation’s dominant political faction. No prominent Democrat (save Martin O’Malley) dared stand against her.

But when the mighty champion took the field—with the vast ranks of her company deployed out around her, with every tool and contrivance of political warfare at her disposal—the whole great gleaming Democratic host was nearly put to rout by an aged socialist from Vermont. It was like watching Napoleon’s Grande Armée be sent scurrying by the gang from F Troop.

The Koch Brothers Are Trying To Handpick Government Officials. We Have To Stop Them.


Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

On Wednesday, members of the Senate Finance Committee will vote on the nomination of Charles Blahous, a Republican, to serve a second term as a public trustee for Social Security. Mr. Blahous, a prominent opponent of Social Security and the architect of President George W. Bush’s efforts to privatize benefits, is part of an army of aggressive conservative ideologues groomed for government service and bankrolled by the Koch brothers. Their purpose is clear — to tilt the game in Washington ever further in favor of corporate special interests. The Senate should reject them.

For more than a decade, conservative activists like the Koch brothers have worked to distort our politics by using their vast corporate and personal wealth to rig the rules in Washington in favor of giant corporations like theirs. Their acidic influence on our elections is obvious, as far-right activists have exploited our broken campaign finance system to bankroll candidates who will espouse their rigidly pro-corporate, anti-government view.‎

A conservative environment makes conservatives happier

Life satisfaction depends on time and country

University of Cologne

Past studies have found that conservatives are happier than liberals. Dr. Olga Stavrova from the Institute of Sociology and Social Psychology (ISS) and Junior Professor Maike Luhmann from the Psychology Department at the University of Cologne were able to show in two studies that the positive effect of a conservative ideology on people also depends on the ideological orientation of their social surroundings.

If the dominant ideology in society is rather conservative, adherents of a conservative ideology tend to be happier than liberals. With decreasing social conservatism, the conservatives tended to forfeit their "satisfaction advantage." In the studies, the scientists used the data of 200,000 survey respondents from the USA and 92 countries around the world. The results of the studies will be published in the Journal of Research in Personality (Volume 63, August 2016, Pages 29-35).

This is our neoliberal nightmare: Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and why the market and the wealthy win every time

The rage driving our politics stems from cruelty of capitalism. So why do we vote for those who worship the market?

Over the last fifteen years, editors often asked me not to mention the word “neoliberalism,” because I was told readers wouldn’t comprehend the “jargon.” This has begun to change recently, as the terminology has come into wider usage, though it remains shrouded in great mystery.

People throw the term around loosely, as they do with “fascism,” with the same confounding results. Imagine living under fascism or communism, or earlier, classical liberalism, and not being allowed to acknowledge that particular frame of reference to understand economic and social issues. Imagine living under Stalin and never using the communist framework but focusing only on personality clashes between his lieutenants, or likewise for Hitler or Mussolini or Mao or Franco and their ideological systems! But this curious silence, this looking away from ideology, is exactly what has been happening for a quarter century, since neoliberalism, already under way since the early 1970s, got turbocharged by the Democratic party under the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and Bill Clinton. We live under an ideology that has not been widely named or defined!

This veggie is as good for the planet as it is for the body

By Katie Herzog

Move over, kale. There’s a hip new veggie in town, and this one isn’t just good for the body, it’s good for the world. Meet kelp.

Kelp, otherwise known as seaweed, has long been a staple of diets in Asia, but the kelp industry is catching on in North America as well. You can now spot it on grocery shelves, in hospitals, and in schools.

How political megadonors can give almost $500,000 with a single check

by Libby Watson

On May 17, Donald Trump announced an arrangement with the Republican National Committee (RNC) that will allow individuals to donate almost $500,000 each to a joint fundraising committee between Trump, the RNC and 11 state Republican parties. In 2012, Mitt Romney’s joint fundraising committee could only raise $135,000 from each individual. What happened in the last four years to make these numbers so much higher?

A couple of developments got us here. First, in 2014, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC that eliminated aggregate limits on donations. Before McCutcheon, an individual could donate a maximum of $123,000 to political candidates, PACs and parties in a single cycle. After McCutcheon, although contribution limits to each committee still apply, donors can give as much as they want overall. While they are still limited in how much they can give to each candidate and committee — a maximum of $2,700 to a campaign per election, $5,000 per year to a PAC, $33,400 per year to a national party committee, and so on — they can now give the maximum amounts to as many candidates and PACs as they want (if they have the cash and the inclination). That allows wealthy donors to give huge amounts overall.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Work Requirements Don’t Cut Poverty, Evidence Shows

BY LaDonna Pavetti

House Republicans will likely propose work req­­­uirements for safety net programs in their plan to address poverty, but the evidence indicates that such requirements do little to reduce poverty, and in some cases, push families deeper into it.

“First we will expect work-capable adults to work or prepare for work in exchange for receiving government benefits,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady said at a recent Committee meeting.[2] As they unveil their poverty plan tomorrow, Republicans will likely point to the 1996 welfare law, which requires cash assistance recipients to participate in work activities, as a basis for extending similar work requirements to other public benefit programs.

The land transfer movement’s great public-lands hoax

Idaho has sold off 40 percent of its state lands. Why would it do any different with formerly federal lands?

Brad Brooks

The disturbing thing about scams is that all too often they work. Some are easy to spot, like the foreign cousin you didn’t know you had who calls and needs cash wired immediately. Here in Idaho, the scam of the moment involves politicians trying hard to convince us that states should take control of public lands now managed by the federal government.

Like good used car salesmen, the legislators hawking this free-the-public-lands scam want you to believe that the deal is too good to walk away from. But a look under the hood reveals that the salesmen aren’t telling the whole story.

Most Dems Want Open Primaries: Poll

As more voters reject major political parties, some argue closed primaries mean disenfranchisement

by Nika Knight, staff writer

Amid new charges of an "undemocratic" presidential primary, over 60 percent of Democratic voters and Democratic-leaning voters assert that they want the party to hold open nominating contests, an NBC News/Survey Monkey poll released Tuesday found.

A majority of Republicans and voters leaning toward the Republican Party also prefer open primaries and caucuses.

Paul Krugman; A Pause That Distresses

Friday’s employment report was a major disappointment: only 38,000 jobs added, a big step down from the more than 200,000 a month average since January 2013. Special factors, notably the Verizon strike, explain part of the bad news, and in any case job growth is a noisy series, so you shouldn’t make too much of one month’s data. Still, all the evidence points to slowing growth. It’s not a recession, at least not yet, but it is definitely a pause in the economy’s progress.

Should this pause worry you? Yes. Because if it does turn into a recession, or even if it goes on for a long time, it’s very hard to envision an effective policy response.

Sanders campaign accuses Puerto Rico Dem officials of fraud

By Harper Neidig

Bernie Sanders’s campaign is accusing Puerto Rico’s Democratic Party officials of fraud in the territory’s presidential primary.

The campaign’s head of Hispanic voter efforts, Betsy Franceschini, told Caribbean Business in an interview that Sanders officials were initially denied access to prisons to help inmates vote.

Michael Hudson: Millions Around the World Fleeing from Neoliberal Policy

Posted on June 7, 2016 by Yves Smith

On the Real News Network, Michael Hudson gives evidence of the economic and lifespan cost of neoliberal policies.

The Real News Network transcripts are rough, and I’ve cleaned it up but forgive any errors that remain.

SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.

After decades of sustained attacks on social programs and consistently high unemployment rates, it is no surprise that mortality rates in the country have increased. A research team from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York has estimated that 875,000 deaths in the United States in the year 2000 could be attributed to clusters of social factors bound up with poverty and income inequality. According to U.S. government statistics, some 2.45 million Americans died in the year 2000, thus the researchers estimate means that social deprivation was responsible for some 36 percent of the total deaths that year. A staggering total.

Obama Administration Bars Release of Clinton's TPP Emails Until Post-Election

Response for FOIA request was 'abruptly' changed from spring 2016 to late November 2016

by Lauren McCauley, staff writer

While Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has publicly reversed her position on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), it remains unknown how much she helped advance, or even craft, the international trade deal while serving as U.S. Secretary of State—and the Obama administration appears interested in keeping it that way.

On Monday, International Business Times (IBT) senior editor David Sirota reported that the State Department is refusing to release correspondence between Clinton's State Department office and the United States Trade Representative related to the TPP until after the 2016 presidential election.

Two kinds of Medicare -- 2 kinds of patients? Findings may mean a lot for health policy

At end of life, traditional Medicare patients are more sick and frail than Medicare Advantage patients, new study shows

University of Michigan Health System

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Nearly one in three American senior citizens choose to get their government-funded Medicare health coverage through plans run by health insurance companies. The rest get it straight from the federal government.

But if health policy decision-makers assume the two groups are pretty much the same, they're mistaken, a new study finds.

And basing decisions on that assumption could skew the nation's efforts to improve care, and spend taxpayer dollars wisely, at the end of patients' lives, the researchers say. That's when one-quarter of Medicare spending happens.

Paul Krugman: The Id That Ate the Planet

On Tuesday the political arm of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of America’s most influential environmentalist groups, made its first presidential endorsement ever, giving the nod to Hillary Clinton. This meant jumping the gun by a week on her inevitable designation as the presumptive Democratic nominee, but the NRDC Action Fund is obviously eager to get on with the general election.

And it’s not hard to see why: At this point Donald Trump’s personality endangers the whole planet.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

401(k) Plan Has Been a Disaster for Black Workers (And a Wealth Transfer to Wall Street for Everyone Else)

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens

A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, shows that Black workers experienced devastating declines in their defined contribution plan balances (mostly 401(k) plans) between 2007 and 2013 – an experience not shared by White workers.

According to the GAO, Black working households’ median 401(k) balance declined by a stunning 47 percent between 2007 to 2013, the latest date for which data is available. The median balance for Black working households in 2007 stood at $31,100 versus $16,400 in 2013. To put that 47 percent decline into sharper focus, the GAO found that the 401(k) balance for White working households “did not change significantly over the same period.”

Obama Wanted to Cut Social Security. Then Bernie Sanders Happened.

Zaid Jilani

President Barack Obama endorsed an expansion of Social Security for the first time on Wednesday.

“We can’t afford to weaken Social Security,” he said during a speech on economic policy in Elkhart, Indiana. “We should be strengthening Social Security. And not only do we need to strengthen its long-term health, it’s time we finally made Social Security more generous, and increased its benefits so that today’s retirees and future generations get the dignified retirement that they’ve earned.”

The increased benefits, he said, could be paid for “by asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute a little bit more. They can afford it. I can afford it.”

How False Equivalence Is Distorting the 2016 Election Coverage

The media’s need to cover “both sides” of every story makes no sense when one side has little regard for the truth.

By Eric Alterman

On March 15, Donald Trump won Florida, North Carolina, Missouri, and Illinois, dispatching Marco Rubio’s campaign to the ash heap of history and giving every impression that he had become the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee. Hillary Clinton also did extremely well that day, taking Illinois, Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina. The New York Times gave its prime spot—the top-right corner of the paper’s front page—to a story headlined “2 Front-Runners, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Find Their Words Can Be Weapons.” Readers quickly learned, if they had missed it previously, that Trump frequently used words like “bimbo,” “dog,” and “fat pig” to refer to some of the women he didn’t like, and this had led to disapproval ratings among women that reached historic proportions. And what “weapons” did Clinton give her adversaries? During a recent speech in coal country, she had suggested that her support for sustainable, clean-energy jobs would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

To Pay for Subsidies to Massive Corporations, States Are Waging War on Poor Families

by Jake Johnson

To witness the consequences of a political system captured by and utterly subservient to the interests of organized wealth, take a quick look at the state of Oklahoma.

There we see the embodiment of the economic trends that have, over the past several decades, harmed working families and lifted the wealthiest: While providing a windfall of cash to special interests, particularly big oil, the state is cutting education and slashing funds allocated for the earned income tax credit, widely recognized as one of the more effective anti-poverty programs.

NASA satellite finds unreported sources of toxic air pollution

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Using a new satellite-based method, scientists at NASA, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and two universities have located 39 unreported and major human-made sources of toxic sulfur dioxide emissions.

A known health hazard and contributor to acid rain, sulfur dioxide (SO2) is one of six air pollutants regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Current, sulfur dioxide monitoring activities include the use of emission inventories that are derived from ground-based measurements and factors, such as fuel usage. The inventories are used to evaluate regulatory policies for air quality improvements and to anticipate future emission scenarios that may occur with economic and population growth.

'Illegitimate' Request Denied: GOP Gets Middle Finger for #ExxonKnew Ploy

Refusing to submit to House inquiry, environmental groups question whether committee is "operating properly" or just acting out a "partisan effort to protect fossil fuel companies."

by Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Environmental groups that have become targets of a Republican-led effort to insulate ExxonMobil against accusations of fraud and climate science suppression dug in a bit deeper on Wednesday by refusing to submit to a Congressional inquiry on the matter.

As Common Dreams previously reported, House Republicans with the Committee on Space, Science and Technology sent a letter (pdf) on May 18th to 17 attorneys general and eight environmental organizations—including, Greenpeace, and the Union of Concerned Scientists—claiming their #ExxonKnew effort amounted to a violation of climate deniers' First Amendment rights and demanding that they submit communications related to state investigations into Exxon Mobil.

That over-broad request had a deadline of noon on June 1.

The Highly Questionable Blueprint for Charter School Takeover in Your City or Region

Oakland, California, is the below-the-radar model to drain the public schools of their funding.

By Bill Raden

Last September’s sensational leak of the Great Public Schools Now Initiative, a half-billion-dollar plan to double the number of charter schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), sparked a firestorm of controversy. Citing the plan’s potentially crippling fiscal impact on a financially troubled district that already leads the nation in its number of charters (around 230), critics denounced the plan as “an outline for a hostile takeover” and “a declaration of war on public schools.”

The combination of public furor and the LAUSD school board’s unanimous repudiation of the initiative—which was quickly dubbed the “Broad Plan” after its sponsor, Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad—subsequently forced the nonprofit tasked with implementing it to beat a retreat in its rhetoric, if not its intent to transform half of Los Angeles’ public schools into charters.

Bernie Sanders Fights On: The Rolling Stone Interview

A defiant candidate on what he's trying to achieve

By Tim Dickinson May 31, 2016

Not even "the math" can spoil a Bernie Sanders rally. The democratic-socialist senator from Vermont has outperformed any rational expectation, building an insurgent campaign that has captured 20 states, propelled by more than $210 million in grassroots contributions, averaging under $30 a pop. But with each passing state election – including the ones he's winning by less-than-blowout margins – Sanders' long shot grows longer.

At a mid-May Sanders rally in Salem, Oregon, there's not a hint of gloom among the overflow crowd of 4,000 packing the National Guard Armory auditorium to roar for its champion. The vibe in Salem, Oregon's capital city, is Phish-show-meets-Portlandia. Fans wear FEEL THE BERN shirts emblazoned with the Grateful Dead's lightning-bolt logo – tweaked to give the skull Sanders' untamed hair and glasses.

The Untold Story Behind Saudi Arabia’s 41-Year U.S. Debt Secret

How a legendary bond trader from Salomon Brothers brokered a do-or-die deal that reshaped U.S.-Saudi relations for generations.

Andrea Wong

Failure was not an option.

It was July 1974. A steady predawn drizzle had given way to overcast skies when William Simon, newly appointed U.S. Treasury secretary, and his deputy, Gerry Parsky, stepped onto an 8 a.m. flight from Andrews Air Force Base. On board, the mood was tense. That year, the oil crisis had hit home. An embargo by OPEC’s Arab nations—payback for U.S. military aid to the Israelis during the Yom Kippur War—quadrupled oil prices. Inflation soared, the stock market crashed, and the U.S. economy was in a tailspin.

Officially, Simon’s two-week trip was billed as a tour of economic diplomacy across Europe and the Middle East, full of the customary meet-and-greets and evening banquets. But the real mission, kept in strict confidence within President Richard Nixon’s inner circle, would take place during a four-day layover in the coastal city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Paul Krugman: Feel the Math

This is my fifth presidential campaign as a New York Times columnist, so I’ve watched a lot of election coverage, and I came into this cycle prepared for the worst. Or so I thought.

But I was wrong. So far, election commentary has been even worse than I imagined it would be. It’s not just the focus on the horse race at the expense of substance; much of the horse-race coverage has been bang-your-head-onthe- desk awful, too. I know this isn’t scientific, but based on conversations I’ve had recently, many people — smart people, who read newspapers and try to keep track of events — have been given a fundamentally wrong impression of the current state of play.

Sanders, Brown Speak Out On Gunboat Diplomacy For Corporations

Dave Johnson

Members of Congress are weighing in against the U.S. government’s use of “gunboat diplomacy”-style intimidation of Colombia against that country allowing a generic version of an ultraexpensive cancer drug named Gleevec in order to protect the public’s health.

Meanwhile, a coalition of nonprofit groups sent a letter to President Obama on Friday expressing “great alarm” that the U.S. is considering withholding aid to Colombia because of its plan to allow the use of a generic competitor to Gleevec.

Heads Up Internet: Time to Kill Another Dangerous CFAA Bill

By Jamie Williams

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the federal “anti-hacking” statute, is long overdue for reform. The 1986 law—which was prompted in part by fear generated by the 1983 techno­thriller WarGames—is vague, draconian, and notoriously out of touch with how we use computers today. Unfortunately, Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Lindsey Graham are on a mission to make things worse. They've proposed (for the second time) legislation that fails to address any of the CFAA’s problems while simply creating more confusion. And they may try to sneak their proposal through as an amendment to the Email Privacy Act—the very same sneaky tactic they tried last year.

Their latest proposal is ostensibly directed at stopping botnets. It's even named it the “Botnet Prevention Act of 2016.”

Emails Show TPP 'Collusion' Between Big Banks & Obama Administration

Emails obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) show U.S. Trade Rep. Michael Froman discussing TPP with Goldman Sachs lobbyists

by Nadia Prupis, staff writer

A series of emails released Friday show what activists describe as "collusion" between U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Wall Street executives to push for the passage the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The emails, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the group Rootstrikers, which organizes against money in politics, include a message to Froman from a managing director at Goldman Sachs urging him to push for "robust commitments" on Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions—which allow private corporations to sue governments for perceived loss of profits—to be included in the divisive trade deal.

The Defense Department Is Ruining America: Big Budgets, Militarization and the Real Story Behind Our Asia Pivot

"Our defense contractors await your business." That was the message behind Obama and Carter's visits to Asia.

By Patrick Smith

You have to tip the cap to Defense Secretary Carter. People in Washington spin things as a matter of course, as Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s deputy national security advisor, just explained in that New York Times profile considered in this space a few weeks ago. The spin is the thing. But never mind all that. Ashton Carter spins aircraft carriers, and right before your eyes.

There he was last month, a few weeks before Obama’s current swing through Asia, on the flight deck of the John C. Stennis as it passed through a narrow strait in the South China Sea hard by the People’s Republic’s territorial waters, pronouncing in the somber tones these people favor that China is militarizing the western Pacific. The Stennis, you need to know, is a nuclear-powered supercarrier that forward-deploys for indefinite periods with a strike group of escort vessels attending it. It travels with eight squadrons of attack craft on its deck—25 to 30 fighter jets.

Is Your Local Public Library Run by Wall Street?

by Donald Cohen

What do 82 public libraries, a Texas beef processing company, and a string of Pizza Huts across Tennessee and Florida have in common?

They’re all managed by the same private equity firm.

Fifteen of those libraries are in Jackson County, Oregon, where public officials are starting to raise concerns over the firm’s ownership of the private contractor that manages them. Facing budget issues in 2007, the county contracted with Library Systems and Services (LS&S), the country’s largest library outsourcing company, to try to save money—but LS&S is owned by Argosy Private Equity, whose mission is to “generate outstanding returns” and “substantially grow revenues and profits” for the businesses it owns.

Anti-Choice Activists Using Location Services to Send Targeted Ads to Women in Abortion Clinics

Anti-choice activists are using smartphones to push propaganda to women seeking abortions.

By Elizabeth Preza

A new effort by anti-choice activists to target women seeking abortions just reached a brand-new level of creepy, according to an investigation by the reproductive health news site Rewire.

John Flynn, CEO of Boston-based Copley Advertising, discovered a way to use geotagging—the same technology that allows Uber cars to pick you up—to send targeted ads to women waiting inside Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics.

Even the IMF—the IMF!—Turns on Neoliberalism

New paper by three IMF economists finds that policies of capital account liberalization and austerity fuel inequality, which in turn hurts growth—"the very thing that the neoliberal agenda is intent on boosting."

by Andrea Germanos, staff writer

In what may be a sign of a "shifting zeitgeist," a new paper published this week by economists with the International Monetary Fund questions the very neoliberal policies the body has imposed.

Entitled "Neoliberalism: Oversold?" the IMF's Jonathan Ostry, Prakash Loungani, and Davide Furceri focus their analysis on two policies of what British writer George Monbiot dubbed the "zombie doctrine": "removing restrictions on the movement of capital across a country's borders (so-called capital account liberalization); and fiscal consolidation, sometimes called 'austerity,' which is shorthand for policies to reduce fiscal deficits and debt levels."

An evaluation of these two neoliberal policies, the authors write, leads to "three disquieting conclusions."

Secret Text in Senate Bill Would Give FBI Warrantless Access to Email Records

Jenna McLaughlin

A provision snuck into the still-secret text of the Senate’s annual intelligence authorization would give the FBI the ability to demand individuals’ email data and possibly web-surfing history from their service providers without a warrant and in complete secrecy.

If passed, the change would expand the reach of the FBI’s already highly controversial national security letters. The FBI is currently allowed to get certain types of information with NSLs — most commonly, information about the name, address, and call data associated with a phone number or details about a bank account.