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We Are Watching a Working-Class Revolt in West Virginia

March 13, 2018 in Blogs

By Amy Traub, The American Prospect

For years, states have cut school funding while reducing taxes on corporations. But teachers and workers are fighting back.

Sometimes, working people push back.

Faced with jobs that don’t pay enough to make ends meet, health-care costs that break the budget, and public services exposed to countless rounds of cutbacks despite a growing economy, working people will push back. And, like the teachers across the state of West Virginia who walked out on strike for nine days and won meaningful raises and a freeze in health costs for all the state’s public employees, working people who push back sometimes win.

The simple message that it’s possible to fight back and win is powerful. It is surely resonating with teachers in Oklahoma, who, like their counterparts in West Virginia, are among the most underpaid in the nation: They are preparing for their own statewide rebellion against the funding cuts that have harmed the education of Oklahoma’s children and left their teachers struggling to get by.

But the resonance should be wider: Data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities show that most states across the country cut school funding after the Great Recession, and the majority never fully restored their support. In 2015, 29 states were still supplying less overall funding per student than they provided in 2008. In many of the states with the largest cutbacks in school funding, policymakers steeply reduced taxes for corporations and the wealthiest residents even as they drained education budgets, undermining schoolchildren and the teachers and staff who work every day to support them.

School funding cuts are a key example of how corporate lobbyists and other wealthy interests have manipulated the rules of our economy to consolidate their own power and wealth at the expense of not just our schools, but our broader communities, and the quality of jobs for public and private-sector workers alike.

The ideology of corporate windfalls and public austerity is everywhere in our national politics, from the massive corporate tax cuts passed by Congress to the Trump administration’s budget proposals slashing the basic services Americans depend on.

In fact, the same day a resolution to the West …read more


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Twitter Spreads Lies and Conspiracy Faster Than Facts, Decade-Long Study Demonstrates

March 13, 2018 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

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An MIT team analyzed 126,000 tweets and threads with millions of views. But Twitter isn't unique.

The dark side of human nature is dominating the way politics is portrayed on social media, according to an unprecedented new study in Science that confirmed suspicions innuendo and conspiracies are outracing more humdrum facts and truth-telling on Twitter.

The Twitter study was conducted by a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and MIT Media Lab. It analyzed a decade of Twitter posts, focusing on 126,000 examples of false news spread by 2 million to 3 million people. The study noted how rumor spreads much faster than truth, and claims human nature, abetted by algorithms fanning those reflexes, is to blame.

“Falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information, and the effects were more pronounced for false political news than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends, or financial information,” the study authors found. “False news was more novel than true news, which suggests that people were more likely to share novel information. Whereas false stories inspired fear, disgust, and surprise in replies, true stories inspired anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust. Contrary to conventional wisdom, robots [fabricating online personas] accelerated the spread of true and false news at the same rate, implying that false news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.”

How much faster do rumors and false news spread on Twitter?

“False news reached more people than the truth; the top 1% of false news cascades diffused to between 1,000 and 100,000 people, whereas the truth rarely diffused to more than 1,000 people,” the study said. “Falsehood also diffused faster than the truth. The degree …read more


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Missouri Has Become a Magnet for Older Men Who Want to Marry Teenage Girls—and Some Are Their Rapists

March 13, 2018 in Blogs

By Brad Reed, Raw Story

With just one parent's signature, a 15-year-old can get married.

new report from the Kansas City Star shows that Missouri has become a haven for men over the age of 21 who are marrying underage girls who are as young as 15 years old.

According to the Star’s examination of state marriage records, more than 1,000 15-year-olds got married in Missouri from 1999 to 2015 — and of those teen marriages, “more than 300 married men age 21 or older, with some in their 30s, 40s and 50s.”

Given that Missouri law states that it is illegal for anyone 21 or older to have sex with teenagers under the age of 17, there is a good chance that the state has married hundreds of statutory rapists to their underage victims over the past two decades.

Missouri has also become a magnet for older men who want to marry teenage girls, as the law in that state only requires girls to get judicial permission to get married if they are under 15 — and it only requires one parent to sign off on the girl’s marriage for it to be considered valid.

Ashley Duncan, a 24-year-old resident of Steele, Missouri, tells the Star that she married her then-18-year-old boyfriend when he got her pregnant at age 15 because she was afraid that he would otherwise be sent to prison, even though he likely wouldn’t have run afoul of the state’s laws on statutory rape.

Duncan, who is technically still married to her former high school boyfriend despite having been separated from him for years, tells the Star that she hopes to see Missouri raise the age of marriage up to 18. In particular, she says that most women who get married at 15 are not emotionally mature enough to make such a major decision.

“I didn’t want my child’s father to go to jail,” she tells the Star. “I really thought that he loved me. I think I would have believed anyone who had said they loved me at 15.”



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Quick Stints and Worn Out Welcomes: The Shortest-Serving Presidential Staff

March 13, 2018 in History

By History Staff

White House Communications Director John Koehler. (Credit: Dennis Cook/AP Photo)

Sure, Rex Tillerson’s 13-and-a-half-month tenure as Secretary of State was kind of short. But he’s not the first top White House official to be kicked out early, especially in Donald Trump’s administration, which lost National Security Advisor Michael Flynn within the first month. Below are the White House employees with the shortest tenures in history. 

The quickest ouster of a communications director was less than one week.

In 1987, John O. Koehler resigned from his position as Ronald Reagan’s communications director after barely a week on the job. Just before he started, NBC News had reported that the German-born appointee was a member of Jungvolk, the Hitler Youth program, when he was 10 years old.

White House Communications Director John Koehler. (Credit: Dennis Cook/AP Photo)

The news soon became a public scandal with conflicting accounts. Koehler said he’d already told the White House about this during his security clearance, the White House asserted that it hadn’t known, and Reagan blamed his wife Nancy for a supposed oversight in his background check. Koehler began his post on Sunday, March 1 and was asked to resign on Saturday, March 7. However, his last official day in office was Friday, March 13, meaning he served 13 days.

The shortest term served for a communications director was less than two weeks.

Koehler may have had the shortest period between beginning his job and getting the boot, but Anthony Scaramucci narrowly beat him in terms of actual time served. The Trump administration forced Scaramucci out just 11 days after he started as communications director (the same position as Koehler’s), with his termination effective immediately.

Scaramucci was a polarizing figure from the very beginning of his tenure, which spanned from July 21, 2017 to July 31, 2017. One of the major factors in his downfall was an impromptu phone call he made to former New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza, during which Scaramucci threatened to fire his whole staff and made a colorful comment about White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon (less than a month later, Bannon also resigned<span …read more


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Ramping up Tariffs to Spite Trump Is Economic Self-Harm

March 13, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

It is not so much what Donald Trump did, but why he justified
doing it, that has got trade experts and US allies worried over the
past week.

In the grand scheme of things, the President’s decision to
impose tariffs of 25 per cent and 10 per cent on steel and
aluminium is not an economic catastrophe.

Sure, it amounts to mild self-harm for the US economy —
raising costs for downstream industries which, on net, could lead
to 146,000 fewer jobs and less productivity.

But there are many ruinous economic policies imposed by
governments around the world, and plenty of countries impose
tariffs. The EU alone has over 12,500, which have precisely the
same deleterious impacts.

Rather than fighting
producer-centric tariffs with producer-centric tariffs, it should
instead put EU consumers first.

No, it’s Trump’s claim that protection is needed for
national security reasons that has really riled everyone up —
especially EU leaders. Not only do they consider it nonsensical
(Canada is the number one exporter of these goods to the US) and
worry that Trump’s use of this justification risks similar
reasoning elsewhere in the world, but as the second biggest source
of US imports of both products combined, Brussels wants to protect
the economic interests of EU producers.

One can understand the grievance and sense of injustice. But so
far the EU’s petty producer-centric response risks making all
the talk of a “trade war” a self-fulfilling

Reacting to Trump’s announcement, EU Commission president
Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU could fight “stupid with
stupid”, targeting tariffs on US goods such as motorcycles,
jeans, and bourbon whiskey — all goods with major producers
in Republican areas.

The aim is to ramp up political pressure on Trump to abandon
them. But this seems a foolish, dangerous approach, both
economically and politically, living up to the stereotypical
anti-American caricature of continental Europeans, and misjudging
the President’s resolve.

From a rational economic perspective, both the US administration
and the EU should recognise that it is domestic consumers who
ultimately bear the majority of the cost of tariffs through higher
prices. If one focuses on this, rather than producer concerns, one
realises that a trade war entails both sides harming their own
economies to try to get the other to back down.

The economic conclusion is that the optimal response to a trade
partner imposing import tariffs is to keep your own trade free,
unless the threat of tariffs can be harnessed to deliver free trade
both ways.

In this case, Trump has made clear he is intent on steel and
aluminium tariffs come what may, as confirmed by his Treasury
secretary Steve Mnuchin and the resignation …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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How U.S. Westward Expansion Breathed New Life into Slavery

March 13, 2018 in History

By Daina Ramey Berry and Nakia D. Parker

Late 19th-century political cartoon showing injustices and cruelty to Native Americans, including the Cherokee, Shawnee and Delaware nations, by American railroad companies, politicians, federal courts and others. (Credit: Bettmann Archives/Getty Images)

Like most people uprooted by the Cherokee Trail of Tears, Eliza Whitmire experienced terrible trauma.

In 1830, the U.S. government passed the Indian Removal Act. Eliza was about five years old when more than 3,000 armed militia arrived in Cherokee country in 1838. The militia companies forced her, her family and her community to march more than 1,000 miles west—through Northern Georgia, across the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, to present-day Oklahoma.

Her mother described “the bitter memory” of “women and children…driven from their homes, sometimes with blows.” The sick, young and elderly sometimes rode in wagons, but the majority of the tens of thousands being displaced traversed the rugged territory on foot. Along the way, starvation posed a constant threat. It was a “time filled with horror and suffering for the unfortunate Cherokee and their slaves,” Eliza later recalled.

She and her family were among those slaves. Their removal story differs slightly from traditional “Trail of Tears” narratives because they were of African descent, enslaved and forcibly removed along with their Cherokee owners.

Eliza Whitmire’s story highlights the underreported complexities of slavery and the American frontier. Few historical narratives, for example, tell the story of a Georgia plantation owned and operated by Cherokee enslavers. And few chronicles of the frontier account for its human diversity. Often depicted as territory “discovered” and “tamed” by heroic white men, the frontier was, in many ways, America’s first melting pot. It was a place where indigenous people, and those of European, African and Mexican descent came into contact and tried to sort out their roles. And it was, for many who came there, a place shaped more by slavery than by freedom or opportunity.

Late 19th-century political cartoon showing injustices and cruelty to Native Americans, including the Cherokee, Shawnee and Delaware nations, by American railroad companies, politicians, federal courts and others. (Credit: Bettmann Archives/Getty Images)

To understand the story of enslavement in the West is to understand the history of land acquisition, cotton production and gold fever. Leaving coastal states in search of farmable land and natural resources, settlers pushed their way west—and once they crossed the Mississippi River—into newly acquired Louisiana and later Texas. The fever of Manifest Destiny, a term coined in 1845 by American journalist John O’ Sullivan, justified territorial expansion. White settlers believed it was their duty and right to conquer …read more