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Two Top Scott Pruitt Aides Just Quit Their EPA Jobs As Corruption Scandals Continue to Mount

June 6, 2018 in Blogs

By David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement

Underlings continue to pay the price for the unapologetically corrupt boss.

It doesn't get any more Trumpian than this.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is mired in scandals. At least 10 new ones last month, and at least 15 through April. Call it a few dozen just to make it easy.

What's not easy apparently is keeping your job if you work for Pruitt. Those who are accused of carrying out his likely law-breaking direction are the ones paying the price for their boss's unethical and likely illegal acts.

“Two of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt's closest aides at the agency resigned on Wednesday,” CNN reports, citing an EPA official. “Sarah Greenwalt, a senior counselor to Pruitt, and Millan Hupp, who worked as Pruitt's scheduling director, both resigned on Wednesday.”

Hupp was recently in the news, just this week, after the Washington Post reported she had worked to arrange a meeting between her boss and the head of Chick-fil-A. That meeting was billed as a “business opportunity” and came via official EPA email. In reality, Pruitt was trying to get his wife a Chick-fil-A franchise.

He brazenly and fully admits it, but says it's OK because she's “an entrepreneur.” (It's not. It's likely illegal.)


“According to one top EPA official,” The Atlantic adds, Hupp, “was 'tired of being thrown under the bus by Pruitt,' and weary of seeing her name constantly appear in headlines about the agency.”

Hupp “recently testified to the House Oversight Committee that she regularly spent her days doing personal tasks for Pruitt, from hunting for housing to calling the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., in order to inquire about purchasing a used mattress.”

CNN notes that “Hupp and Greenwalt were also the two aides who were set to receive Pruitt-approved pay raises despite the White House's refusal to sign off on the raises.”

Scott Pruitt is still employed by the Trump administration.

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Even Fox News Is Now Trolling Trump's Most Corrupt Cabinet Member

June 6, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

When a Republican loses Fox News' support, it's usually not a good sign…

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has faced extensive criticism across the board for his excessive spending and apparent corruption, but a new line of criticism came from a surprising place.

In a tweet from Fox News Research, the network's information and analysis team, the outlet laid out a list of the scandals and Pruitt has faced thus far and the prices associated with them.

To top it off, it dubbed the EPA the “Expensive Pruitt Agency”: 

The tweet notes some of Pruitt's most egregious scandals, including the fact that he paid $50 a night for a condo — well below market rate — from the wife of a lobbyist who had business before the EPA. It also cites the $43,000 phone booth he had installed in his office and the $3.5 million he spent on his personal security, even while the evidence of extensive threats against him appears thin. 

Anyone can send a trolling tweet, but a Republican Cabinet member has to feel hurt receiving this kind of treatment from Fox News.

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'These Text Messages Are Explosive': Avenatti Details Why Stormy Daniels' New Lawsuit Could Be Disastrous for Cohen

June 6, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The porn star suing the president brought new charges against his fixer on Wednesday.

Stephanie Clifford, better known as porn star Stormy Daniels, brought a new lawsuit today against President Donald Trump's lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen. She alleges that Cohen colluded with her previous lawyer, Keith Davidson, in her negotiations over a hush money agreement she signed to keep quiet about an affair she says she had with Trump.

Michael Avenatti — Clifford's new lawyer — took to MSNBC's “Deadline: White House” on Wednesday to explain the accusations made in the new lawsuit. The court filing includes text messages that allegedly show a close relationship between Cohen and Davidson and coordination between the two on Clifford's media strategy.

“It is one of the largest sins you can engage in as an attorney,” Avenatti told host Nicolle Wallace. “These text messages are explosive.”

The messages show that Davidson and Cohen allegedly communicated about Clifford appearing on Fox News with Sean Hannity — who happens to be another of Cohen's clients.

“Keith Davidson, instead of representing Stormy Daniels, was more interested in colluding with his 'pal' — as one of the text messages notes — Michael Cohen, and was more interested in assisting Michael Cohen and Donald Trump in basically lying to the American people about what happened,” Avenatti said, who added that he believes Trump knew about this coordination.

“These text messages show that the prior denials by Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen relating to what Mr. Trump knew and about the honesty of my client were absolute lies,” Avenatti said in a separate statement. “There was a significant cover-up here as part of an attempt to deceive the American people and Mrs. Trump and we intend on getting to the bottom of it.”

Davidson has denied the charges and says Avenatti has only brought them up to distract from his own personal baggage.

Watch the clip below:

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Veteran Sports Reporter Explains Trump's Decades-Long Grudge Against the NFL — And Why 'Everything He Touches Turns to Sh*t’

June 6, 2018 in Blogs

By Elizabeth Preza, AlterNet

Donald Trump claims his fight against the NFL is about respect for the flag. Sports writer Jeff Pearlman details why “there's so much more here than you think.”

Sports reporter Jeff Pearlman, a former Sports Illustrated writer and author of the upcoming book Football for a Buckon Tuesday detailed the origins of Donald Trump’s “hostile relationship with the National Football League”—and explained how the president’s obsession with joining the “Big Boy’s Club” sank the United States Football League.

In a video posted to Perioscope, Pearlman examined the historical roots of Trump’s grudge against the NFL, noting “there’s so m much more here than you think.”

According to Pearlman, who interviewed 400 people for his new book on the USFL, said Trump’s beef with the NFL dates back to the early 1980’s, when the Baltimore Colts were for sale. Pearlman said Trump wanted to buy the Colts, but the Irsay family had “zero interest” in selling to him. Referencing Trump’s oft-repeating claim he “almost bought the Colts,” Pearlman called that assertion “factually untrue.”

“The NFL had a very negative sort of feel for Trump at the time,” Pearlman said, noting the commissioner knew Trump’s reputation in New York real estate was “pretty slimy” and suspected Trump “didn’t have that much money.”

Trump eventually signed on to join the USFL, a spring football with regional drafts that Pearlman described as a “really good idea.” At the last minute, Trump backed out, calling the other owners to tell him it’s “not gonna happen, I’m out.” An Oklahoma oil man J. Walter Duncan agreed to buy the team to fill the void left by Trump.

As Pearlman explained, Duncan sold the New York Generals to Trump (who overpaid for the team by $2 million) and began telling the other owners how excited he was to be a part of the league.

Suddenly, upon joining the league, Trump demanded the USFL switch to playing in the fall, telling the other owners the league has to battle head-to-head with the NFL. Pearlman said the other owners greeted Trump with a collective “what the f*ck are you talking about?”

As …read more


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Sleeping Too Much or Too Little Could Increase Your Risk of Death and Dementia: Study

June 6, 2018 in Blogs

By Chris Sosa, AlterNet

More research is needed to determine the relationship between sleep quality and quantity.

A new study from Kyushu University in Japan sheds additional light on the relationship between sleep time and the risk of both early death and dementia.

People who slept fewer than five hours or over 10 hours showed substantially elevated risk of early death and dementia than others.

Newsweek reports of the study:

Their study involved 1,517 elderly people without dementia in a Japanese community. The individuals were part of a group screened for dementia prospectively in the decade following 2002. Of the total participants, 294 developed dementia, and 282 died.

The individuals were asked to report how long they slept, and were categorized into five groups. Those who slept for fewer than five hours; between five and 6.9; seven to 7.9; eight to 9.9; and over 10.

The study also found that the consumption of sleeping pills increased risk of dementia and death while physical activity decreased risk.

Further study is needed to better illuminate the relationship between sleep time and sleep quality.

Dr. James Pickett, head of research at the U.K.-based Alzheimer’s Society, told Newsweek that “researchers at the [U.K.] Dementia Research Institute are looking at this relationship, delving not only into the importance of quality versus quantity of shut-eye, but also what happens in our brains when we get a good night’s rest.”

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A Prison-Reform Bill Passed the House 360–59. It’ll Probably Die in the Senate

June 6, 2018 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

Imagine legislation that was drafted with the help of
presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and, unsurprisingly,
supported by President Trump himself. Imagine that this same bill
is supported by such stalwarts of “The Resistance” as
the Urban League and the Equal Justice Initiative, and also backed
by prominent conservative groups such as FreedomWorks and the Faith
and Freedom Coalition. The Koch brothers and Grover Norquist are
advocates, and so is liberal commentator Vann Jones. In fact,
imagine a bill so bipartisan that it passed even this deeply
divided House on a 360-59 vote.

That legislation would be the “FIRST STEP Act,” a
prison-reform bill. And, this being Washington in 2018, it is
almost certainly not going to become law. Indeed, it looks doubtful
that the Senate will even vote on it.

The FIRST STEP Act is hardly radical. It doesn’t reduce
inmate sentences or otherwise deal with the intensely punitive
approach to justice that has given the United States the
world’s largest per capita prison population. Nor does it
remedy the ongoing racial issues that continue to infect our
criminal-justice system.

Instead, it would make a number of extremely modest humanitarian
reforms to the way we treat prisoners. For example, it would make
female health products more available in federal prisons and all
but end the practice of shackling female inmates during childbirth.
It would try to keep inmate families together by expanding visits,
phone privileges teleconferencing, and opportunities to transfer to
prisons closer to home. It would increase mental-health and
substance-abuse treatment for inmates.

One has to wonder if
congressional dysfunction has reached a breaking point.

It would also provide a modest $250 million over five years for
new inmate-education and -rehabilitation programs, and establish
incentives (including time credits) for prisoners to participate.
Prisons would also be required to conduct “risk
assessments” of soon-to-be-released inmates and to tailor
programs to meet these inmates’ needs.

Over the long run, most experts believe the legislation would
save money. For example, studies have shown that every dollar spent
providing needed mental-health and substance-abuse treatment to
inmates ultimately saves taxpayers $1.27 to $5.47 in reduced crime
and incarceration costs. One should always be skeptical of claims
that government spending will save money, but this initiative
clearly passes the common-sense test. Similarly, keeping families
together is likely to reduce future welfare costs as well as crime.
And since nearly all prisoners will eventually be released,
programs to reduce recidivism are also likely to prove

So why is such a modest and humane bill almost certain to

In part, the FIRST STEP Act is a victim of the infighting and
turf protection that helps explain Congress’s 18 percent
favorability …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Washington's Dangerous Fixation on Iran

June 6, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

United States President Donald Trump appears to worry a lot
about Iran, a concern that is shared by his secretary of state and
national security adviser. They were so worried about a nuclear
Iran that they revoked the international agreement known as the
Iran deal, which was supposed to prevent Tehran from developing
nuclear weapons. Instead, Trump now demands Iran’s de facto
surrender. However, the administration is so far is backed only by
Israel and Saudi Arabia, which want America to do their dirty

Why is the Trump administration so fearful of Tehran? Iran is a
struggling regional power. It lags well behind its competitors in
economic and military clout. Even its greatest enemy, Saudi Arabia,
dismisses the Islamic Republic as being no match.

Additionally, Iran clearly is not in America’s league. The U.S.
has a vastly bigger economy, far more powerful military, the
globe’s dominant culture and is allied with most of the
industrialized world—at least until President Donald Trump
initiated a misguided trade war against Washington’s allies.

Nor does the Middle East matter much to America anymore. The
U.S. is becoming the world’s leading energy producer, and other
sources are being developed, diminishing the importance of the
region’s oil. Israel has become a regional superpower and is
cooperating with Saudi Arabia, eliminating their need for
Washington’s protection. What little remains of the Islamic State
should be left to those it threatened- virtually every other state
in the region. Furthermore, Syria is a tragedy that is mostly best
left to its neighbors.

Instead of treating Iran
as the locus of all evil, Washington needs to develop a more
balanced policy for the region.

Even claims that Iran is a terrorist state aren’t true, at least
in the usual sense that most Americans understand. Instead,
Washington complaints are about Iran’s support for Hezbollah and
Hamas, two quasi-governments which periodically battle Israel.

Would it be better if Tehran cut off its support for them? Of
course, but what Middle Eastern power doesn’t meddle in the affairs
of others? The list of Middle East actors that have acted up and
intervened in each other’s affairs is a long one.

Israel routinely bombs Syria, having blown up that nation’s
nuclear reactor and more recently having targeted Iranian forces
fighting on behalf of the Syrian government. Israel also
assassinated a Hamas operative in Dubai while maintaining the more
than half a century-long occupation of Palestinian territories.

Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen, sent troops to Bahrain to support
their dictatorial monarchy, sent money to Egypt to help their
dictatorial military regime, backed efforts to overthrow Syria’s
Bashar al-Assad and even kidnapped Lebanon’s prime minister. Riyadh
also continues …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Pharmacy Benefit Managers Are Not the Cause of High Prescription Drug Prices

June 6, 2018 in Economics

By Ike Brannon

Ike Brannon

The press has found no shortage of villains for the high cost of
prescription drugs today. While the pharmaceutical companies
typically receive the lion’s share of the blame, of late the
Pharmacy Benefit Managers have come under fire for their supposed
role in high drug prices.

Pharmacy Benefit Managers work on behalf of health insurance
companies to help them negotiate prices with the pharmaceutical
companies, and the price breaks they obtain typically come in the
form of rebates paid to the companies.

Some aver that the rebates solely benefit the health insurance
companies, that they do nothing to reduce drug prices, and that
they should be abolished. Even Scott Gottlieb, the FDA
commissioner, has suggested that Congress consider legislation that
would limit rebates in some way.

However, blaming the system of rebates for high drug prices
completely misdiagnoses the prescription drug market, and
eliminating them would accomplish nothing. In a recent
I wrote with Tony Lo Sasso of the University of Illinois
at Chicago, we argue that tying the hands of PBMs could very well
raise drug prices.

Pharmacy Benefit Managers arose simply because there was a
lacuna in the healthcare market: put simply, nothing constrained
the price of prescription drugs; Doctors would prescribe the drugs
they thought necessary, pharmaceutical companies would charge
whatever they wishes for drugs still on patent, and the insurance
companies would foot the bill without any real recourse other than
to raise their prices the following year.

Pharmacy Benefit Managers do two principal things: First, they
negotiate prices for on-patent drugs. The high prices reported for
new drugs are appropriately shocking, but those are not what
insurance companies pay: they frequently negotiate a steep
discount, which in turn allows insurance companies to keep premiums

The second thing PBMs do is encourage competition in the drug
market. They steer doctors to prescribe generic equivalents or
other substitutes when available. For instance, while many
activists decry the production of “me too” drugs that
merely seek to duplicate existing drugs, rather than spending
resources developing new drugs for other illnesses, such drugs
allow PBMs to put pressure on the pharmaceutical company that makes
the original drug to lower its prices.

The recent plethora of drugs that cure Hepatitis C bear this
out: When Gilead put out Sovaldi at a list price of $84,000, the
brunt of the media attention was not on the amazing accomplishment
of curing an illness that had heretofore been incurable absent a
liver transplant, but on the enormous cost. However, that list
price was not anywhere near what insurance companies paid,
precisely because of PBMs, and as other companies introduced their
own Hepatitis C drugs—anxious to …read more

Source: OP-EDS