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Fox News' Charles Krauthammer Dies at 68

June 21, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Just a few weeks ago, he had announced that he only had a short time left to live.


Conservative commentator and contributor to Fox News Charles Krauthammer died Thursday at age 68, the network announced.

On June 8, Krauthammer has predicted that his death would be coming soon. In a Washington Post article, he wrote:

In August of last year, I underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in my abdomen. That operation was thought to have been a success, but it caused a cascade of secondary complications — which I have been fighting in hospital ever since. It was a long and hard fight with many setbacks, but I was steadily, if slowly, overcoming each obstacle along the way and gradually making my way back to health.

However, recent tests have revealed that the cancer has returned. There was no sign of it as recently as a month ago, which means it is aggressive and spreading rapidly. My doctors tell me their best estimate is that I have only a few weeks left to live. This is the final verdict. My fight is over.

The piece concluded:

I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.

He was an award-winning writer, securing a Pulitzer Prize for his commentary in the Post in 1987.

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Source: ALTERNET

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Trump's Family Separation Policy Has Officially Pushed American Support for Immigration to Record Highs

June 21, 2018 in Blogs

By Kerry Eleveld, Daily Kos

The president's evil political game has backfired.


Donald Trump's barbaric child separation policy appears to have not only raised the issue of immigration in the public discourse, but also engendered more sympathy for it among Americans. 

A record-high 75 percent of Americans, including majorities across all parties, say immigration is good for the nation, according the Gallup. That's a four-point increase since last year, while just 19 percent view immigration as bad for the U.S.

Additionally, solid majorities of both parties—85 percent of Democrats/leaners and 65 percent of Republicans/leaners—have a favorable view of immigration.

The nations' increasingly positive view of immigration appears to be one side of a coin that includes the public's overwhelmingly negative view of Trump's child stealing policy on the other side.

Not only have recent national polls shown two-thirds of Americans oppose separating families, the policy has also proven unpopular in states that have key midterms races this fall. 

On Wednesday, we noted the swift retreat of Senate Republicans on Trump’s barbarism and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, in particular. A new poll from University of Texas explains why Cruz suddenly experienced a conversion. Only 28 percent of Texas voters overall supported family separation while 57 percent opposed it. And while a plurality of Republican voters agreed with the policy at 46 percent versus 35 percent disagreeing with it, it played especially poorly to Republican women, writes the Texas Tribune:

On the Republican side, however, the differences are stark — and help explain why so many Republican politicians have shifted their positions since the separations became widely known. While 56 percent of Republican men favor splitting parents and children at illegal entry points on the border and 30 percent oppose it, a plurality of Republican women are against the practice: 37 percent favor it and 42 percent oppose it.

Those figures leave 21 percent of GOP women undecided as well—voters Cruz doesn't want to lose in a race where his Democratic challenger, Rep. Beto O'Rourke, has raised more than $6 million and has jumped on the family separation issue

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Source: ALTERNET

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Stealing Children from Their Parents Is Actually Very American — But We Can Change This

June 21, 2018 in Blogs

By Kelly Macias, Daily Kos

The horrific problem can't be solved until the truth is confronted.


Late Wednesday afternoon, Donald Trump signed an executive order to end the separation of immigrant families at the border—a practice that has received widespread condemnation and outrage across the country. Trump’s actions were met with praise by many who claimed that forcibly removing children from their asylum seeking parents or guardians and locking them in detention camps is fundamentally un-American. On social media and television, in conversations among friends, colleagues and family members and across media platforms, Americans proclaimed in horror that this behavior is simply “not who we are.” Moreover, a number of them concluded that our political climate has gotten so toxic that the country has become unrecognizable under Trump’s leadership. 

It is true that our political climate is toxic and divided. It has been slowly becoming that way for years and the 2016 presidential election, in particular, was a turning point that demonstrated this is no longer politics as usual. Many of us experienced first-hand how the election changed our relationships with people who we have known for years—people who suddenly seemed to hold, not just differing political views, but different core values altogether. 

But let’s be clear—this didn’t happen in a vacuum. Whether he lost the popular vote or not, America elected a president who campaigned on and supports white supremacist ideology. He began testing the political waters by questioning the birthplace and legitimacy of our first black president. His first words to announce his campaign for the highest office of this country were calling Mexicans rapists and criminals. He spoke of building walls to keep people out and of locking up his female political opponent. This behavior not only went unchecked—it was cheered on by millions and lauded as good, old-fashioned truth telling.

One of the very first things he did upon being sworn into office was enact a ban to prevent Muslims from abroad from entering the United States. He proceeded to end immigration relief for undocumented youth—young people who had been in the country for a minimum of 10 years. He called Haiti, African and Latin American countries “shitholes” and wondered why we couldn’t have more immigrants from Norway. He then proceeded to put forth an …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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We Now Have a Terrifying Militarized Law Enforcement System — And It's the Unavoidable Result of Living in a War Economy

June 21, 2018 in Blogs

By Ebony Slaughter-Johnson, Independent Media Institute

The proliferation of military weapons and gear corresponds to that of para-militarized law enforcement officers.


On June 5, a call came into the Broward County Sheriff's Office alleging an ongoing hostage situation at the family home of student activist David Hogg, a survivor of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Law enforcement officers arrived on the scene only to find no such situation: Hogg and his family had been swatted.

Swatting involves falsely reporting a crime, which leads to the deployment of heavily armed law enforcement officers, usually para-militarized Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams, who anticipate confronting violence. Hogg was not home, and was therefore unharmed, but previous swatting victims have not been so fortunate.

Just two months before, Hogg had gathered with an estimated 800,000 Americans in Washington, D.C., for the March for Our Lives on March 24, which was inspired by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to rally support for more stringent gun control policy. Among the specific policy objectives of the demonstration was to advocate for an assault weapons ban, like that which was enacted in 1994 but has since expired. The reasoning behind this current push for an assault weapons ban, as with the 1994 ban, endures: Civilians should be barred from possessing military-style weapons.

Had David Hogg been home, the swatting of his home might have been the second time in less than four months that his life had been threatened by an assault weapon. That’s too many encounters for an entire lifetime.

As this current gun control movement argues that the militarization of civilians is something to be avoided, perhaps it is also time to extend this same consideration to civilian law enforcement.

Treating Law Enforcement Like War

“Weapons of war have no place in our communities,” the March for Our Lives insisted. Yet, such weapons are scattered throughout and utilized in communities across America. And they include more than assault weapons.

With more than $5.4 billion in donated equipment from the Department of Defense’s 1033 Program and $34 billion in grants from the Department …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Trump 'Should Fire Stephen Miller Now': GOP Lawmaker Slams White House over 'Human Rights Mess'

June 21, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The fallout from Trump's disastrous policymaking continues.


Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) called out President Donald Trump on Thursday for his disastrous border policy and even called on the White House to fire a top adviser.

“I’m glad the President ended the border separation policy, but there’s more work to do,” Coffman wrote on Twitter. “I’m going to the border in TX myself this weekend to see the situation firsthand and learn more about what needs to get done.”

He continued: “The President should put a General, a respected retired CEO … or some other senior leadership figure on the job of making sure each and every child is returned to their parents.”

Many Republicans have voiced concerns about the president's “zero-tolerance” policy at the border which led to the separating of families and the detaining of young children and babies. If that was all Coffman has said, his comments may not have been particularly noteworthy.

But Coffman continued, noting that the president is responsible for the crisis he created and that he needs to start acting like it. 

“And the President should fire Stephen Miller now,” Coffman wrote. “This is a human rights mess. It is on the President to clean it up and fire the people responsible for making it.”

Miller is widely believed to be one of the most fervent defenders of anti-immigrant policy within the White House. He previously worked for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who spearheaded the launch of the new “zero-tolerance” prosecutions against families.

And according to a recent article in the Atlantic, Miller was happy that the policy led to a massive public backlash

“[For] Miller, the public outrage and anger elicited by policies like forced family separation are a feature, not a bug,” wrote McKay Coppins.

Coffman is right — when looking for people to fire over this mess, Miller is a good place to start.

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Angry Mexico

June 21, 2018 in Economics

By Juan Carlos Hidalgo, Ian Vásquez

Juan Carlos Hidalgo and Ian Vásquez

“Screw everybody.” That sentiment is propelling
Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as AMLO) to the
top of the polls by a wide margin in Mexico’s July 1st
presidential election. Mexicans are fed up with the grotesque
corruption of the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party
(PRI), the nightmarish levels of violence related to organized
crime, and a mediocre growth rate that is among the lowest in Latin
America. But instead of voting for a candidate with concrete policy
proposals to improve things, many Mexican voters seem to ready to
throw caution to the wind and say, “screw the
system—and everything else along with it.”

Mexico is not doing well, but it could end up much worse with
AMLO.

Mexico is not doing well,
but it could end up much worse with Andrés Manuel
López Obrador.

How much damage an AMLO presidency could bring is
anybody’s guess. Nobody knows exactly what to expect from an
AMLO administration. His proposals are a collection of notions with
few details and plenty of contradictions. Among them is the goal of
reaching national self-sufficiency in the energy sector. This would
imply a reversal of the reform that recently opened the oil and gas
industry to foreign investment, as well as expanding the failed
state-owned oil company in a country that imports 70% of the
gasoline it consumes. He also promises to pursue agricultural
self-sufficiency, without explaining how to achieve such a goal
without increasing the cost of living for Mexicans or conflicting
with Mexico’s trade agreements. As for the epidemic of drug
violence, he plans to invite Pope Francis to chair a committee to
look for solutions.

Although AMLO’s platform is nebulous, his personality is
well known: he is nationalist, revanchist, and messianic. There are
reasons to fear that an AMLO administration would be authoritarian
in nature. “I think López Obrador doesn’t value
liberty
,” states historian Enrique Krauze. He observes
how AMLO “mocks, insults, offends, and discredits the members
of the media, the journalists, or the intellectuals who criticize
him.” To paraphrase the celebrated Mexican writer, Octavio
Paz, Mexico under AMLO would be ruled “according to the
prince’s mood and the whims of the hour;” one day he
behaves like Brazil’s moderate former president Lula da
Silva, and the next he acts like Venezuela’s radical
socialist leader Hugo Chávez. AMLO insists he is a moderate, but he
has also made it clear that he wants to transform his country, not
just keep the presidential seat warm. President Donald
Trump’s anti-Mexican rhetoric has only exacerbated
AMLO’s nationalist agenda.

The worldview of this “tropical Messiah”—to
use Krauze’s term—is quite simple. All of
Mexico’s problems are the result …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Trump Wants to Merge the Education and Labor Departments — It's a Small Start

June 21, 2018 in Economics

By Neal McCluskey

Neal McCluskey

So the Trump administration wants to merge the Education and Labor Departments,
which would, at least officially, end the U.S. Department of
Education. Should we be celebrating and preparing for an all-out
blitz to get this done? After all, isn’t it what
Constitution- and local-control-loving Americans have been calling
for
since the Education Department was created to appease the National
Education Association
back in 1979?

The public must come to
understand that all that money-spending, service-providing, and
rule-making that sounds so good is actually either ineffective, or
often straight-up damaging.

Sort of.

The good news, were a merger to occur, would be that education
would become just a part of a bigger Cabinet-level agency, lowering
its profile in the federal bureaucracy. In that regard, it would
return to something of the pre-department days when it was a chunk
of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, diluting
its presence on the national stage and in the White House. A
standalone cabinet-level agency was the sort of presence that the
National Education Association (both in its union and non-union
manifestations) wanted — more influence can be pedaled from
your own agency than one you’ve got to share with other
interests.

So, merging the Education Department with the Labor Department
would be a good thing, but hardly transformative.

Unless a whole lot of programs are eliminated — inflation
and waste-fueling
college student aid programs
, micromanagement-driving
federal funding for K-12 education
— most of the
unconstitutional
, expensive problems will continue. And the
administration’s plan says it “would merge all of the
existing DOL and ED programs into a single department.” So
bad programs may not grow quite as quickly with education-interest
influence slightly reduced, and they might be a bit easier to trim,
but most of the damage will still be inflicted.

If we want powerful change to happen, we cannot be satisfied
with some reshufflings, on the off-chance that it even gets done
(there’s no sign that Congress wants to take on
reorganizations that will launch blistering bureaucratic turf
wars). No, the public must come to understand that all that
money-spending, service-providing, and rule-making that
sounds so good — who could be against
“investing” and “doing” more for children
and education? — is actually either ineffective, or often
straight-up damaging. And that means continuing to do the hard,
persistent work of letting the public know that all this
great-sounding stuff isn’t so great after all. Indeed,
it’s often pretty bad and needs to be completely
eliminated.

Neal
McCluskey
is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway
Confidential blog. He is the director of …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Here's a Plan to Fight High Drug Prices That Could Unite Libertarians and Socialists

June 21, 2018 in Economics

By Charles Silver, David A. Hyman

Charles Silver and David A. Hyman

President Donald Trump and Secretary of Health and Human
Services Alex Azar recently introduced American Patients First, a complicated plan
intended to make prescription drugs more affordable. It includes
many ideas and suggestions, such as requiring drug makers to put
the list prices of their products in their advertisements and
“working across the administration to assess the problem of
foreign free-riding.” A few commentators think the plan will
materially reduce prices, but we are skeptical.

The plan is a response to bipartisan outrage over drug prices,
which have risen dramatically in recent years. The stories about
Daraprim, the drug that made Martin Shkreli infamous when he jacked
its per-pill price from $13.50 to $750, and the EpiPen, which put
Mylan Pharmaceutical in the spotlight when it raised the price of a
two-pack from $100 to $600, are probably the best known. But prices
have increased for hundreds or thousands of drugs at rates far
exceeding the pace of inflation.

Consider Xyrem, a drug for narcolepsy made by Jazz
Pharmaceuticals, whose price rose 841 percent over seven years. The price for a
twin-pack of Evzio, the naloxone injectors made by Kaleo
Pharmaceuticals that are used to treat opioid overdoses, went from $690 to $4,500 in a year. Price hikes
for insulin have caused a nationwide panic among diabetics. The list of examples is
seemingly endless.

Rising prices mean, of course, that we’re spending more on
drugs. Americans handed over $457 billion for prescription drugs in
2015 and are on pace to increase that amount by 6.7 percent every
year through 2025 — far, far faster than salaries will rise.
Is it any wonder the pharma sector regularly outperforms the
broader stock market?

First, attack monopolies.
Second, replace patents with prizes.

Some conservatives defend this system on free-market grounds,
arguing that any measure that reduces drug company profits will
necessarily reduce innovation. But we are firm believers in the
free market, and we think the system is a mess. It is deformed by
monopolies and by misguided incentives tied to the payment
system.

Because it is such an obviously ungainly monster, the goal of
reforming this system has the potential to break down some
political walls: Although we are affiliated with the libertarian
Cato Institute, we find ourselves agreeing with Sen. Bernie
Sanders, for instance, that the government should experiment with a
prize system instead of awarding patents to drug companies.

Monopolies are at the heart of the problem

Why do drug prices keep going up? For branded drugs, the short
answer is that patents …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Why the Left Overlooks the Trump-Kim Summit Positives

June 21, 2018 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

There should be a pervasive sense of relief that tensions on the
Korean Peninsula have eased dramatically, culminating in the
surprisingly cordial atmosphere of the Singapore summit between
Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Instead, much of
the reaction among Trump’s liberal critics has consisted of
sneering and sniping at the results of that
meeting. It is another unfortunate manifestation of America’s
increasingly dysfunctional political culture. Worse, such a
knee-jerk, ideological response can undermine prospects for a
lasting, beneficial change in the acrimonious relationship between
the United States and North Korea that has plagued the
international community for decades.

Critics level various dubious objections regarding the summit.
One is that Kim emerged as the clear winner from the talks. Some of
the same people who denounced Trump just a few months ago as an
unhinged warmonger who would plunge the Korean Peninsula into
unimaginable bloodshed now depict him as an ill-prepared amateur
that the wily North Korean easily conned.

The United States afforded Kim a huge boost in prestige, the
argument goes, by affording him a face-to-face meeting with the
president and treating him as an equal. “In his haste to
reach an agreement, President Trump elevated North Korea to the
level of the United States while preserving the regime’s
status quo,” intoned House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. Other congressional Democrats
were equally caustic. “What the United States has gained is
vague and unverifiable at best,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck
Schumer groused. What North Korea has gained “is
tangible and lasting.”

Such a knee-jerk, ideological response can undermine prospects for
a lasting, beneficial change in the acrimonious relationship
between the United States and North Korea that has plagued the
international community for decades.[/pullquote

Progressives seemed at least as upset as conservative hawks that
Trump promised to suspend the annual joint U.S.-South Korean
military exercises—a major objective of Pyongyang for
decades—and indicated that Washington hoped to withdraw its
forces someday. Regarding the war games, MSNBC’s Rachel
Maddow typified the left-of-center press reaction, accusing the
president of a “ giveaway to North Korea.”

Washington supposedly received nothing of substance for such
appeasement. North Korea made no concessions on its nuclear and
missile programs or much of anything else, critics allege. Trump,
they contend, should have insisted on meaningful policy changes
from Pyongyang even before agreeing to the meeting, or at the very
least, as provisions in the joint statement that emerged from the
summit.

Such objections are wrong on two counts. First, Pyongyang did
make some significant concessions. Not only did Kim explicitly
reiterate that the ultimate result of negotiations would be the
complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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How Trump's Dangerous and Misguided Trade War Could Reshape the American Diet

June 21, 2018 in Blogs

By Reynard Loki, Independent Media Institute

Tariffs on imports and exports could lead to increased food prices.


During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump made his protectionist views clear, saying that, if elected, he would renegotiate trade deals. He slammed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as “the worst trade deal the U.S. has ever signed.” He also criticized the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), saying it was “the death blow for American manufacturing” and that it “put[s] the interests of foreign countries above our own.”

Just three days after entering the White House, Trump withdrew the U.S. from the TPP. A few months later, his administration drafted an executive order to withdraw from NAFTA, which is currently being renegotiated.

Then in March, President Trump's attack on trade continued when he announced a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports, tweeting, “We want free, fair and SMART TRADE!” The legal basis for such tariffs, the administration claimed, was national security.

EU leaders scoffed at the idea of tariffs. “The EU and U.S. are friends and partners,” said European Council President Donald Tusk, who chaired an EU summit last month in Bulgaria to discuss the tariffs. “Therefore U.S. tariffs cannot be justified on the basis of national security. It is absurd to even think that the EU could be a threat to the United States.”

While Trump's plan could benefit some steelworkers who have been negatively impacted by the massive expansion of China's production over the past two decades, the fact is that American workers in industries that consume steel far outnumber those in steel production. As of January, Business Insider reports, only 415,000 Americans worked in primary-metal manufacturing (which includes steel and aluminum) and metal-ore mining.

<p …read more

Source: ALTERNET