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Did the NRA Change Leadership Because of Russian Spy Scandal?

August 3, 2018 in Blogs

By Mark Sumner, Daily Kos

Weeks after being raided by federal agents, the gun organization named new leadership.

Alleged Russian spy Maria Butina started her move on U.S. politics by forming the pro-gun group “Right to Bear Arms” in Russia. That the group didn’t exist, wouldn’t have been permitted by Russian law, and that even the name shows the whole thing was created for an American (not Russian) audience doesn’t seem to have bothered anyone. Republican political strategists welcomed the Russian operative and took her straight to the NRA, where she was immediately besties. But Butina may not have just used the NRA as her patsy and potential pass-through for Russian funds inbound to the Trump campaign: she may have shaped their new leadership.

As Mother Jones reports, the NRA has always been a very conservative organization when it comes to leadership—conservative in the sense that the leadership is selected from those who have done years in the lower ranks of the organization, and a new president is selected only after the contender has done at least two terms in the VP role. Except for this time.

In May, the NRA reported that they were bringing in noted gun runner and liar Oliver North, whose illegal distribution of heavy weaponry apparently entitled him to jump the line. The current president of the NRA, Peter Brownell, announced that he wouldn’t seek a second term. The current vice president, Richard Childress, was bypassed. Why this sudden deviation from the leadership ladder the NRA had followed for decades?

Mother Jones speculates it has to do with something that happened a week before North was announced and Brownell went for the exit. Because at the end of April, the FBI raided the home of Butina. And Butina wasn’t just the NRA’s friend. She was Brownell’s friend, too.

With the FBI poking around Butina’s office, having the guy who accompanied her to Moscow at the top of the NRA ticket may have suddenly seemed … inconvenient.

Butina introduced Brownell to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who was on the sanctions list instituted after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. It was Rogozin’s job to boost sales of Russian-made weapons overseas. That made Butina’s …read more


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Do Fair Trade Labels Actually Mean Anything?

August 3, 2018 in Blogs

By Valerie Vande Panne, Independent Media Institute

How to know if what you’re purchasing helps that poor person of color in the brand’s marketing.

If you consider yourself a conscious consumer, you might have stood before the chocolate section at your Whole Foods, reading label after label of “fair trade” logos, and wondered, what the heck do all these different certifications mean?

If you asked yourself that—you’re correct to wonder. There are dozens of “fair trade” logos slapped on products, and some are as empty as you might suspect.

But there are some certifications that do mean something, like no child labor was used in the creation of the product (ahem, fast fashion brands like Adidas and H&M).

Here’s a basic primer on “fair trade” to help you shop smarter, and bring more meaning to your purchases.

What “Fair Trade” Usually Means

We say “usually” because, well, merely using the words doesn’t mean the company adheres to all the principles of fair trade. According to Fair World Project, the principles of fair trade are:

  • Long-Term Direct Trading Relationships
  • Payment of Fair Prices
  • No Child, Forced or Otherwise Exploited Labor
  • Workplace Non-Discrimination, Gender Equity and Freedom of Association
  • Democratic & Transparent Organizations
  • Safe Working Conditions & Reasonable Work Hours
  • Investment in Community Development Projects
  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Traceability and Transparency

By meeting these points, a company is demonstrating their support for localized sustainability—not just environmentally, but also by ensuring workers are compensated justly across the supply chain, from the remotest parts of the world to your store. Fair trade principles should be found encompassing many of the products you purchase regularly, from produce, coffee, tea, and chocolate to non-food items like clothing.

“Fair trade” designation is especially helpful for those consumers unwilling or unable to purchase products from local farmers, regenerative fiber cooperatives, etc.

How “Fair Trade” Is Measured

There are two primary ways “fair trade” companies are measured: By third-party auditors and certifiers, and by member organizations.

Member organizations have companies that join and say they are “fair trade,” and perhaps meet some, or even all, of the criteria for fair trade. However, there isn’t always an on-the-ground auditing process to ensure …read more


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'Blood on the President’s Hands': Conservative Writer Warns That Trump Will Get Someone Killed

August 3, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Trump called members of the media “horrendous people” Thursday night.

Bret Stephens, a conservative opinion writer for the New York Times, delivered an ominous warning Friday about President Donald Trump's escalating attacks on the press.

“We are approaching a day when blood on the newsroom floor will be blood on the president’s hands,” Stephens wrote.

It may sound like an extreme conclusion, but Trump's rhetoric itself is extreme. Thursday night at a rally in Pennsylvania, the president called the press “horrible, horrendous people.” And he frequently calls the media “the enemy of the people,” even after five reporters were killed in Maryland in June by someone who didn't like what they wrote.

Stephens shared that he's experienced threats of violence himself. He recently received the following voicemail message:

I don’t carry an AR but once we start shooting you f—ers you aren’t going to pop off like you do now. You’re worthless, the press is the enemy of the United States people and, you know what, rather than me shoot you, I hope a Mexican and, even better yet, I hope a n— shoots you in the head, dead.

But it's not just the combination of the Trump's extremist rhetoric and real-world violent threats — which MSNBC's Katy Tur revealed she has also experienced on Friday — that is the problem. What's so damning about the president's actions is that he knows about the anger he's fomenting, and he does it anyway. Stephens explains:

Which brings me to the July 20 meeting between Trump and two senior leaders of The Times, publisher A.G. Sulzberger and editorial page editor James Bennet. As Sulzberger later described the encounter, he warned the president that “his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous,” and that characterizations of the news media as “the enemy of the people” are “contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.”

There's no excuse for a president's behaving this way. He has the ultimate responsibility to speak cautiously, given the power of his office — and yet he acts with reckless abandon. As Stephens notes, it only takes one troubled Trump supporter taking …read more


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Senate Democrats Are Breaking the Boycott Against Meeting with Trump's SCOTUS Nominee to Question Him on Documents

August 3, 2018 in Blogs

By Joan McCarter, Daily Kos

Since Republicans have absolutely no shame in this, Democrats have decided to go directly to the source.

Senate Democrats have been unofficially boycotting meeting with Russian asset Real Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, pending an agreement from Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley to obtain all of the documents relating to his service with President George W. Bush. Republicans have agreed to provide his documents from his service to the legal counsel office for Bush, but not for his service from 2003-06 as Bush's staff secretary, a time when he was involved with other senior administrative staff in things like figuring out how to spin torture.

Republicans are fighting the document request through a highly political process—not through the National Archives—but through Bush's legal team. By his “legal team,” we mean Bill Burck. Bill Burck ”also has close ties to President Trump through his current representation of Stephen K. Bannon, Reince Priebus and Donald McGahn,” as Sen. Chuck Schumer has pointed out. Yeah, the guy who is choosing which material to present for Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination is representing these guys in the Russia probe. No problem there, right?

Since Republicans have absolutely no shame in this, Democrats have decided to go directly to the source. Schumer and ranking Judiciary member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have announced that they will meet with Kavanaugh and ask him specifically to provide the records.

“In addition to questioning Judge Kavanaugh on health care, women's freedom, presidential power and other issues, Senate Democrats intend to demand that he call for and support the release of all of his files from his time in the Bush White House,” a senior Democratic aide told the Washington Post. “Democrats will urge Judge Kavanaugh to ask the National Archives and President Bush to adhere to the same standard that was met for Justice [Elena] Kagan’s confirmation.”

They've also made the request directly to Bush, telling him their “concern is that the Archivist of the United States, who is responsible for guiding the review and release of responsive documents, would be cut out of this new process being contemplated by …read more


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'I Hope You Get Raped and Killed': MSNBC's Katy Tur Details the Vicious Threats She Receives Because of Trump

August 3, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

“Either the president doesn't get the problem, or he doesn't care.”

MSNBC's Katy Tur on Friday shared the details of some of the most hateful and violent comments she has recently received that, she says, have been inspired by President Donald Trump's anti-media rhetoric.

“Either the president doesn't get the problem, or he doesn't care,” she said. 

“Sadly, the harassment and threats are not stopping,” she continued. “Journalists get them every day. We've been getting them since the campaign when then-candidate Trump urged the crowd to yell and scream at us. But what you saw and still see on TV, those boos and those taunts, are only part of it. What you do not see are the nasty letters, or packages, or emails. The threats of physical violence. 'I hope you get raped and killed,' one person wrote to me just this week. 'Raped and killed.' Not just me, but a couple of my female colleagues as well.”

She added:

And in case you want to argue that this has nothing to do with the president, the most recent note I got ended with 'MAGA.' So if anyone in the administration cares about the safety and security of journalists, the health of a free and unintimidated press, and by extension, our democracy as a whole, please say something to your boss, to your dad, to your commander-in-chief, before it is too late. Obviously, I'm not talking to you, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. You made it clear where you stand yesterday.

On Thursday, White House press secretary Sanders was asked if she believed the media is the “enemy of the people,” as Trump has often claimed. She refused to distance herself from this rhetoric.

Watch the clip below:

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A Basic Income Would Crash on the Rocks of Politics

August 3, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell says Labour might introduce a
universal basic income (UBI) pilot in its next manifesto. For a
supposedly radical thinker, he’s late to this party. The idea of a
fixed-sum unconditional government cash transfer to all adults is
now the most conventional of blue-sky thinking. In one form or
another, it has been advocated by everyone from the late
free-market economist Milton Friedman to the Green Party; from the Adam Smith
Institute to Ed Miliband.

Only the gold standard or a land value tax are comparable in the
way UBI’s zealots believe this one policy would sweep away most
economic ills.

We are told poverty would be eliminated, job-killing automation
protected against, innovation would flourish, and working improve
dramatically. Opponents aren’t much less hyperbolic. A UBI would
supposedly blow up the public finances, drive mass worklessness,
and undermine families. But this polarised debate hides the messy
truth: the UBI as an idea exposes the current welfare state’s flaws. And
any simple UBI would be crushed on the rocks of politics and its
inherent trade-offs.

The UK’s social protection budget, including tax credits and the
state pension, was £217bn in 2016-17. That amounts to around
£3,330 per year for every man, woman and child.

If one adds in the cost of the income tax personal allowance,
which UBI advocates like to, that would climb to £315bn, or
£4,800. If you added certain benefits in kind, it would climb

Replacing the whole lot with a UBI for every
and a lesser sum for children, would have some clear
economic advantages. The means testing of benefits and tax credits,
the conditionality, and the raft of programmes with their Byzantine
rules would be abolished. The bureaucracy behind them would be
scrapped too, taking with it some cost and a lot of stress.

Provided that it was not set at an extremely high level, this
need not result in huge swathes of people not working. No doubt
some people would pocket the income and not engage in the formal
labour market, especially if they currently feel compelled to work
to get by. On the margin, more students may prefer to focus on
their studies. More parents might decide to spend time with
children. Those between jobs may take longer to find positions that
genuinely match their skills and talents.

It’s when we get to the
details of the size and scope of the UBI that the idea falls down
and the coalition for it fractures.

Currently though, means tested benefits make poor people richer,
but discourage them from earning more income. They face …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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How the Profit Motive Can Help Fight Climate Change

August 3, 2018 in Economics

By Marian L. Tupy

Marian L. Tupy

Decarbonization of the global economy has been one of the main
objectives of the green movement for many years. Carbon dioxide
emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, many scientists worry,
could result in catastrophic global warming.

Unfortunately, renewable energy is nowhere close to producing
enough power to replace fossil fuels. Should we, therefore, limit
our overall energy consumption instead—harming productivity
and restraining the growth in peoples’ standard of living in the
process? Not necessarily. As the data show, market forces are
actually pretty good at reducing the amount of energy used in

Green Energy Technology Just Isn’t There

Over the last two centuries, the world’s economy has grown
almost 100-fold. That expansion was powered by fossil fuels, the
burning of which helped to raise the level of carbon dioxide (CO2)
in the atmosphere from 0.0284 percent in 1820 to 0.0407 percent in

When nature does not
cooperate, green energy becomes unpredictable and

The switch to green energy is proving so difficult in part
because renewable energy is difficult to scale up. Just think of
the hectares of land and miles of coastline that would have to be
covered by wind turbines if wind energy were to produce as much
energy as fossil fuels can.

Another disadvantage of green energy is the unreliability of
supply. Wind turbines need wind to turn the blades, water turbines
need rain to fill the dams with flowing water and solar panels need
sunshine. When nature does not cooperate, green energy becomes
unpredictable and inconsistent.

To further complicate matters, green energy is still
substantially more expensive than more conventional sources of
energy. As such, economic growth and, consequently, people’s
standard of living, will continue to depend on the use of fossil
fuels. The good news is that production processes are becoming more
environmentally friendly throughout much of the world.

Energy Efficiency Is Good for Business

Consider the five largest economies in the world. The World Bank
estimates that the United States produces roughly 24 percent of the
world’s wealth. The European Union (EU) produces 22 percent, China
15 percent, Japan 6 percent, and Germany, if considered
independently of the EU, 5 percent.

Now consider CO2 emissions per dollar of gross domestic product
(GDP). In 1960, the United States emitted 0.94 kilograms of CO2 per
dollar of output. By 2014 that number fell to 0.34, a reduction of
64 percent. The EU reduced its CO2 emissions per dollar of GDP by
54 percent between 1991 and 2014. After China abandoned its
inefficient communist system of production, its CO2 emissions per
dollar of GDP fell from 5 kilograms in 1978 to 1.24 kilograms in
2014, a reduction …read more

Source: OP-EDS