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Republicans Are Calling on the FTC to Investigate Trump's Ludicrous Google Search Claims

August 30, 2018 in Blogs

By Mark Sumner, Daily Kos

The move is clearly designed to appease the president.


There are a lot of reasons to investigate Google. Its near-monopoly over digital advertising alone is reason enough to crack open the books. Recent changes to the way it manages YouTube payments chopped away potential revenue from thousands, only to slide even more money into the company’s giant maw.

But all of that hasn’t ruffled a feather on the right—until now. Reuters reports that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch has asked the Federal Trade Commissions to look into the “competitive effects of Google’s conduct in search and digital advertising.” Hatch’s move is clearly designed to appease Trump, who on Monday made a ludicrous charge that the search engine was ”suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information” by returning search results that featured more regular news outlets than alt-Reich blogs. 

Not only did none of Google’s monopoly powers previously warrant attention from Hatch or other Republicans, but the last time Trump tweeted about Google, it was to complain that the European Union was fining the company in an antitrust action. But now that Trump has conceived an imaginary plot to make bad news stories appear next to his name, Hatch is all over this thing.

Stay tuned for Hatch to launch fresh investigations into how vaccines cause autism and how world governments are covering up the raging Ebola pandemic.

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Source: ALTERNET

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These 5 Key Races Remain Tight as Democrats Try to Take Control of the Senate

August 30, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

Keep an eye on these unpredictable races.


Although Democrats are feeling increasingly optimistic about their chances to retake the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2018 midterms, they are facing an uphill battle in their quest to gain a majority in the U.S. Senate. All 435 seats in the House are up for grabs on Tuesday, November 6, which gives Democrats a lot more wiggle room and potential paths to victory. But in order to win a majority in the Senate, Democrats would have to maintain every seat they are defending while taking at least two seats from Republicans—which is doable but certainly challenging in light of how tight many Senate races are shaping up to be.

If the Democratic Party can, for example, maintain all of its current Senate seats while achieving victories for Jacky Rosen in Nevada and Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona, the U.S. Senate will have a narrow Democratic majority in 2019. But that is a major “if” because some Senate Democrats who are seeking reelection this year—including Bill Nelson in Florida and Claire McCaskill in Missouri—are facing what appear to be very tight races. And political pundits might be staying up late on November 6 to find out whether Democrats or Republicans will have a majority in the U.S. Senate in 2019.

Here are five of the most exciting, nail-biting U.S. Senate races to keep a close eye on between Labor Day and Election Night 2018. 

1. Arizona: Kyrsten Sinema v. Martha McSally

Between the death of Sen. John McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake’s decision not to seek reelection, Arizona will have two new faces in the U.S. Senate in 2019. McCain’s seat will remain in Republican hands next year: by law, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey must appoint a Republican to fill the seat temporarily until a special election is held in 2020. But Flake’s seat is in play for Democrats, and Democratic nominee Kyrsten Sinema has been performing well in recent polls. Sinema would probably have an easier path to victory if she were running against either former Arizona State Senator Kelli Ward or former …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Politicians Have Abandoned Economics for Paternalism

August 30, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

Have advocates of lifestyle and environmental regulation given
up pretending that the policies they advocate are grounded in good
economic analysis?

Two stories from last week suggest so. The first was reporting
around a new study by the Global Burden of Disease project, which
concluded that even moderate drinking increases the risk of
alcohol-related health problems or injury.

According to the BBC, this was said to show that “the
health risks of drinking exceed any possible benefits”.

We then heard that the government, buoyed by the apparent
responsiveness of consumers to the existing 5p plastic bag levy,
wanted to double its rate.

The aim of this was presumably to try to wipe out plastic bag
use almost entirely, and came hot on the heels of the proposal to
ban single-use plastic straws.

Both alcohol consumption and plastic use do exhibit what
economists call “social costs”. Drinking can result in
related crime, criminal justice and healthcare costs borne by
others. Plastic use can cause litter and pollute oceans.

Economists are therefore comfortable with certain policies, such
as targeted taxes, that mean these costs are priced in when we make
our consumption decisions.

But claiming that the health risks of drinking always exceed the
benefits and doubling the plastic bag charge go way beyond this
line of reasoning. In both cases, the suggestion is that because
some activity is considered “bad”, the optimal level of
that activity is zero.

This is mistaken.

Social costs aside, drinking alcohol is a personal decision. Our
starting point as economists is that humans internally weigh up the
costs and benefits of deciding whether to drink.

This new study may well be right that having one drink a day
very modestly increases the risks of drinking-related illnesses.
But we drink because we enjoy alcohol consumption. These are
benefits to us. We do not walk around judging every decision solely
according to its net impact on our health.

To claim that health risks exceed any possible benefits is
therefore absurd. No public health official, nor BBC journalist,
can possibly know whether this is true, because the benefits
include an individual’s own personal enjoyment.

By all means, publish information on the risks to our health to
inform our decisions, but to use this study as a basis for more
stringent policy would be a paternalistic overreach.

Sadly, that is exactly what we should expect — because
it’s how smoking regulation has developed.

Initially, governments advised smokers on the risks of smoking.
But when the public continued to smoke in large numbers and
deviated from what supposedly rational people would do, politicians
ratcheted up the regulatory intervention.

There are of course direct third-party effects associated with
smoking, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Why Do We Still Have War Booty from the Philippines?

August 30, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Many Americans view their country as a national Virgin Mary,
blameless and without sin. When Washington intervenes abroad, even
when visiting death and destruction on foreign peoples, it is an
act of righteousness on behalf of the Lord.

Yet for those on the other end of U.S. bullets and
bombs—think Yemeni schoolchildren killed by Saudi aircraft
armed, refueled, and guided by Washington—America looks like
anything but an avenging angel. The tragic reality is that myopic
policymakers are turning patriotic military personnel into war
criminals for venal ends.

Yemen is not the first such shameful moment. Many conflicts in
our history were foolish, counterproductive, and shortsighted.
Several were justified by fraud and lies. Yet most retained at
least a patina of moral justification, no matter how infirm in
practice. For instance, while Eastern financial interests pushed
for war to protect their abundant loans to Great Britain, President
Woodrow Wilson probably did believe that preserving the right of
Americans to travel unmolested on British ships—armed reserve
naval cruisers carrying munitions through a war
zone—constituted a righteous cause.

Three church bells were
pilfered during our horrible war there. But politicians and the
military refuse to give them back.

No such moral veneer can be applied to the Philippine-American
War, waged more than a century ago. Indeed, most Americans probably
are not even aware of that conflict. They are taught that Teddy
Roosevelt and a few other guys, some of whom were on ships,
defeated the murderous Spanish Empire and freed Cubans and
Filipinos from horrid oppression. What came next is barely
mentioned in most civics texts.

It turns out the Filipinos were already fighting to liberate
themselves, and led by Emilio Aguinaldo, they undertook an armed
insurgency against their Spanish overlords. Still, President
William McKinley was focused on Cuba, pointing to atrocities by
Madrid’s forces to justify America’s war against
Spain—which, of course, in no way threatened the U.S.
Madrid’s policies were dreadful, but no worse than
Washington’s treatment of Native Americans. Nevertheless,
American sanctimony was on full display.

Even if we’d had legitimate cause to
“liberate” Cuba, the Philippines was separate, largely
ignored by William Randolph Hearst and other “yellow
journalists” who stirred up war fever. But for many American
imperialists, the Philippines was the real objective. It offered a
base for Pacific naval operations and could act as a station on the
way to accessing the presumably limitless markets of China.

So Washington sent the navy under Commodore George Dewey to the
island archipelago. Dewey brought Aguinaldo from Hong Kong, where
he had been in exile, to the Philippines, to undermine the Spanish
authorities, and his forces quickly gained control of several
provinces and helped invest …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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This New York Bill Could Finally Put Animal Abusers Behind Bars for Years: Advocacy Group

August 30, 2018 in Blogs

By Stephen Wells, Independent Media Institute

A dog named Bella went without justice because of weak animal protection laws. But for other animals, that could change.


New York’s state animal protection laws don’t do enough to punish those who commit serious crimes against animals. A dog named Bella went without justice because of it. A proposed law nicknamed in her memory could help change that.

On the afternoon of December 23, 2016, Bella was beaten by the person who was supposed to protect her. Bella’s caregiver, 56-year-old Michael Gallagher, tied a zip tie around the 11-year-old dog’s neck. Then he stuffed her in a garbage bag and hit her, over and over, with a shovel.

Bella’s cries were so loud and anguished that Gallagher’s neighbors in Levittown, Long Island, came out to beg him to stop hurting his dog, and called the police. Gallagher fled. By the time Gallagher’s wife got home, and was able to bring Bella to a veterinarian, she was too badly injured to be saved. She was euthanized.

Gallagher was picked up by police later that day, and charged with one felony count of animal cruelty, and three misdemeanors. Bella’s abuser received only four months in county jail.

New Yorkers were stunned and horrified that Gallagher received such a short sentence for such a violent and serious crime. In response, and to prevent such injustice from occurring again, New York State Senator Andrew Lanza introduced Senate Bill 8724, nicknamed “Bella’s Bill.” New York Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal introduced the companion bill, A 11070, in the Assembly shortly thereafter. Though the bills did not pass during the 2018 session, support is ramping up for reintroduction in 2019.

Bella’s Bill would do two important things: First, it would increase penalties for those convicted of intentional abuse. Second, it would bring New York in line with the vast majority of other states, by transferring animal cruelty laws into the Penal Code, out of the Agriculture & Markets Law. This may sound like a small and technical difference on first blush, but it’s a significant change that helps ensure crimes against animals are treated …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'A Cancer on Our Democracy': Elizabeth Warren Says Trump's Ties to Michael Cohen's Crimes Reveal the Corruption of Our System

August 29, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The Democratic senator said Cohen's claims directly implicate the president.


Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) blasted President Donald Trump Wednesday in an appearance on MSNBC's “The Beat with Ari Melber,” saying that his being implicated in the crimes of his former lawyer Michael Cohen show a deeper problem in American democracy.

Cohen pleaded guilty last week to eight counts of crimes in federal court. Two of the counts included campaign finance crimes, which he said he was directed to carry out by Trump.

“He has certainly implicated Donald Trump, he's making clear the connections here,” Warren said. “And I'm sure that everybody is listening who is involved in the investigation of the deeper relationship between Russia, the Trump campaign, Donald Trump himself. And now, whatever is happening in connection with the Justice Department in trying to shut down the investigation.”

She continued: “But I want to make a bigger point about this. Because when you listen to words like this from Cohen, it's a reminder: Corruption is like a cancer on our democracy. Think about how the American people, think about how all of us hear that, that — wait a minute, what's going on in Washington every day up and down the line is that the well-connected, the wealthy, they get heard, they are in the know.”

And yet, she said, regular families are completely shut out of these corrupt systems.

“They don't have that kind of representation,” she said.

Watch the clip below:

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Source: ALTERNET

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Here's How Betsy DeVos Reportedly Wants to Redefine Sexual Misconduct on College Campuses

August 29, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

The new proposal, as described by the New York Times, is the latest from the Trump administration in a pattern of hostility to survivors.


On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump's Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is considering a significant rollback of federal guidelines for sexual misconduct on college campuses, which would protect the accused and the institutions and while limiting recourse for many victims.

The changes would reportedly include redefining sexual misconduct from “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature,” to “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity,” a considerably more narrow definition.

The changes would also mean colleges and universities would only legally be required to respond to reports if officials have “actual knowledge” and only if the alleged incidents took place directly on campus — incidents involving faculty or students in off-campus housing would be excluded.

Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill stressed that these leaked details are “premature and speculative” and that none of the changes have been finalized. However, they appear to represent the latest in a pattern of hostility that DeVos' department has shown to the legal rights of victims of sexual incidents.

Early in her tenure, DeVos, a billionaire GOP donor who has no training in either education or civil rights, met to discuss the issue with the National Coalition of Men — an extreme anti-feminist group that routinely attacks rape and domestic violence survivors. And she staffed her department's civil rights division with sexual assault denialists like Candice Jackson, who has claimed that “90 percent” of campus sexual assault cases “fall into the category of 'we were both drunk'.”

Last September, DeVos rescinded requirements that colleges and universities use a preponderance standard when investigating sexual assault, and that investigations of complaints be completed within 60 days. She also urged schools to allow accused rapists to interrogate survivors directly, ban survivors from appealing the decisions of …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Trump Administration Borrows a Cruel Page from His Past: Questioning Citizens' Birth Certificates

August 29, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

This is a dark turn, even for the Trump administration.


President Donald Trump's harmful and clearly racist obsession with enforcing draconian immigration restrictions has taken another pernicious turn and appears to be targeting hundreds of Hispanic Americans who live near the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a new report from the Washington Post.

The new report found that hundreds, if not thousands, of people living on the border have been denied passports by the State Department over skepticism about their birth certificates. It's true, the report says, that some midwives in the area have created falsified birth records in the past, but many of these same people created legitimate birth records as well.

When it can't confirm that the document is legitimate, it seems, the department errs on the side of denying the passport. In one case the Postdocumented, a man provided additional evidence of his birthplace after being initially denied, only to be denied once again. He had to hire a lawyer to continue to appeal the decision — a move that can very costly for people with low incomes.

The practice also raises disturbing parallels with the issue that brought Trump into the modern political scene: Falsely attacking the legitimacy of President Barack Obama's birth certificate.

The State Department told the Post that it has not changed its policies with regard to passport applications. The report adds: “But cases identified by The Washington Post and interviews with immigration attorneys suggest a dramatic shift in both passport issuance and immigration enforcement.”

Some of the people who have been denied passports have later even been jailed and placed into deportation proceedings, according to the Post.

The stunning report reveals the depths to which the administration will sink in its campaign against immigrants — or even just people it thinks might be immigrants. There's absolutely no reason that people who have lived in the United States their whole lives, who have official paperwork demonstrating their citizenship, should bear the burden of proof to show that their documentation is not a forgery.

 

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Here Are 4 Key Differences Between Paul Manafort Judges Amy Berman Jackson and T.S. Ellis

August 29, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

The president's former campaign manager will be facing a very different judge this time.


During his recent trial in Alexandria, Virginia, Paul Manafort had a very  sympathetic judge in T.S. Ellis III—who often came across as antagonistic to federal prosecutors and made it clear that they were the ones who shouldered the burden of proof, not Manafort’s defense team. But President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager will be facing a very different judge when Amy Berman Jackson, a Barack Obama appointee, oversees his second criminal trial in Washington, DC. Already convicted of eight federal charges (including bank fraud and tax evasion) in Alexandria, Manafort will be facing a different set of charges in Judge Jackson’s courtroom—including obstruction of justice and money laundering—and while Ellis often clashed with prosecutors during Manafort’s first trial, Jackson has been clashing with his defense team. Manafort’s second trial has been moved back to Monday, September 24, with jury selection to begin a week earlier on September 17.

Here are four indications that in terms of judges, things will be very different for Manafort during his second trial than they were in Alexandria.

1. Ellis Warned Prosecutors to Mind Their Behavior Around Jurors; Jackson Warned the Defense

In Alexandria, Ellis warned prosecutors to be mindful of their facial expressions, noting that he didn’t appreciate eye-rolling in the presence of jurors. But Jackson, in contrast, has warned attorney Kevin Downing (who is part of Manafort’s defense team) that when the trial begins, he is not to act out around jurors. Jackson, during a hearing, cautioned, “Mr. Downing, I just want to let you know that you are an expressive human being, and how you feel about what is being said in the courtroom is a big part of your demeanor and your physical demeanor. That doesn’t upset me particularly, but it will upset me enormously if there’s a jury in the box. So just keep that in mind.”

2. Jackson Revoked Manafort’s Home Detention

In May, Ellis (who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987) openly expressed his skepticism …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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We Have a New Reason Not to Trust ICE

August 29, 2018 in Economics

By David Bier

David Bier

The Trump administration is preparing for another fight in court next month as it attempts
to force “sanctuary cities” to detain people targeted
for deportation. These cities argue that the administration’s
requests would damage the relationships they have built with
immigrant communities. But they have another reason to oppose the
demands: The federal government may be asking them to detain U.S. citizens.

It’s difficult to tell how often such wrongful detention
occurs, since Immigration and Customs Enforcement fails to
adequately record these incidents. But it does happen, as
Ada Morales
in Rhode Island and
Gerardo Gonzalez
in California — both U.S. citizens
— can attest. In both cases, ICE even submitted detainers for
them, then canceled the detainer, and yet still listed in
the cancellation notice that their nationality was not the United
States.

To get a better sense of the problem, the Cato Institute

requested data
at the local level from Travis County, Tex.
— one of the few jurisdictions that record the relevant
details. The county includes Austin and was at the center of the
fight to ban sanctuary cities in the state after Sheriff Sally
Hernandez partially stopped honoring detainers for about eight
months in 2017. The state legislature responded by making it a crime to refuse to honor a
detainer.

States and localities
have every reason to be skeptical about following ICE’s
dictates.

Here’s what the county-level data show: From September
2005 to Aug. 25, 2017, ICE issued 24,269 detainers for people in
Travis County custody. In 228 of those cases — almost 1
percent of the detainers — the person claimed U.S.
citizenship and presented a Social Security number. ICE then
subsequently declined to execute the detainer either by formally
canceling it (as the agency did in 156 cases) or by declining to
execute it when the person came up for release (which happened in
the remaining 72).

The best explanation for this behavior is that ICE verified
their citizenship and decided not to make the arrest, wrongfully
targeting 228 Americans. ICE supervisory detention and deportation
officer John Drane told a court in 2015 that he could think of
only two reasons for canceling a detainer: It was discovered the
person was a legal permanent resident who had never committed a
crime that would make them deportable or they were a U.S.
citizen.

While a 1 percent rate may not seem like much, if it holds
across the state of Texas, it would mean that ICE sought detainers
for at least 3,500 U.S. citizens since 2006. If applied nationally,
it would mean that …read more

Source: OP-EDS