You are browsing the archive for 2018 October 02.

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Senate Republicans Just Released the Most Disgusting Attack Yet Against One of Kavanaugh's Accusers

October 2, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

They're doing whatever they can to discredit the accusers.

The third woman to accuse Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, Julie Swetnick, has been taken the least seriously of Kavanaugh's accusers. The original guidelines of the reopened FBI investigation into Kavanaugh does not even include her for an interview.

But Swetnick is not just being ignored. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are actively trying to assassinate her character.

On Tuesday, Judiciary Republicans released a letter sent to them by a man named Dennis Ketterer, a former Washington, D.C. weatherman who claims to have almost had an affair with Swetnick in 1993, and says that she is not a credible witness against Kavanaugh, in part because “she liked to have sex with more than one guy at a time.”

Swetnick, who is represented by celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti, has alleged she was gang-raped at high school parties she attended while she was in college, where Kavanaugh was also present. While she did not accuse Kavanaugh himself of raping her, she alleged Kavanaugh was part of the group that spiked women's drinks to make them easier targets.

For Republicans to release this letter publicly constitutes a new low. Swetnick's sexual preferences in the 1990s are beside the point of whether she was assaulted at a young age. The GOP is simply resorting to any means they can think of to muddy the credibility of Kavanaugh's accusers — all the while insisting that an honest investigation of Kavanaugh's behavior would “ruin his life.”

This is not the behavior of a party that wants an honest vetting of judicial nominees.

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New York State Tax Officials Investigating Claims that Trump and His Family Committed Tax Fraud

October 2, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Trump could finally end up in real trouble.

On Tuesday, a bombshell report from The New York Times revealed what many of President Donald Trump's critics have suspected since before he even ran for office: his wealth and business empire was a sham. As the report notes, far from being the a self-made billionaire, Trump's father covertly propped up his enterprises, creating at least 295 revenue streams over 50 years to secretly enrich his son. And Trump and his family in turn resorted to a variety of shady tax tricks in the 1990s, including “outright fraud,” to maximize the family inheritance.

The report, which could potentially explain why Trump has resolutely refused to release his tax returns, has reportedly caught the notice of investigators from New York, where the Trump Organization is headquartered.

According to CNBC, officials the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance are already planning to look into the matter. “The Tax Department is reviewing the allegations in the NYT article and is vigorously pursuing all appropriate avenues of investigation,” said a spokesman in an email.

While it is unlikely Trump would ever face prosecution for fraud in the 1990s due to the statute of limitations, he could face civil fines ranging in the tens of millions.

The new investigation would add to a growing list of inquiries plaguing the Trump family in the Empire State, including a probe into Trump's charitable foundation, the president himself, and his children, for “improper and extensive political activity, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions, and failure to follow basic fiduciary obligations or to implement even elementary corporate formalities required by law.” The Independent noted this investigation could lead to criminal charges.

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Does an Exception Clause in the 13th Amendment Still Permit Slavery?

October 2, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

The amendment, which officially abolished slavery in the United States in 1865, includes a loophole regarding involuntary servitude.

A statue of President Lincoln in the middle of Lincoln Park in Washington, D.C. The statue depicts Lincoln in his role of the “Great Emancipator” freeing a male slave.

The year the Civil War ended, the U.S. amended the Constitution to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude. But it purposefully left in one big loophole for people convicted of crimes.

The 13th Amendment, ratified in 1865, says: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Scholars, activists and prisoners have linked that exception clause to the rise of a prison system that incarcerates black people at more than five times the rate of white people, and profits off of their unpaid or underpaid labor.

“What we see after the passage of the 13th Amendment is a couple of different things converging,” says Andrea Armstrong, a law professor at Loyola University in New Orleans. “First, the 13th Amendment text allows for involuntary servitude where convicted of a crime.” At the same time, “black codes” in the south created “new types of offenses, especially attitudinal offenses—not showing proper respect, those types of things.”

Black Codes (TV-PG; 1:22)

After the Civil War, new offenses like “malicious mischief” were vague, and could be a felony or misdemeanor depending on the supposed severity of behavior. These laws sent more black people to prison than ever before, and by the late 19th century the country experienced its first “prison boom,” legal scholar Michelle Alexander writes in her book The New Jim Crow.

“After a brief period of progress during Reconstruction, African Americans found themselves, once again, virtually defenseless,” Alexander writes. “The criminal justice system was strategically employed to force African Americans back into a system of extreme repression and control, a tactic that would continue to prove successful for generations to come.”

States put prisoners to work through a practice called “convict-leasing,” whereby white planters and industrialists “leased” prisoners to work for them. States and private businesses made money doing this, but prisoners didn’t. This meant many black prisoners found themselves living and working on plantations against their will and for no pay decades after the Civil War.

Was this …read more


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Here Are the 10 Most Popular Ways to Consume Marijuana

October 2, 2018 in Blogs

By Phillip Smith, Independent Media Institute

Smoking and vaping dominate the market.

The stereotypical picture of marijuana consumption is someone toking up buds in a joint or bong, but as weed comes out from the shadows and into the legal marketplace, entrepreneurs are busily concocting all sorts of pot products. From vape pens to concentrates to edibles, drinks, tinctures, and even creams and topical lotions, marijuana is now available in myriad forms.

But what's the most popular? Here, we turn to the good folks at BDS Analytics, a company that prides itself on providing “data-driven insights, market intelligence, and complete consumer understanding” of the marijuana industry. BDS has just released its list of the Top 10 ways people are consuming cannabis in 2018, based on results from its proprietary GreenEdge™ Retail Sales Tracking database, which gathered data from California, Colorado, and Oregon from the first half of the year.

The biggest takeaway is that despite all the hoopla about the multitude of new marijuana products, people still overwhelmingly favor inhaling their weed, either as smoke from buds or via vaping. Sales of buds, pre-rolled joints, vape cartridges, and disposable vapes accounted for around $1.8 billion in sales, with another $200 million coming in sales of concentrates, which are typically also inhaled. And it was buds (flowers) that made up more than half of that figure.

Edible and tincture products that made it into the Top 10 only accounted for about $200 million in sales or about 10 percent of the total pot market in those three states. While edibles and other cannabis concoctions may be the wave of the future, as of now, bud is still the king.

Here are BDS Analytics' Top 10 pot products, based on total retail sales:

1. Flower: This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. We all had joints, bowls, and bongs long before we could easily buy weed-infused kombuchas. Good old flower was there first, and it remains on top. Sales: $1.1 billion.

2. Vape cartridges: This category only looks at vapes and vape-accessories that come with cannabis and are sold in dispensaries—not the pot-free vaporizers you …read more


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Why Trump’s NAFTA 2.0 Is a Win for Big Oil — But a Huge Loss for Workers and the Environment

October 2, 2018 in Blogs

By Benjamin Dangl, Independent Media Institute

While oil companies would reap benefits from the deal, workers at home and abroad would suffer.

After the U.S., Canada, and Mexico agreed to a new trade deal to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) late Sunday night, Trump heralded the new deal as “truly historic news for our nation and the world.”

Yet many activists and environmentalists are already critiquing the new deal, dubbed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), calling it a victory for large corporations and polluters at the expense of workers and the planet.

“This deal is a giant step backwards for people, communities and the environment,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said in a statement.

She explained that USMCA “would enshrine and globalize Trump’s deregulatory zealotry into a trade pact that would outlast the administration and imperil future efforts to protect consumers, workers and the environment.”

It many ways, the new deal promises to deepen NAFTA’s economic and environmental crises.

In the Shadow of NAFTA

Trump famously critiqued NAFTA, implemented under Bill Clinton in 1994, calling it the “worst trade deal ever made.” Yet for decades, activists across the hemisphere have denounced the agreement as terrible for workers, small farms, and the environment.

“Most people don’t know how bad a deal NAFTA was for Mexico,” Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, told Al Jazeera. “But a quarter-century after NAFTA, Mexican wages are about the same as they were in 1980, some 20 million more people are in poverty, five million were displaced from agriculture because of NAFTA tariff policy, and economic growth in Mexico ranks about 15 of 20 Latin American countries.”

NAFTA has also had a devastating impact on workers in the U.S.

“Americans have suffered under NAFTA’s corporate-rigged rules for decades,” Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, said in a statement.

“Nearly one million U.S. jobs have been government-certified as lost to NAFTA, with NAFTA helping corporations outsource more jobs to Mexico every week,” she explained. “The downward pressure on …read more


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Here's How a Fox News Host Shamelessly Tried to Dismiss New Report of Trump's Extensive Tax Dodging

October 2, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The report was rigorously reported and supported by thousands of documents.

When major damaging news break about President Donald Trump — as it often does — nearly every mainstream news station drops whatever it was working on to cover the latest bombshell.

The biggest exception to that pattern, of course, is Fox News, which ignores or plays down many stunning stories about the president. And when the New York Times published a devastatingly detailed story Tuesday documenting the reported “scams” and “outright fraud” Trump used to acquire a massive inheritance from his parents, Fox News was predictably unimpressed.

“We are looking into this New York Times report, by the way, that is out accusing the president of engaging in a little bit of creative accounting, tax schemes that were apparently passed on by the IRS without much of a dustup,” said host Neil Cavuto. “But they're going back many, many decades here. I've had a chance to read the entire article. I don't know if there's much of a there there, outside of the fact that the president benefited from having a rich father and a good marketing skill.” 

Even considering Fox News' attitude toward Trump news, it was a galling effort to dismiss the report.

Cavuto neglects to inform viewers that some of the “creative accounting” was considered outright fraud by experts the Times consulted. It's true that the statute of limitations on any such crimes has presumably passed, but that's hardly a reason to dismiss it as a story.

The story also completely obliterates the image of himself that Trump ran on — that he was a self-made man who only received a $1 million loan from his father. Instead, the reporters found that Trump received more than $400 million from his father over the years and used devious schemes to increase that sum. The report even says that the Trump's created a fake company to funnel money to the children, and used that company's fake expenditures to increase rents on tenants.

And the report even more newsworthy — and indeed, suspicious — because Trump famously broke his promise to release his …read more


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The 2004 Tsunami Wiped Away Towns With 'Mind-Boggling' Destruction

October 2, 2018 in History

By Dave Roos

The tsunami was the deadliest in recorded history, taking 230,000 lives in a matter of hours.

Foreign tourists running back to shore after the water receded before the tsunami started to roll towards Hat Rai Lay Beach in southern Thailand on December 26, 2004.

View the 8 images of this gallery on the original article

It was 2004, the day after Christmas, and thousands of European and American tourists had flocked to the beaches of Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia to escape the winter chill in a tropical paradise.

At 7:59 AM, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake—one of the largest ever recorded—ripped through an undersea fault in the Indian Ocean, propelling a massive column of water toward unsuspecting shores. The Boxing Day tsunami would be the deadliest in recorded history, taking a staggering 230,000 lives in a matter of hours.

The city of Banda Aceh on the northern tip of Sumatra was closest to the powerful earthquake’s epicenter and the first waves arrived in just 20 minutes. It’s nearly impossible to imagine the 100-foot roiling mountain of water that engulfed the coastal city of 320,000, instantly killing more than 100,000 men, women and children. Buildings folded like houses of cards, trees and cars were swept up in the oil-black rapids and virtually no one caught in the deluge survived.

Read more: The Deadliest Natural Disasters in U.S. History

Thailand was next. With waves traveling 500 mph across the Indian Ocean, the tsunami hit the coastal provinces of Phang Nga and Phuket an hour and a half later. Despite the time lapse, locals and tourists were caught completely unaware of the imminent destruction. Curious beachgoers even wandered out among the oddly receding waves, only to be chased down by a churning wall of water. The death toll in Thailand was nearly 5,400 including 2,000 foreign tourists.

An hour later, on the opposite side of the Indian Ocean, the waves struck the southeastern coast of India near the city of Chennai, pushing debris-choked water kilometers inland and killing more than 10,000 people, mostly women and children, since many of the men were out fishing. But some of the worst devastation was reserved for the island nation of Sri Lanka, where more than 30,000 people were swept away by the waves and hundreds of thousands left homeless.

As proof of the record-breaking strength of the tsunami, the last victims of the <a target=_blank …read more


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Marie Curie: Facts About The Pioneering Chemist

October 2, 2018 in History

By Staff

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less,”—Marie Curie.

• Curie was born Maria Sklodowska in Warsaw, Poland, to schoolteacher parents of modest means who encouraged their children’s educational aspirations. Determined to pursue a scientific career, Marie struck a deal with her sister Bronya, agreeing to fund Bronya’s medical degree in France by working as a governess. Bronya later helped Marie move to Paris and enroll at the prestigious Sorbonne, where she studied chemistry, math and physics.

• Curie met her future husband, Pierre, while doing postgraduate research at the lab he supervised. The pair immediately bonded over their mutual interest in magnetism and fondness for cycling, and a year later they were married in Sceaux, France. They used the money they had received as a wedding present to purchase bicycles for the many long rides they took together.

• In 1896, intrigued by the physicist Henri Becquerel’s accidental discovery of radioactivity, Curie began studying uranium rays; Pierre soon joined her in her research. Two years later, the Curies discovered polonium—named after Marie’s homeland—and radium. In 1903 they shared the Nobel Prize in physics with Becquerel for their groundbreaking work on radioactivity.

• The first woman to be granted a Nobel Prize, Curie later became the first person to earn a second one. In 1911 she received the prestigious award—in chemistry this time—for her isolation of radium and other accomplishments.

Polish born French physicist Marie Curie (1867 – 1934) in her laboratory.

• After Pierre’s tragic death in a 1906 accident, Marie was appointed to his seat at the Sorbonne, becoming the university’s first female professor. (Just three years earlier, she had been the first woman in France to earn a doctorate.) Today, France’s leading scientific and medical complex bears the name of both Curies.

• During World War I, Curie used her radiography expertise to set up dozens of mobile and permanent X-ray stations, which helped doctors diagnose and treat battlefield injuries. They became known as “petites Curies” for their famous creator.

• Decades of handling radioactive materials—the effects of which were poorly understood at the time—ultimately took a toll on Curie. By the 1920s she had developed muscle aches, anemia, cataracts and a host of other symptoms. She died on July 4, 1934, of leukemia caused by exposure to radiation.

• Curie’s daughter Irène followed in …read more


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Wealthy Taxpayers Are Fleeing These States in Droves

October 2, 2018 in Economics

By Chris Edwards

Chris Edwards

Both parties can be faulted on tax policy. The Republicans are
inconsistent; they support large tax cuts but don’t match them with
spending cuts, as we saw with the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

With Democrats, the problem is incoherence. They claim that the 2017 act was a giveaway to the
rich, even though it made the tax code more progressive. And they
claim that the rich don’t pay their fair share, even though the top
10 percent pay 71 percent of all federal income taxes.

Democrats complain that the rich are rampant tax avoiders. But
then they push to raise tax rates on the rich, which will just
prompt more of the avoidance they dislike. You can see this at the
state level with the ongoing exodus of high earners from high-tax
states such as California, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York to
low-tax states such as Florida.

High-tax states are
losing their most productive residents. If those states want to
prosper in today’s competitive economy, they need to deliver more
efficient services at lower costs and cut their high tax

New Jersey’s richest person, David Tepper, moved with his hedge
fund business to Florida in 2016. That single move cost the state
of New Jersey up to $100 million a year in lost income taxes. Yet,
this year, New Jersey’s Democratic governor Phil Murphy hiked the
top income tax rate from 8.97 to 10.75 percent. Murphy wanted to
raise revenue, but the hike won’t do that if it prompts more of the
rich to leave. The top 1 percent in New Jersey pay 37 percent of the state’s income taxes.

Connecticut is also losing its wealthiest residents after tax
hikes by Democratic governor Dan Malloy. In recent years, the
state has lost stock trading entrepreneur
Thomas Peterffy (worth $20 billion), executive C. Dean Metropoulos
($2 billion), and hedge fund managers Paul Tudor Jones ($4 billion)
and Edward Lampert ($3 billion).

Those folks all fled to Florida, which has no income tax or
estate tax. Barry Sternlicht, who runs Starwood Capital Group,
said that he was also part of the
“massive exodus” from Connecticut to Florida to save on

The Democratic governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, recently said that people are moving from his
state to Florida for the nice weather. But wealthy movers
themselves say that taxes are the reason. Thomas Golisano, founder
of Paychex business services, moved from New York to Florida after
complaining about high state taxes. He said that he …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Theresa May's Vision-Free Approach Is Alienating Us All

October 2, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

An opening day Conservative conference speech by former CBI
Director-General Digby Jones might not have been expected to
diagnose the Prime Minister’s key weakness.

But defending Theresa May’s Brexit approach, the former Labour
minister unwittingly exposed the reason that the Prime Minister has
alienated much of her party: she is a vision-free zone.

Riffing off Theresa May’s earlier Marr interview, Jones
warned politicians and party members about the consequences of
division over Chequers. “You need to come together. Leave the
ideology at the door, and understand what works,” he

This, it is fair to say, is how the Prime Minister likes to
perceive herself — as a modifying force that deals in the
“real world”, restraining the excesses of left and
right, and tackling problems as they arise with achievable

The Prime Minister
appears devoid of a framework for considering the role of
government, where power should reside, and any limiting principle
on what the state should do.

The truth is that, unmoored from any substantial vision for
Britain, May stands for little. And as a result, her government
falls for much.

All of us that have ideas think that they work, or could work
— or else we would not advocate them.

A call to leave ideology aside is therefore really an
instruction to give up your ideas and fall in line.

The problem for May is that she is mentally boxed in by
“what is” and sees governing as mere problem-solving,
while much of her party rightly see Brexit as an opportunity to
think about “what should be”.

The Prime Minister appears devoid of a framework for considering
the role of government, where power should reside, and any limiting
principle on what the state should do.

The result is that her administration is both ultra-conservative
where radicalism is required, and ultra-interventionist and
nit-picky in areas that either matter little, or where the case for
freedom is strongest.

Without that vision to guide her, increasingly the political
weather is defined by her opponents, with the government
desperately trying to ape the opposition to neuter their

In the Brexit negotiations, the Chequers proposal she clings to,
for example, seems to be predicated on achieving damage limitation
— rather than the seizing of post-Brexit trade and regulatory
reform opportunities.

It is about protecting existing supply chains and the status quo
in Northern Ireland, rather than an expansive global free-trade

But her caution extends far beyond her approach to leaving the
EU. Any sort of agenda for tax or public service reform seems to
have been abandoned entirely, despite sustained slow growth and the
terrifying structural ageing challenge to come.

Instead, new small revenue sources are …read more

Source: OP-EDS