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Trump launches 'despicable' last-minute attack on Social Security

December 7, 2020 in Blogs

By Common Dreams

Just weeks away from relinquishing power to incoming President-elect Joe Biden, the Trump administration is quietly launching a last-minute assault on Social Security by rushing ahead with a rule that, if implemented, could deny critical benefits to hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) late last week submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) a proposed rule aiming to further tighten eligibility requirements for Social Security disability benefits, which around ten million Americans currently rely on for a modest monthly income.

While it is unclear whether the rule can be finalized before Biden takes office next month, Social Security defenders reacted with outrage to the proposal and called on the president-elect to make clear that he will immediately roll back the change.

“It is outrageous,” Richard Fiesta, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, said in a statement Monday. “The Trump administration could pull the rug out from millions of Americans, especially older Americans, in the waning days of its administration. Since the day he took office, President Trump has claimed he would protect Social Security. He is showing his true colors again.”

Advocacy group Social Security Works called the proposal “a despicable attack on people with disabilities and on our Social Security system” and urged Biden—whose own record on Social Security has been heavily criticized by progressives—to “clean house at the Social Security Administration on day one” by replacing top officials appointed by President Donald Trump.

In the works for months, the Trump administration’s proposed rule would significantly revise the criteria by which SSA determines who does and doesn’t qualify for disability benefits.

Under current law, applicants with certain serious conditions automatically qualify for benefits; those with other ailments are deemed qualified or not based on an evaluation of additional factors such as age, work history, education, and “residual functional capacity.”

The Trump administration’s proposed rule, as the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year, “would no longer assume age seriously affects a person’s ability to adapt to simple, entry-level work.”

“It would raise the age at which education and work experience are considered in determining eligibility to 55, from 50,” the Journal reported. “The new rule would also update data on occupational skills that …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Trump's attacks on the Georgia election are failing miserably — but show no sign of slowing down

December 7, 2020 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld

The rapidly unfolding events in Georgia this past weekend showcased the lengths that President Trump will go to overturn the 2020 general election’s popular vote, the depth of disinformation that he is pushing and many partisans are accepting, and the fortitude of a handful of Georgia’s constitutional officers who did not bend under pressure.

On Monday, Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the recount found that Democrat Joe Biden had won his state’s 2020 presidential election by nearly 12,000 votes. It was the third statewide tally of the presidential election, following a manual hand count of 5 million paper ballots after Election Day, and the Election Day tally. No other battleground state in 2020 conducted as thorough an examination to verify its vote.

Georgia’s governor, Republican Brian Kemp, who served as secretary of state before being elected governor in 2018—a race that his opponent, Democrat Stacy Abrams, said was marred by a catalog of voter suppression—has said that he will certify the presidential results. Trump has repeatedly called on Kemp to convene a legislative session to select a pro-Trump Electoral College slate, rather than have the slate reflect Georgia’s popular vote.

But as President Trump made clear on Saturday at a rally in Valdosta, Georgia, he will not stop trying to muscle his way to a second term—even if it means ignoring the popular vote, urging Republican governors in other swing states, such as Arizona, to convene special sessions to anoint him, and filing lawsuits that he hopes will end up before the Supreme Court, where Trump expects that conservative justices will to elevate to a second term.

The Valdosta rally, Trump’s first major event since the November election, had attendees from across the county who supported Trump and fanned his unfounded claims of a stolen election. The event’s advertised purpose was to promote Georgia’s two Republican senators who face January 5 runoffs, where, should they lose, that body would return to a Democratic majority. But from the start, Trump said that he won, listed grievances, showed videos purporting to prove electoral theft, slammed skeptics in his party, and pledged to emerge victorious.

“We’re all victims. Everybody here, all these thousands of people here tonight, they’re all victims,” Trump said 90 minutes into the rally filled with mounting cheers of “Stop the Steal” and “Fight for Trump.” Trump leaned …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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A pernicious legacy: How Trump put the U.S. on a path for cataclysmic war

December 7, 2020 in Blogs

By TomDispatch

In the military realm, Donald Trump will most likely be remembered for his insistence on ending America’s involvement in its twenty-first-century “forever wars” — the fruitless, relentless, mind-crushing military campaigns undertaken by Presidents Bush and Obama in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Somalia. After all, as a candidate, Trump pledged to bring U.S. troops home from those dreaded war zones and, in his last days in office, he’s been promising to get at least most of the way to that objective. The president’s fixation on this issue (and the opposition of his own generals and other officials on the subject) has generated a fair amount of media coverage and endeared him to his isolationist supporters. Yet, however newsworthy it may be, this focus on Trump’s belated troop withdrawals obscures a far more significant aspect of his military legacy: the conversion of the U.S. military from a global counterterror force into one designed to fight an all-out, cataclysmic, potentially nuclear war with China and/or Russia.

People seldom notice that Trump’s approach to military policy has always been two-faced. Even as he repeatedly denounced the failure of his predecessors to abandon those endless counterinsurgency wars, he bemoaned their alleged neglect of America’s regular armed forces and promised to spend whatever it took to “restore” their fighting strength. “In a Trump administration,” he declared in a September 2016 campaign speech on national security, America’s military priorities would be reversed, with a withdrawal from the “endless wars we are caught in now” and the restoration of “our unquestioned military strength.”

Once in office, he acted to implement that very agenda, instructing his surrogates — a succession of national security advisers and secretaries of defense — to commence U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan (though he agreed for a time to increase troop levels in Afghanistan), while submitting ever-mounting defense budgets. The Pentagon’s annual spending authority climbed every year between 2016 and 2020, rising from $580 billion at the start of his administration to $713 at the end, with much of that increment directed to the procurement of advanced weaponry. Additional billions were incorporated into the Department of Energy budget for the acquisition of new nuclear weapons and the full-scale “modernization” of the country’s nuclear arsenal.

Far more important …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The legacy of philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson: Moral pioneer who wrote 'A Defense of Abortion' dies at 91

December 7, 2020 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick

Just as the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade was headed before the United States Supreme Court, a new journal of academic philosophy prepared to publish its inaugural issue including an innovative argument from Judith Jarvis Thomson. That 1971 paper, “A Defense of Abortion,” published in Philosophy & Public Affairs, became one of the most influential pieces of contemporary applied ethics, an enduring part of the legacy left behind when she died at 91 on Nov. 20, 2020.

“It has had such an incredible impact on people who have taken philosophy classes,” Sally Haslanger, a professor of philosophy and women’s and gender studies at MIT, where she worked alongside Professor Thomson, told me. “Almost anybody who teaches contemporary moral problems or an intro to moral philosophy is likely to teach that paper.”

The key genius of the paper, one of the sources of its originality and staying power, is that it conceded to the opponents of abortion their strongest premise: that a fetus is a person worthy of full moral concern. Thomson didn’t defend this view — in fact, she had serious objections to it — but she wanted to show that even if we believe a fetus has as much a right to live as anyone else, it doesn’t follow that abortion is impermissible.

To make her case, Thomson spun an elaborate and memorable thought experiment:

You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you, “Look, we’re sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you—we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinist is now plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it’s only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.”

“I imagine you would regard this as outrageous,” she told her …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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'How could this be?': This COVID-19 patient had to travel nearly 200 miles to another state for treatment

December 7, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

As COVID-19 continues to surge all over the United States, many medical facilities are being overwhelmed with patients — and South Dakota resident Rose Mary Kor, who was diagnosed with COVID pneumonia, saw first-hand how bad the problem is when was told she would have to go to Wyoming for treatment.

Kor described her ordeal to CNN’s Brooke Baldwin, saying, “They said, ‘We’re going to send you to Wyoming, and the two options are Gillette and Casper. We’ll see who will take you.’ And as it turned out, Wyoming Medical Center in Caspar was the one. They could take me.”

Baldwin, who was infected with COVID-19 back in April, noted that Kor was being asked to travel to another state when she was quite sick.

Kor, a resident of Custer, South Dakota, told Baldwin, “What is happening?’ is what I was thinking. ‘How could this be?’ And, ‘Do you guys know how far away Caspar is?’…. If you drive it, it is about three hours.”

Kor went to Caspar, where she was hospitalized for two weeks before returning to South Dakota. She has been recovering from her illness at home.

The Custer resident told Baldwin, “It seems our system is not prepared for the scope of what this virus is doing.”

Baldwin noted how hard South Dakota has been hit by the pandemic, asking Kor why some South Dakota residents believe that “COVID won’t come for them” — to which Kor responded, “This is not particularly kind, but I think they’re stupid. We were being careful. We live out in the forest. I rarely went to town. I wore a mask. I haven’t been going to church. But still, my husband, I think, got it first — and then, I got it.”

Kor, who believes that Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has “shown a deep lack of leadership,” added, “If you’re not really thinking this is real, that you don’t need a mask — that you don’t need to be careful, you’re living in some sort of alternate reality.”

…read more

Source: ALTERNET