Meteor Blades

Joe Manchin is lying through his teeth on climate denial

Sen. Joe Manchin has made clear that there is no way will he cast his crucial vote for the Democrats' reconciliation bill if it includes the Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP), the most powerful part of President Joe Biden's climate agenda. Thus does the senior senator from West Virginia display his true colors to anyone who was still confused about them.

CEPP would provide $150 billion to reward utilities that accelerate the replacement of the nation's coal- and gas-fired power plants with wind, solar, and nuclear energy in order to reach the goal of zero carbon emissions in the power sector by 2035. Without Manchin on board, White House staff and senior Democrats seem to have surrendered in the matter and are searching for ways to put together other programs to cut emissions. Without passage of a bill containing aggressive programs, Biden's team is going to have a devil of a time in Glasgow at the climate summit persuading China, India, and Brazil that he can even deliver the U.S. pledges on emissions cuts, much less that their nations should do better than they are.

Here's Coral Davenport at The New York Times:

A spokeswoman for Mr. Manchin, Sam Runyon, wrote in an email, "Senator Manchin has clearly expressed his concerns about using taxpayer dollars to pay private companies to do things they're already doing. He continues to support efforts to combat climate change while protecting American energy independence and ensuring our energy reliability."

I can't read minds, so I won't claim to know what is truly in Manchin's heart in this matter. What I do know is that anyone who truly accepts what scientists are saying about the climate crisis—anyone who actually backs "efforts to combat climate change"—would not use the political clout of his high office to cripple policies to prevent, mitigate, and adapt to the dire impacts of changes being projected for our future.

It's actually easier to respect a numbskull like Sen. James "Snowball" Inhofe, who wrote an entire book calling climate change a hoax and seems to truly believe it, than Manchin, who pretends he's down with the science even as his bank account gets ever fatter feeding off the teat of the fossil fuel industry. An industry that, in case anyone has forgotten, spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting climate denial disinformation. Manchin and his family have thrived thanks to profiteers who created climate change doubt by gaslighting the populace, smearing scientists, attacking activists, and, of course, pouring gobs of campaign money into the pockets of compliant politicians in both parties.

There's a chance we'll still see passage of a reconciliation bill with a few crumbs on climate. But quite possibly not. As Democratic Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota told The Times, "We must have strong climate action in the Build Back Better budget. I'm open to all approaches, but as I've said, I will not support a budget deal that does not get us where we need to go on climate action. There are 50 Democratic senators and it's going to take every one of our votes to get this budget passed."

Even if a bill with some climate elements in it does pass, without the CEPP, that cut will have far-reaching consequences beyond the power sector. While it contributes 25% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the transportation sector contributes 29%. Cutting that to zero requires a switchover from internal combustion vehicles to green-sourced electric power. Otherwise, much of the reduced carbon pollution from the operation of EVs will be undermined by the continuing operation of power plants burning fossil fuels to charge up those vehicles.

Then there's the humiliation of showing up in Glasgow with a lot more words than actions. Not the strongest negotiating posture.

If Joe Manchin really were serious about combatting the climate crisis, he would say okay to the CEPP, but only on the condition that the reconciliation bill's already hefty investment in coal communities be doubled. But no.

This week more than 650 protesters, many of them Indigenous, were arrested in Washington for civil disobedience in protest of foot-dragging in Congress on climate change. In the words of a 90-year-old song written by Florence Reece in support of coal strikers in Harlan County, Kentucky, the protesters asked a question for those within earshot: "Which side are you on?"

Joe Manchin has shown us which side he is on. And that puts us, and generations to come, in peril.

'Which Side Are You On?': Climate Protestors Block Traffic And Face Arrest Outside

Barrett adds to Senate questionnaire which previously omitted forced-birther talks she made

If the prospect of her being confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice weren't so grim, Amy Coney Barrett's recent zipped-lip approach on her views about abortion and Roe v. Wade would be hilarious.

Are there doubts about where she stands in the matter, or how she would come down on any ruling to undermine or obliterate the 47-year-old decision that legalized abortion nationwide? Although she was picked for the nomination because she's an ultra-conservative on many issues, the biggest cheers attending the announcement of her selection came not from the Federalist Society, but from the forced-birther brigades who have sought for decades to get enough justices on the Supreme Court to kill (or at least maim) Roe. As a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, Barrett was a member of University Faculty for Life, a vigorous foe of abortion.

Her unwillingness to talk about her views with senators, and her initial failure to mention on her Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire that she signed a 2006 anti-abortion advertisement calling for "an end to the barbaric legacy of Roevs Wade" won't provide any cover for what's she's truly about. And on Friday there was a new revelation. She hadn't told senators about a lecture and a seminar she gave in 2013 to two student forced-birther groups when she was teaching at Notre Dame. The lecture was called "Being a Woman After Roe" and advertised on Facebook. Titled "The Supreme Court's Abortion Jurisprudence," the seminar was a project of Jus Vitae, the university's "right to life" law student organization.

Barrett wouldn't, of course, be the first nominee to omit information that could have a bearing on confirmation. Intentional or accidental? You decide.

Late Friday, the Senate Judiciary Committee released a supplemental update to Barrett's questionnaire that includes the lecture and seminar, as well as the hard-nosed advertisement, according to CNN. So far, it's not known what she said at the two events. CNN also reported that in 2014 the university removed a video of a campus talk Barrett gave to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade titled"Roe at 40: The Supreme Court, Abortion, and the Culture War that Followed." She disclosed this talk in her original Senate paperwork. A school spokesman said that video is now lost. How very convenient.

Will there be consequences for the omissions? In the past, Republican chairmen of the Judiciary Committee have halted the confirmation process when relevant material was left off a nominee's questionnaire. But for current Judiciary Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham to take such action would require integrity and consistency that the South Carolina Republican has demonstrated he lacks.

When Barrett appears for her hearing before the Judiciary Committee on Monday, you can expect her to assert, as nominees have in the past, that she cannot say how she might rule on a future case, abortion or otherwise. Such a pretense of anticipatory objectivity has served other nominees well in the past, with enough senators willing to ignore the obvious and hand over a life-time appointment on the bench.

Trump says he expects to name a nominee for the Supreme Court next week — and it will be a woman

Based on unnamed sources, Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman at The New York Times report that Donald Trump could move as quickly as next week to name his nominee to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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New England Journal of Medicine publishes letter from doctor explaining how FBI and DHS almost grabbed the medical masks his hospital was buying

The New England Journal of Medicine has begun a new series called “Covid-19 Notes,” which is focusing on the innovative responses to the dealing with the coronavirus. On Friday, the journal published a letter about acquiring N95 masks written by Dr. Andrew W. Artenstein, M.D., of Baystate Health in Springfield, Massachusetts. Here’s an excerpt from the letter:

Our supply-chain group has worked around the clock to secure gowns, gloves, face masks, goggles, face shields, and N95 respirators. These employees have adapted to a new normal, exploring every lead, no matter how unusual. Deals, some bizarre and convoluted, and many involving large sums of money, have dissolved at the last minute when we were outbid or outmuscled, sometimes by the federal government. Then we got lucky, but getting the supplies was not easy. [...]

Hours before our planned departure, we were told to expect only a quarter of our original order. We went anyway, since we desperately needed any supplies we could get. Upon arrival, we were jubilant to see pallets of KN95 respirators and face masks being unloaded. We opened several boxes, examined their contents, and hoped that this random sample would be representative of the entire shipment. Before we could send the funds by wire transfer, two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrived, showed their badges, and started questioning me. No, this shipment was not headed for resale or the black market. The agents checked my credentials, and I tried to convince them that the shipment of PPE was bound for hospitals. After receiving my assurances and hearing about our health system’s urgent needs, the agents let the boxes of equipment be released and loaded into the trucks. But I was soon shocked to learn that the Department of Homeland Security was still considering redirecting our PPE. Only some quick calls leading to intervention by our congressional representative prevented its seizure. I remained nervous and worried on the long drive back, feelings that did not abate until midnight, when I received the call that the PPE shipment was secured at our warehouse.

It would be nice to have federal leadership that doesn’t make acquiring essential medical equipment seem more like buying a heroin shipment.

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The Pentagon changes rules for hospital ship in New York City after local outcry

Michael Schwirtz at The New York Times reported Thursday afternoon that there were only 20 patients on the 1,000-bed Navy hospital ship docked in New York harbor specifically to take the pressure off the city’s hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. The news infuriated hospital officials. Last week, President Donald Trump showed up in Norfolk, Virginia, to send the USNS Comfort to New York City, saying it would play a “critical role” in the fight against the virus. Said Michael Dowling, the head of Northwell Health, New York’s largest hospital system: “If I’m blunt about it, it’s a joke. Everyone can say, ‘Thank you for putting up these wonderful places and opening up these cavernous halls.’ But we’re in a crisis here, we’re in a battlefield.”

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Trump's helping Moscow muck with our elections. Here's why that fits the strict constitutional definition of treason

Throughout the history of the Republic, traitorous and treasonous have held a broader, more generic meaning for treason than the one found in the U.S. Constitution. The rebellious founders, having themselves been traitors to the British Crown—and being fully familiar with how English treason laws had been extended and abused in what was then the not-very-distant past—the drafters wisely kept to the narrowest of definitions in the first paragraph of Article III, Section 3:

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The economy is supposedly booming — but so many are being left behind

Unemployment is the lowest it has been in 50 years. Economic expansion since the Great Recession ended has been going on for 126 consecutive months, and net gains in job growth have been going on for 111 consecutive months. Both figures break the record for the 80 years that good statistics in such matters have been kept. The stock market is soaring. Every day we hear the economy is booming.

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A 4-day week could be a huge boon for workers — but getting there won’t be easy

For nearly four years in the mid-1970s, I worked as a printer, a union job that demanded good mechanical ability and focused concentration. At the time, the industry was on the cusp of big technological changes in printing, with computers and photocopying eventually forcing massive changes on work flow and reducing the level of skills needed to do the tasks. But these changes didn’t appear at the relatively small shop—40 people with two dozen of us running presses—until years after I left.

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Private landowners are fighting Trump's border wall

Three years into what can only be hoped is his sole term in office, one of Donald Trump’s key promises and desires—expanding the barrier between the United States and Mexico along the full length of their mutual border—is still partially hung up in numerous legal entanglements. That includes the ruling earlier this month that he cannot transfer funds from the Pentagon to build the border wall and an investigation into construction contracts being handed out to Republican campaign donors.

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New York Times reporters 'stand by' story revealing Navy Secretary Spencer threatened to resign over Trump plan to reverse SEAL's punishment

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer, and the commander of the SEALs, Rear Adm. Collin Green, have said they will resign if Donald Trump follows through on his plan to reverse the Navy’s removal of a member of the elite team of commandos accused of war crimes, including killing an ISIS captive and threatening to kill other SEALs if they passed information about this to their superiors. The Navy plans to move ahead with disciplinary action against the accused SEAL. Maggie Haberman, Helene Cooper and Dave Philipps at The New York Times report:

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National security expert catalogs the 9 lies of Devin Nunes in his opening impeachment statement

The pathetic performance by Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, in his opening statement in the impeachment inquiry Wednesday morning was a litany of lies. Marcy Wheeler, who, as blogger emptywheel, has for nearly two decades closely followed national security and civil liberties issues, pointed out nine of them on Twitter. Here’s a selection:

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The 'Trump economy' isn't living up to his promises

The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that inflation-adjusted gross domestic product—the value of all goods and services produced in the United States—grew at a seasonally adjusted, annualized rate of 1.9% in the third quarter of 2019.

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True patriots are rebels, not bootlickers

Samuel Johnson famously wrote in 1775 that “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” In The Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce made the appropriate correction: “With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.”

Fortunately, 15 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, the Bill of Rights was adopted and, in its First Amendment, freedom of speech and the press were enshrined. Allowing us all—so far, usually—to say what we want in a disrespectful voice if we so desire. That amendment is one reason I love my country and am a patriot.

I’ll admit that can sometimes be hard for someone whose Seminole ancestors were killed in three wars by soldiers flying the Stars and Stripes, with amends and apologies yet to be made, especially when modern American Indians remain mostly invisible except as stereotypes and remnants of a romanticized, white-washed past. Nonetheless, I call myself a patriot because patriots are rebels. That is not a cry for hauling out the guillotine. It comes from an optimism that patriots can and must remake the United States, just as in the past it was repeatedly remade by dissidents who rejected slavery, women’s second-class status, workers’ impotence, gender rigidity, racism’s reign. There is, it goes without saying, much left to achieve. Especially when the man now perched in the Oval Office declares there are good people among neo-Nazi protesters and cozies up to dictators so much he should be required to wear a body cam when traveling abroad.

Nothing, of course, offends right-wingers more, seems more disrespectful and disloyal, than when we dissenters, our criticisms barely escaped from our lips, claim ourselves to be patriots. They go apoplectic when we say it’s not patriotism that we disrespect but rather the pretenders who have made a fetish of it, twisted it, and commodified it.

These idolaters love the idea of dissent, the iconography of it, but jeer its reality. To them, patriots must be bootlickers. In extreme cases, jackbootlickers. Proof, as if more were needed, that even the word "patriot" itself must be recaptured from those who have hijacked it. They are not unlike Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague, who in January 1938 said:

”We hear about constitutional rights, free speech and the free press. Every time I hear these words I say to myself, ‘That man is a Red, that man is a Communist.’ You never hear a real American talk like that.”

Chinese and Russian capitalism have cost the accusation “Red” its punch, but even in our current era, the “real American” canard still carries weight.

Eleven years ago, a senator and presidential candidate by the name of Barack Obama gave a speech in Independence, Missouri, in which he said:

Now, we may hope that our leaders and our government stand up for our ideals, stand up for what's right, and there are many times in our history when that's occurred. But when our laws, when our leaders or our government are out of alignment with those ideals, then the dissent of ordinary Americans may prove to be one of the truest expressions of patriotism.

If you hear echoes of the Declaration in those lines, you’re not alone. Music to the ears of those of us for whom it and the Constitution are the flawed but hopeful beginning, not the end, of American ideals.

Seventy-odd years ago, George Orwell taught us how words are transformed to con the citizenry into accepting interpretations that often are the opposite of their real meanings. In “Notes on Nationalism,” written in May 1945, he said that patriotism is “devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force upon other people.” Nationalism, however, is something else, he said, zeroing in on the pretend patriots of then and our own time:

All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. ... Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage—torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians—which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by “our” side. ... The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them. ... In nationalist thought there are facts which are both true and untrue, known and unknown. A known fact may be so unbearable that it is habitually pushed aside and not allowed to enter into logical processes, or on the other hand it may enter into every calculation and yet never be admitted as a fact, even in one's own mind.

A patriot will defend what s/he loves without hatred or any notion of superiority. But nationalism demands a belief that others are inferior, which makes it aggressive by nature, the enemy of peace, and thus the enemy of patriotism. Nationalism frames everything in "us vs. them" terms. U.S. nationalism pretending to be patriotism has led to imperialist wars, the slaughter of indigenous peoples, the repeated suppression of dissent. In times of global tension, nationalism masquerading as patriotism demolishes the capacity of people to assess the reality of threats as well as to object if they find those threats scarce.

To adopt the unconditional support the nationalists ask of us could never be an expression of love for our country, the core definition of patriotism. Indeed, it would be extremely unpatriotic to do so. For who recklessly allows harm against that which s/he loves?

Fighting for a better country is what patriotic dissidents have done from the beginning of the United States. Arrayed against them and their high principles in every case were the pretend patriots, those for whom dissent was anathema, who saw attempts to expand the nation’s democracy to the poor, to women, and to people of color as a violation of their rights, who labeled opposition to expansionism and imperialist war as outright treason.

Despite the pretenders who engaged in naked aggression against abolitionists, suffragists, trade unionists, civil rights workers, and others, these dissidents made America better. They remade America. In our time, they are lauded as icons. But in their own, they were vilified, assaulted, and—not rarely—murdered for their audacity, for their belief that the ideals in the Declaration were not pretend. We owe them. And we honor them best by imitating them.

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Here are 13 recommended books about and by American Indians

Over the years, one question I have been asked repeatedly is for a recommendation of a book that comprehensively tells the story of American Indians. In fact, there’s no book that does that because, just like other people who live in the USA, Indians aren’t monolithic. Hundreds of federally recognized tribes, hundreds more that are unrecognized, 29 language groups and 10 times that many languages, different traditions, different religions. It’s Native American cultures, not culture singular. Our ancestors didn’t all wear feathered headdresses or hunt bison on horseback. And they don’t all own casinos or wish they did.

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Both Republicans and Democrats are irked by this DOD memo mandating restrictions on Pentagon info to Congress

In an internal May 8 Department of Defense memo that was only sent to selected members of Congress afterThe Washington Post first brought it to light, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has laid out new limits on how the Pentagon shares information with lawmakers about U.S. military operations around the world. Missy Ryan and Greg Jaffe report that the memo sets a half-dozen guidelines. These include the requirement that Pentagon officials and political appointees scrutinize each congressional request for operations information to see if it “contains sufficient information to demonstrate a relationship to the legislative function.” Instead of providing the requested operational plan or order itself, the memo urges Pentagon officials to provide a summary briefing.

Both Democratic and Republican leaders of the House Armed Services Committee have expressed deep misgivings about the move. Joe Gould at DefenseNews writes:

HASC Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., and ranking member Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said in statement Wednesday that they would use the nascent 2020 defense policy bill to address the restrictions, which would "dramatically limit Congress’ ability to execute our constitutional prerogative.” News of the policy was first reported by The Washington Post on Wednesday.

“Congress oversees the Department of Defense; but with this new policy, the Department is overstepping its authority by presuming to determine what warrants legislative oversight,” Smith and Thornberry said.  [...]

“The Department is not in a position to evaluate Defense committees’ worthiness to receive classified information, nor characterize our ability to appropriately protect it,” the lawmakers said. “We intend to address this matter in the National Defense Authorization Act.”

The two committee leaders were especially irked by the suggestion that lawmakers won’t keep their lips zipped when provided with operations information. This they described as “inexcusable and inaccurate.”

They aren’t the only members of Congress who have looked askance at the restrictions. Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in an interview with the Post that the memo “seems to be another way in which they can claim that they don’t need to respond to legitimate inquiry of Congress. From what I can glean from the memorandum basically they can use any factor they want to say no and they can make a determination what they think we need to do our job. I think we’re better positioned to determine what we need to do our job.”

If Shanahan were really concerned about the prospect that “loose lips sink ships,” he might think about sending a memo to the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue detailing new restrictions the Pentagon will impose on information it provides him given his documented penchant for revealing classified material.

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Democrats aren't buying the Trump team's fear-mongering about Iran and the ongoing march to war

In a closed-door briefing Tuesday on alleged new military threats from Iran, acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo didn’t persuade House Democrats that Tehran has done anything to warrant the war talk being spouted by Donald Trump and certain members of the Senate, such as Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, who last week said a war with Iran would be ended with just two U.S. strikes. Lawmakers emerged from the hearing expressing opinions that fell along party lines:

After stoking worries at home and abroad, among allies and foes alike, that war with Iran might be imminent, Trump has backed off a bit in the past few days, allowing noninterventionists who follow such matters most closely to stop holding their breath. On Sunday, Trump said he doesn’t want to go to war with Iran, just as has been the case with Iran’s leaders, including the head of the nation’s militant Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which Washington recently labeled a foreign terrorist organization. “I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News, adding, “I don’t want to fight … but you do have situations like Iran, you can’t let them have nuclear weapons—you just can’t let that happen.”

If this weren’t so serious, that assertion would be hilarious.

Twenty months of negotiations with Iran by the United States, the four other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, and Germany led to the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran. Under that agreement, Tehran agreed to curtail its nuclear development program for at least a decade in exchange for the suspension of economic sanctions imposed to get Iranian leaders to the negotiating table.

Even some prominent Democrats who support the agreement believe it is flawed and needs altering. But that’s a far cry from Trump’s stance. From the moment he began his election campaign, he was intent on trashing that deal—at least in part because it was brought about by President Barack Obama’s efforts. Trump stomped it last May, immediately reimposing some old sanctions and gradually imposing new ones, thus launching an economic war that is taking a huge toll on Iran’s economy. The potential for hyperinflation is looming, and exports of oil have fallen from last year’s 2.7 million barrels a day to fewer than a million barrels a day now, with prospects they will fall to 300,000 or so by the end of 2019. The Iranian economy is screaming.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel told reporters that Tuesday’s intelligence briefing contained nothing new and did little to quell Democrats’ view that the Trump regime is rushing toward war with Iran. Any military action against Iran, he and other Democrats say, requires congressional approval.

Democrats also noted that the renewed sanctions—imposed despite the fact that Iran had complied with every provision of the nuclear pact, according to international inspectors—have not succeeded in forcing Tehran to renegotiate. On the contrary, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said absolutely not as far as new negotiations are concerned. “Today’s situation is not suitable for talks and our choice is resistance only,” he said Monday.

That same day, Iran announced that it is quadrupling its capacity to produce enriched uranium, a fuel for both nuclear power plants and, if enriched at high enough levels, nuclear weapons. This violates the accord, just as Trump’s reimposition of sanctions does. The increased enrichment will soon push Iran over the stockpile limits provided for in the nuclear accord, but Iran made clear that it only plans to enrich uranium to  the 3.67% limit, the level needs for a power plant but not nearly enough to build a nuclear bomb.

Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released Tuesday showed that 53% of Americans say Iran is a “serious” or “imminent” threat, but 60% say they oppose a preemptive attack on the Iranian military, and 61% still support the nuclear accord. Of those polled, 12% advocated a first strike, but 79% said that the U.S. military should retaliate if Iran were to attack the United States first, with 40% backing only airstrikes and 39% favoring a full invasion that would include ground troops.

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Connecticut Supreme Court gives families in Sandy Hook case new hope in their suit against gun maker

In a 4-3 decision that marks a potentially major turning point in the fight between gun law reformers and gun rights advocates, the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision Thursday that had dismissed a wrongful-death lawsuit against gun manufacturer Remington. The suit was brought by families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting. Remington is the maker of the Bushmaster XM!5-E25, the semi-automatic military-style assault weapon Adam Lanza used to kill 20 children and six school staff.

Legal experts said the case will come down to how the state Supreme Court will interpret two possible exceptions allowed under the arms act — whether Remington can be held liable for so-called “negligent entrustment” or whether it violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. Negligent entrustment is defined as “supplying of a qualified product by a seller for use by another person when the seller knows, or reasonably should know, the person to whom the product is supplied is likely to, and does, use the product in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical injury to the person or others.”

When the lawsuit reached the Connecticut Supreme Court, gun control advocates, school officials and emergency doctors who treated victims of assault rifle fire submitted amicus briefs in favor of the lawsuit. Gun-rights organizations also weighed in, including the National Rifle Association, which argued that the case stood to “eviscerate” the gun companies’ legal protections.

In 2017, Joshua D. Koskoff, one of the lawyers representing the families, said in oral arguments before a panel of judges that “Remington may never have known Adam Lanza, but they had been courting him for years.”

At the New York Times, Rick Rojas and Kristin Hussey write:

The ruling validates the novel strategy lawyers for the victims’ families used as they sought to find a route around the vast protections in federal law that guard gun companies from litigation when their products are used to commit a crime. [...]

The lawsuit argued that the AR-15-style Bushmaster used in the 2012 attack had been marketed as a weapon of war, invoking the violence of combat and using slogans like “Consider your man card reissued.”

The high stakes posed by the case stirred a vigorous response from both sides that only intensified after recurring episodes of deadly mass violence that followed the Newtown attack.

In a prepared statement, Koskoff said: “The families are grateful that our state’s Supreme Court has rejected the gun industry’s bid for complete immunity, not only from the consequences of their reckless conduct but also from the truth-seeking discovery process. The families’ goal has always been to shed light on Remington’s calculated and profit-driven strategy to expand the AR-15 market and court high-risk users, all at the expense of Americans’ safety.”

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Climate Science-Denying Trump Regime Silently Killed NASA Carbon Monitoring System

Wise leaders facing a crisis want to suss out every bit of solid information they can about the parameters of that crisis and its potential impacts. But America today is led not by the wise but rather a brigade of numbskulls.

While Trump and his ever-changing parade of minions keep spewing the Make America Great Again campaign slogan, the reality is that killing CMS cedes U.S. leadership to Europe. Duffy points out, "We really shoot ourselves in the foot if we let other people develop the technology."

While Trump has announced that he plans to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate accord, the U.S. cannot do that until 2020. So U.S. negotiators are now in Bonn, Germany, working out the details of how the accord will actually work. According to the BBC, those negotiators are, ironically, insisting on strict rules for measuring and monitoring emissions.

The loss of CMS doesn’t mean NASA will have no carbon-measuring capability. This summer the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation laser system (GEDI) will be launched to the International Space Station. Rachel Licker, a senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told the BBC that the move to eliminate CMS is nonetheless problematic:

"In the long-term, dismantling the Carbon Monitoring System will adversely affect our ability to track flows of carbon through our land, oceans, and atmosphere," Ms Licker said.

"Being able to better track carbon is critical to evaluating efforts and policies aimed at limiting global warming and its impacts."

But Trump is more interested in wars in outer space than using space science to provide measurements to help us survive on the only planet we know capable of supporting intelligent life. Too bad there’s not a bunch more intelligence down here and a lot less numbskullery.

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Donald Trump Can't Be Pleased About the Latest Jobs Report

In a surprisingly weak report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday that 103,000 new, seasonally adjusted jobs were created in March. That was far below the 175,000 of the consensus of experts surveyed by Bloomberg earlier this week. Of those jobs, 102,000 were created in the private sector, 1,000 in the public sector. The report marked the smallest number of job gains since September 2017 and contrasted sharply with February’s strong report. For the sixth consecutive month, the headline unemployment rate held at 4.1 percent in March. 

Each month’s jobs gains or losses are calculated by analyzing the Current Employment Survey of 147,000 business establishments. The unemployment rate is calculated from the Current Population Survey of 60,000 households.

U3 is the BLS label for its headline rate of unemployment. As noted, that has been 4.1 percent for six months running, and remains at its lowest level in 17 years. 

In addition, the bureau calculated a rate it labels U6, which looks at “labor underutilitization” and covers both unemployment and underemployment. In March, as noted above, U6 fell to 8.0 percent. Its low shortly before the Great Recession began was 8 percent in March 2007. However, in mid-2001, it reached 6.9 percent. The U6 count covers a number of categories, one of those being part-time workers who want full-time positions but cannot get them.

The civilian workforce fell by 158,000 in March after rising 806,000 in February. The labor force participation rate fell 0.1 to 62.9 percent in March, and the employment-population ratio remained unchanged at 60.4 percent.

Additional details from the report:

Hours & Wages:

 Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees rose 4 cents an hour to $22.42 after rising 6 cents an hour in February.
 Average work week for all employees on non-farm payroll remained at 34.5 hours in March.
 Average hourly earnings for all employees on private non-farm payrolls rose 8 cents an hour to $26.82 after rising 4 cents an hour in February.
 The manufacturing work week in March slipped by 0.1 hour to 40.9 hours.

November Job Gains and Losses for selected categories:

  • Professional services: 33,000
    • Temporary help services: -600
  • Transportation & warehousing: 9,800
  • Financial activities: 2,000
  • Leisure & hospitality: 5,000
  • Information: 2,000
  • Education and health services: 25,000
    • Health care & social assistance: 33,800
  • Retail trade: -.4.400
  • Construction: -15,000
  • Manufacturing: 22,000
  • Mining and Logging: 8,000

Here's what the seasonally adjusted job growth numbers have looked like in the previous decade compared with this March’s gain of 103,000 jobs.

March 2008:    -55,000    
March  2009: -802,000
March 2010:   193,000  
March  2011:  254,000
March 2012:   264,000
March 2013:   156,000
March 2014:   261,000
March 2015:     78,000
March 2016:   235,000
March​​​​​​​ 2017:     73,000

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So Far, 18 Elected Democrats Say They Will Resist the Trump Regime by Boycotting the Inauguration

Back in early December, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez of Illinois’ 5th Congressional District was the first Democrat to announce he would not be attending the inauguration of Donald Trump January 20 because the pr*sident-elect is a fountain of "hatred, bigotry and prejudice." He told CNN on December 2:

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Federal Courts Have Ordered States Like Texas to Play Fair with Voters

In Texas, some election officials still haven’t gotten it through their heads that they must comply with court orders regarding voting procedure. They are still posting or passing out bad information about what kind of identification is needed to be able to cast a ballot—and it’s confusing many Texans. 

Naturally, this creates the confusion among voters we seeing. Confusion is one of the most effective weapons in the suppressors’ arsenal. One outcome: An unknown but possibly quite large number of citizens who believe they must have the mandated ID will simply choose not to vote at all. 

In Wisconsin, which also has a very strict voter ID law, the federal courts ruled that the state’s restrictions went too far and that it should quickly provide a for-voting-only ID. Quickly did not happen, and other obstacles arose.

Some would-be voters seeking one of the new IDs have been told by election officials that they would need an original copy of their birth certificate. But that’s not true. Despite court orders, the officials continue to pass out bits of bad information.

So here we are, less than two weeks away from the election, and state and local officials continue to provide people with bad information about whether they actually will be allowed to vote and if they are allowed, whether their ballot actually will be counted.

The suppressors are determined, aggressively or passive-aggressively, to keep people away from the polls by confusion, disinformation, and delay. Any rules they don’t like, they go around—or they flat-out ignore them .

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American Indians Killed by Cops at Highest Rate in the Nation, but They're Invisible in the Media

I  know it was unprofessional of me. But I wept when I read Stephanie Woodard’s investigative piece on the killings of American Indians by cops published Monday in the democratic socialist magazine In These Times. It’s no stretch to say it broke my heart.

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A Year Ago, Video Fakers Tried to Swift-Boat Planned Parenthood: Instead, They Helped Strengthen It

A year ago today, working with terrorists of the anti-abortion movement, David Daleiden distributed the first of four “sting” videos to conservative politicians and some media purporting to show that Planned Parenthood offices were profiting from the sale of tissue from aborted fetuses. As we learned soon afterward, the videos constituted an unfounded smear against the organization, fabricated by extremists with sleight-of-hand editing.

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Despicable Trump Ally Roger Stone Called for Bernie Sanders to Be Shot for Treason

Too bad for Roger Stone that the internet remembers. This time it’s his sleazy red-baiting. These days, the notorious, nefarious Stone—opposition researcher, all-around dirty trickster, organizer of the “Brooks Brothers riot” of the 2000 Florida recount, rumor-monger of the Michelle Obama “whitey” tape, and general political hitman for the GOP—remains an ally of Donald Trump (even though he quit last year as Trump’s campaign manager). He is also chief of a Trump SuperPac, the Committee to Restore America's Greatness. What specific consultations consultant Stone may be whispering into the billionaire’s ear can only be deduced by listening to what crawls out of Trump’s mouth. 

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Inflation-Adjusted Wages Have Declined Since Great Recession, and Worse for Low-Wage Occupations



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Sen. Schumer and 7 Other Democrats Are Making a Terrible Choice Siding With GOP on Iran Bill

Chuck Schumer, the expected replacement as top Senate Democrat when Harry Reid retires at the end of his term, has made a big splash in the past few days by saying he supports a bill designed to give Congress the clout to wreck a deal with Iran. He is not, of course, the only Democrat backing the Corker-Menendez bill, S. 615, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. Since March 26, when Schumer quietly signed on as the latest of eight Democratic co-sponsors of the bill, it's had 21 co-sponsors, including one independent, Sen. Angus King of Maine.

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Nearly 2,000 Civilians Were Killed in a Single Terror Attack in Nigeria - Where Was the Media?

Faith Karimi and Aminu Abubakar of CNN report that nine days after the ultra-extremist gang Boko Haram slaughtered an estimated 2,000 Nigerian civilians in Baga Jan. 3, the bodies are still scattered around the town and authorities and surviving residents fear going there to bury them.

Baga is located in Borno state, on the shores of Lake Chad in northeastern Nigeria where the boundaries of Chad, Niger and Cameroon intersect. The self-proclaimed Islamicist group has been kidnapping and killing civilians in the area since 2009. Nine months ago, it kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from Chibok. Some have escaped. It is said that many of those still held have been forced into marriages with Boko Haram fighters whose exact numbers are unknown but probably amount to a few thousand:

In addition to the Baga murders, on Saturday a young girl—variously described as being 10 or 17 to 18—detonated a bomb she was wearing in a marketplace in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state. The bomb killed 20 and injured as many as 30 more. It is not certain that this was an act engineered by Boko Haram, but the terrorist gang has been trying to take over the capital, where it was born, for several years.

The government claims it has responded to the latest attacks by sending soldiers in pursuit. But one eyewitness told CNN, a resident of Baga who was away during the attacks, says those claims are lies and not a single soldier has shown up near Baga.

Meanwhile, critics have complained that Western media have ignored or barely touched the Baga slaughter and the Kano bombing amid a 24/7 outpouring of coverage of the murders at the offices of Charlie Hebdo. The Guardian ran a story Monday on the criticisms under the headline: "Why did the world ignore Boko Haram's Baga attacks?"

Reporting in northern Nigeria is notoriously difficult, journalists have been targeted by Boko Haram, and, unlike in Paris, people on the ground are isolated and struggle with access to the internet and other communications. Attacks by Boko Haram have disrupted connections further, meaning that there is an absence of an online community able to share news, photos and video reports of news as it unfolds.

But reports of the massacre were coming through and as the world’s media focused its attention on Paris, some questioned why they were almost ignored. […]

“I am Charlie, but I am Baga too,” wrote Simon Allison for the Daily Maverick, a partner on the Guardian Africa network. “There are massacres and there are massacres” he said, arguing that “it may be the 21st century, but African lives are still deemed less newsworthy—and, by implication, less valuable—than western lives”.

That attitude, sadly, is not new. And it has infected the African media and leadership, too. Allison noted that African media did a poor job covering the massacre. “Our outrage and solidarity over the Paris massacre is also a symbol of how we as Africans neglect Africa’s own tragedies, and prioritise western lives over our own.” That prioritization goes all the way to the top. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who is running for election in February, expressed his condolences for the victims in Paris over the weekend but made no mention of those at Baga.

What's lacking in western media coverage of Africa isn't just news about massacres, however. For instance, how often have stories appeared in American newspapers, on CNN, the BBC and major European media about the presence of U.S. military operations in 12 sub-Saharan nations, including Nigeria?

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Nearly 300,000 Veterans Have Lost Out on Jobless Compensation Because of the Disdainful House GOP

When Republicans in Congress chose in December not to renew the federally funded emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) program for Americans who had been out of work for six months or more, 1.3 million people suddenly lost the small weekly check they were using to tide them over until they could find a job. About 10 percent, 130,000 of them, were military veterans.

Since then, some 1.7 million more people have lost out on the compensation first passed by Congress six years ago this month. About 155,000 of them are veterans.

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