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Ocean acidification is on the rise, putting marine species at risk around the world

Daily Kos - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 15:23

Rapidly increasing ocean acidification is combining with rising water temperatures, hypoxic “dead zones,” and torrents of trash to threaten marine species around the globe, a new study has concluded.

Acidification levels are on the rise thanks to the burning of fossil fuels, and the worsening water quality could have ripple effects down the ocean food chain.

Since ocean acidification happens extremely fast compared to natural processes, only organisms with short generation times, such as micro-organisms, are able to keep up,” the authors of the study Exploring Ocean Change: Biological Impacts of Ocean Acidification found.

Marine life such as crustaceans and organisms that create calcified shelters for themselves in the oceans were thought to be most at risk, because acid seas would hinder them forming shells. However, the research shows that while these are in danger, perhaps surprisingly, some – such as barnacles – are often unaffected, while the damage from acidification is also felt much higher up the food chain, into big food fish species.

Atlantic cod in the Baltic and Barents seas, for example, could be one-quarter the size they are today by the end of the century, according to the scientists, who conducted the study as part of the Biological Impacts of Ocean Acidification group (known as Bioacid), a German network of researchers. The group conducted the study with the support of the German government.

The study was initiated well before governments signed a global agreement on climate change at Paris in 2015, and highlights how the Paris agreement to hold warming to no more than 2C may not be enough to prevent further acidification of the world’s seas.

President Trump decided to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement in June. A meeting among the remaining governments is planned for November and the study’s authors hope ocean acidification will be among the topics discussed.

Categories: Politics

Trump is setting the stage for a brutal government shutdown fight

Daily Kos - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 15:20

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Are we headed for a Hanukkah government shutdown? If Congress doesn’t pass a spending bill—requiring eight Democratic votes in the Senate—by midnight on December 15, the federal government will shut down. Thanks to Donald Trump, though, the list of legislative priorities that must be resolved just keeps growing: 

Once Obamacare repeal failed, the only major item on Republicans’ agenda for the rest of the year was supposed to be tax reform. But then Trump announced his administration planned to sunset the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, putting upward of 600,000 unauthorized immigrants in limbo; and that it would end the Affordable Care Act’s subsidy payments, a move that will increase premiums for Americans and dig a deeper hole in the national deficit. Trump is forcing Congress’s hand to act, but he hasn’t given a clear or realistic policy directive on immigration or health care.

Congress also keeps putting off negotiations on key policies, like the now-expired federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Democrats aren’t going to give up the leverage they have. Republican hostage-taking doesn’t make Democratic priorities like protections for Dreamers or health insurance for kids less important, and, of course, there’s the Trump factor:

Categories: Politics

McConnell so toxic, almost two dozen GOP Senate candidates decline to back him as leader

Daily Kos - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 15:02

This is absolutely stunning reporting from The Hill:

The Hill asked nearly two dozen Senate candidates this week if they would support McConnell as leader if elected. Not one campaign said outright that they would support him, although two candidates appear to have expressed support in the past.

Several candidates declared their opposition to McConnell and attacked their GOP primary opponents for not taking a stance on the question. Other candidates deflected, or spoke on background about the bind they’re in over the question of McConnell’s leadership. Most candidates were eager to avoid the question entirely, and ignored multiple requests for comment.

Well, that gives us a sense of who's winning the McConnell vs. Steve Bannon "war" in which everyone is staking out a position. Republican hopefuls won't touch McConnell with a 10-foot pole, even as the guy who essentially helped create the GOP's ruling class, Karl Rove, tagged Bannon a "failed presidential adviser and alt-right sympathizer” in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week.

And the noxious McConnell is desperately trying to remind GOP voters what the tea party-inspired civil war cost Senate Republicans in the not-so-distant past.

“This element has been out there for a while,” Mr. McConnell said on CNN. “They cost us five Senate seats in 2010 and 2012 by nominating people who couldn’t win in November,” he said on CNN. “In order for the president’s agenda to advance, we have to be able to elect people who support the agenda. And so these [intraparty] skirmishes are all about whether or not we can nominate a candidate who can win.”

Of course, that "element" doesn't have much to lose if McConnell's caucus proves it can't deliver a single piece of major legislation—which is exactly what it has proven so far. 

Categories: Politics

Midday open thread: McCain burns Trump on 'bone spurs,' Bill O'Reilly was and is scum

Daily Kos - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 15:01
Cartoon by Tom Tomorrow - State of denial
  • What you missed on Sunday Kos …
  • Sen. John McCain may be a jackass most of the time, but this quote is golden: 

On C-SPAN McCain says, “One aspect of the (Vietnam) conflict by the way that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest income level of America and the highest income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur. That is wrong. That is wrong. If we are going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve.”

Last January, six months after Fox News ousted its chairman amid a sexual harassment scandal, the network’s top-rated host at the time, Bill O’Reilly, struck a $32 million agreement with a longtime network analyst to settle new sexual harassment allegations, according to two people briefed on the matter — an extraordinarily large amount for such cases.

Although the deal has not been previously made public, the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, acknowledges that it was aware of the woman’s complaints about Mr. O’Reilly. They included allegations of repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material to her, according to the people briefed on the matter.

A graduate student and teaching instructor at Virginia Tech has been discovered to be an avowed white supremacist, but university officials have yet to take any action to dismiss him.

Mark Neuhoff, who teaches English composition at the university part-time, was discovered in late September to have posted a series of racist comments on social media. “I want white supremacy,” one post read. “Whites must be in control if we are to preserve western culture. Categorically, no other race can do it.”

  • Something like this is probably coming to the U.S.A. soon:

The President of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, crudely insulted reporters by showing off a replica AK-47 with the inscription “for journalists” — less than a week after an investigative journalist in Malta was killed by a car bomb.

On today’s Kagro in the Morning show, Trump golfs while staff scrambles to cover for his Gold Star family lies. JJ MacNab says she’s seen Russians and Iranians poking right-wing anti-gov’t extremists online for a long time. UAE planned to rent an army to invade Qatar? White Terrorism Weekend!

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Categories: Politics

Lifesaving 'Border Angels' leave jugs of water for migrants along the U.S./Mexico border

Daily Kos - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 14:52

Humanitarian group Border Angels estimates that since 1994, some 10,000 migrants have lost their lives attempting to cross the U.S./Mexico border, dying of dehydration and exposure in the searing desert sun, where temperatures can climb as high as 127 degrees during the day. In Brooks County, Texas, “the bodies and remains of more than 550 undocumented migrants have been discovered.” Hundreds of unidentified bodies, with no way for them to be claimed, are buried in graves in California, Arizona, and Texas, some with markers from Border Angels reading "Not forgotten” and "In our hearts.” But just as important as bringing dignity to the dead is the work Border Angels does for the living. Mother Jones’ Al Kamalizado:

Border Angels is an immigrant-advocacy group that organizes hikes into the southern California desert to distribute water along various routes for migrants crossing the US-Mexico border. Last month, along with about 40 volunteers, I tagged along to film one of these “water drops.” After five hours working under the desert sun, a handful of the Border Angels crew hung around a gas station parking lot. Snacks and sodas in hand, they traded laughs and stories from the trek as the border wall loomed in the valley over their shoulders. Some had a close personal connection to someone who had previously crossed: a father, a grandfather, a girlfriend. But some did not.

In his “Instagram mini-series,” Kamalizado captured the life-saving yet heart-wrenching work of Border Angels humanitarian workers, hundreds of whom regularly leave jugs of water throughout the desert with brightly colored tags and written messages including “Keep going,” “God is with you,” and “Love without borders.” While the water jugs themselves are left in visible spots on rocks and other formations so that they can be visible to anyone in crisis, the overall locations themselves are kept secret because anti-immigrant vigilantes have been known to intentionally slash water jugs, according to Border Angels.

Categories: Politics

Obama kicks off campaign to fight Republican gerrymandering

Daily Kos - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 14:51

Campaign Action

As president, Barack Obama did not always put the most effort into building the Democratic Party. As a former president, he’s working to undo some of the losses the party has suffered at the state level in recent years. Organizing for Action, which came out of his campaign, is joining with the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, headed by former Attorney General Eric Holder, to do exactly the long-game, state-level organizing at which Republicans so often trounce Democrats. The effort is kicking off with Obama’s direct participation:

“OFA volunteers and supporters will provide the grassroots organizing capacity and mobilization that we’ll need to win state-level elections and move other initiatives forward ahead of the 2021 redistricting process, making sure that states are in the best position possible to draw fair maps,” Obama writes in an email set to go out to the OFA’s list that he'll call "Our Next Fight." [...]

Obama and Holder have both campaigned in New Jersey and Virginia, and the NDRC put $750,000 into the Virginia governor’s race last month.

OFA, meanwhile, will start holding house parties, community meetings and conference calls geared to helping their organizers understand and internalize what gerrymandering is, and what the processes are for changing district maps in each state.

We have a lot of catching up to do, people. For Democrats to do as well at electing lawmakers as in the popular vote, it’ll take years of effort, thanks to Republican gerrymandering.

Categories: Politics

Sessions' Dept. of Justice will say anything to prevent an undocumented immigrant's right to choose

Daily Kos - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 14:24

On Friday, a panel of the D.C. Circuit’s U.S. Court of Appeals entered an order preventing a 17-year-old undocumented woman in federal detention from exercising her constitutional right to choose. This happened despite the fact that she had already sought and received an order from a Texas state court judge confirming that she was mature enough to make this decision on her own, and that all she needed was the same freedom to visit her doctor for the purposes of terminating her pregnancy, which the Trump/Sessions Department of Justice (DOJ) would readily grant if she were continuing her pregnancy.

Over the weekend, the ACLU filed an emergency petition calling for for the entire D.C. Circuit to review this case, and it makes the same strong arguments as Judge Patricia Ann Millett’s dissent on Friday: time is of the essence, given that Jane Doe is 15 ½ weeks pregnant, her constitutional rights are clear, and there is no reason to believe that the Department of Health and Human Services will approve a “sponsor” for Doe in the next week, given how intensive and burdensome that process is.

In response, the DOJ has filed a brief this morning so patently false that it would be worthy of laughter if a young woman's rights weren’t at stake. They argue that Doe could resolve this predicament herself by “filing for voluntary depature”—i.e., self-deporting—except, as they conceded in Friday’s oral argument, her home country actually bans abortion. They then claim that they don’t want to “facilitate” her abortion, though it carries the same paperwork and health monitoring burdens for them as it would if J.D. were visiting a doctor for prenatal care instead. And they finally suggest that another eight days for finding a sponsor (the panel’s deadline) will prove no burden to the young woman’s health, even though medical studies make clear that sooner is better, and the Trump/Sessions DOJ obviously disregards the profound dignitary harms of continuing to force her to carry a child against her will. As the ACLU argued in its emergency brief:

J.D. is not seeking any assistance from Defendants to obtain the abortion: Her court-appointed representatives or the shelter personnel stand ready to transport her; the health center stands ready to provide the care; and private funds have been provided to pay for the procedure. All Defendants must do is to step aside and stop blocking the door.

The D.C. Circuit is expected to act quickly. At present, it has seven Democratic-nominated judges and three Republicans, with one vacant seat.

Categories: Politics

Russia investigations in House and Senate likely to generate little but political statements

Daily Kos - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 14:06

While special counsel Robert Mueller continues to work his way up the chain of Trump-related staffers, there are three other investigations of the relationship between Russian officials and the Trump campaign supposedly still underway. However, none of them seems likely to produce even a strongly-worded letter, much less an indictment.

All three committees looking into Russian interference — one in the House, two in the Senate — have run into problems, from insufficient staffing to fights over when the committees should wrap up their investigations. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s inquiry has barely started, delayed in part by negotiations over the scope of the investigation. Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, while maintaining bipartisan comity, have sought to tamp down expectations about what they might find.

Least likely to do thing one: The House Intelligence Committee. At first, that committee was headed by Devin Nunes, who used the position to skulk around the White House and launch contradictory investigations so ludicrous he eventually had to recuse himself from his own investigation—though he’s constantly threatened to return. Now that committee is headed by a trio of Republicans including Trey ‘Benghazi’ Gowdy, most recently seen advising a witness on just what a mockery his leadership turns out to be.

Representative Trey Gowdy, who spent nearly three years investigating Hillary Clinton’s culpability in the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, was growing frustrated after two hours. You are in an unwinnable situation, Mr. Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican, counseled Mr. Kushner. If you leave now, Democrats will say you did not answer all the questions. If you stay, they will keep you here all week.

Unbelievably, though Gowdy is not even pretending to conduct an actual investigation, that’s still a step up from Nunes’ active interference.

Meanwhile, in the Senate … pretty much nothing is happening.

Categories: Politics

Georgia legislator says she was trying to be 'provocative' with HIV 'quarantine' comments

Daily Kos - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 14:06

Ah, the old "I was just trying to be edgy" defense.

Betty Price, the wife of former HHS Secretary Tom Price, is defending her comment about quarantining people with HIV as an attempt to be provocative about a public health crisis. [...]

"I made a provocative and rhetorical comment as part of a free-flowing conversation which has been taken completely out of context." she said in a statement to the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Saturday.

In that aforementioned free-flowing conversation, Price had mentioned "quarantine" and noted how Americans with HIV are not dying as "readily" as they once did.

“It seems to me it’s almost frightening the number of people who are living that are potentially carriers, well not carriers, with the potential to spread, whereas in the past they died more readily and at that point they are not posing a risk. So we’ve got a huge population posing a risk if they are not in treatment.”

In her statement, Price says she does not support quarantine, but was trying to "light a fire under all of us" as regards to what to do about the continued spread of HIV. Her own state, Georgia, has among the highest new infection rates in the nation, possibly because like the rest of the Republican-led South, it is firmly in the sucks to be you camp of most national healthcare debates.

Categories: Politics

Sinclair Broadcasting's plan to take over local news should frighten us all

Daily Kos - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 13:43

With 193 television stations across the nation, Sinclair Broadcasting's influence already extends into 40 percent of American households. But the broadcast empire, which often requires its stations to air unabashed conservative content, now wants to reach fully 70 percent of households with its $3.9 billion bid to acquire Tribune Media's 42 TV stations.

This a truly frightening prospect from a media conglomerate that's already wielding enormous power in local TV markets, which polls show many Americans trust more than other news outlets. And the Trump administration appears to be serving as an ally in helping Sinclair achieve its goals. Mother Jones' Andy Kroll writes:

“The most important force shaping public opinion continues to be local, over-the-air television,” says Andrew Jay Schwartzman, a senior attorney at Georgetown’s Communications and Technology Law Clinic. “That’s the underlying premise of the FCC continuing to regulate broadcast ownership.”

But under the leadership of Ajit Pai, a Republican who joined the commission in 2012 and whom Trump elevated to chairman, the FCC has seemingly gone out of its way to grease the wheels for the Sinclair-Tribune merger, reinstating a rule from the Reagan era that could help the company avoid limits on media consolidation. “The FCC is gaming the rules to directly benefit Sinclair,” says Craig Aaron, the president of the public interest group Free Press.

If the merger is approved, Sinclair’s broadcasts will reach 72 percent of all households. Some media analysts have speculated that with Fox News reeling from cascading sexual harassment scandals, Sinclair senses an opportunity to build a rival conservative network. David Smith is reportedly eyeing a collaboration with Steve Bannon, the former Trump White House chief strategist who leads Breitbart News. There have also been reports, which Sinclair denies, that the company is pursuing the ousted Fox host Bill O’Reilly as well as Sean Hannity.

Great! Trump TV guided by the sorcery of Steve Bannon. Just what we need.

Categories: Politics

The NYT's curious euphemism for O'Reilly's alleged behavior: 'nonconsensual sexual relationship'

Daily Kos - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 13:28

The New York Times deserves credit for breaking the story of Bill O'Reilly's $32 million settlement with a former Fox analyst, but the Times' curious euphemism for the behavior that resulted in that settlement is a jaw-dropper:

Last January, six months after Fox News ousted its chairman amid a sexual harassment scandal, the network’s top-rated host at the time, Bill O’Reilly, struck a $32 million agreement with a longtime network analyst to settle new sexual harassment allegations, according to two people briefed on the matter — an extraordinarily large amount for such cases.

Although the deal has not been previously made public, the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, acknowledges that it was aware of the woman’s complaints about Mr. O’Reilly. They included allegations of repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material to her, according to the people briefed on the matter. [emphasis added]

A lot of people have been wondering what O'Reilly could have done to cause him to settle for that astounding $32 million. Even the most egregious sexual harassment cases don't result in $32 million settlements, and attempts to defend O’Reilly have only further proved how awful his behavior was. How awful? The Times calls O'Reilly's behavior sexual harassment, but the real story seems to be in that curious euphemism. Let's highlight it:

They included allegations of repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material to her, according to the people briefed on the matter.

What the hell does that mean?

Categories: Politics

23 days after CHIP expired, Virginia preparing to tell families their kids will lose health coverage

Daily Kos - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 12:54

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Nearly 9 million children across the country are in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, with 65,000 of them (along with 1,100 pregnant women) in Virginia. Thanks to Republicans in Congress letting the CHIP program expire, Virginia now faces a December 1 deadline to let families know that their children’s coverage will end on January 31. That could mean disaster for children and their families:

The result would look would like this: a child with asthma who loses health insurance will have nothing to prevent future asthmatic episodes and will almost certainly end up in the emergency room, said Dr. Richard Bennett, a pediatrician at the Bon Secours Richmond Community Hospital.

“The coverage that would have cost a few dollars to hundreds of dollars will now cost a family thousands to tens of thousands of dollars,” Bennett said.

The ripples would expand from there. The child would likely miss school and parents would then miss work, placing their employment at risk while they grapple with a mountain of medical debt.

It’s possible that congressional Republicans will decide that letting millions of children lose their health care isn’t a good idea on political grounds, even if they’re fine with it as a policy, and will renew CHIP’s funding. But for now, Virginia, like other states, is putting time and money into dismantling its program, including getting ready to notify families of what’s coming: 

“It’s going to be a balancing act between giving parents too little notice and unnecessarily scaring them,” [a state official] said.

With this Congress, they probably should be scared.

Categories: Politics

Democrats' early fundraising eclipsing that of GOP incumbents

Daily Kos - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 12:15

Republicans are stunned at both the sheer number of Democratic candidates throwing their hats in the ring for 2018 and the cash they are amassing in these early fundraising days. Politico writes:

Animated by opposition to President Donald Trump and the Republican congressional majorities, at least 162 Democratic candidates in 82 GOP-held districts have raised over $100,000 so far this year, according to a POLITICO analysis of the latest FEC data. That’s about four times as many candidates as House Democrats had at this point before the 2016 or 2014 elections, and it’s more than twice as many as Republicans had running at this point eight years ago, on the eve of capturing the House in the 2010 wave election.

Nearly three dozen Republican incumbents were outraised by Democratic challengers in the third quarter of this year – a stunning figure. Nine GOP incumbents already trail a Democratic opponent in cash on hand, increasing the likelihood that many veteran incumbents will face tough opposition for the first time in years. [...]

“That’s something that should get every Republican’s attention in Washington,” said Jason Roe, a Republican strategist who works on House races. “These first-timers are printing money."

The phenomenon is happening in both red and blue states. In New Jersey, for instance, all three of GOP Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen's Democratic opponents surpassed his third-quarter fundraising, and each of them has already taken in more cash than any of the 12-term Congressman’s previous challengers.

And in the Houston-area district of Texas Republican Rep. John Culberson, which went for Clinton in 2016, both of his Democratic opponents ended the summer with more cash on hand.

The challenge for Democrats will be navigating the primaries without tearing each other apart. That said, Democratic voters feel a palpable sense of urgency right now, and many will experience the power of making a real choice in the primary.

“Clearly there is an intensity among the Democratic base that is similar to what Republicans had in 2009, but it’s hard to tell what it’s going to be like a year from now,” said [GOP strategist Mike] DuHaime. “But you can’t deny the enthusiasm.”

Categories: Politics

'We don’t need a warrant': ICE agents illegally enter Oregon home to arrest man later released

Daily Kos - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 12:14

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Carlos Bolanos and his coworker George Cardenas were painting the inside of a Salem, Oregon, home when two ICE agents stepped inside, without their permission and without a warrant, to demand ID from Bolanos, with one saying that “I have reason to believe you’re not in the country legally.” Cardenas began shooting the video when the agents refused to identify themselves and defiantly claimed that “we don’t need a warrant to come in this home. No one lives here”:

One of the agents insisted that there was no one living in the house and, because it was vacant, they didn't need a warrant. But Cardenas said he never invited any of them inside and continued to ask them to leave. They refused.

"At what point did I say he is here?" Cardenas calmly asked the agents, who are dressed in plainclothes. "At what point did I say come in? At what point, can you please tell me?"

Cardenas asked repeatedly for the agents' names, but they stood silent or declined to provide them.

"We don't need to introduce ourselves by our names. There's no law that says we have to," one of the agents said.

"There's a law that says you can't come into private property. Did you know that?" Cardenas asked.

"That is correct and you are right," the agent replied.

While the agents stood around, the co-workers said they were calling the homeowner to come to the property. Cardenas warned them that the owner would tell them to leave.

But by the end of the nearly eight-minute video, ICE agents had removed the paintbrush and cell phone from Bolanos’ hands to cuff him and place him in an ICE vehicle. “Oregon’s two U.S. senators denounced the agents’ actions. Rep. Diego Hernandez, a Democrat representing Portland in the Oregon House of Representatives, tweeted: ‘They had no warrant, ICE is out of line.’”

Categories: Politics

Lawyers for immigrant teen take her fight for an abortion to full appeals court in Washington, D.C.

Daily Kos - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 11:21

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On Friday, Oct. 20, an appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled that the Trump administration cannot block a 17-year-old undocumented immigrant woman in a detention facility from getting an abortion. In case you are keeping count, that’s now two individual judges (one at the state level, one at the federal level) and an appeals court panel of three judges that have all come to the same conclusion: this young woman has the right to have an abortion if she wants one. Yet the administration is still persisting in its attempt to force this woman into motherhood. 

Despite three court rulings that have been on her side, it is still a real possibility that Jane Doe, as the teen is known, will not get the abortion that she seeks. In Friday’s ruling, while the court said the administration couldn’t block her from an abortion, they also gave immigration authorities until Oct. 31 to find her a sponsor so that she can legally remain in the country. This has caused Doe to seek another legal alternative and, as of Sunday night, her lawyers have filed her case with the full appeals court in Washington. 

Attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union moved Sunday night to escalate the legal fight to the full D.C. Circuit after a three-judge panel issued a 2-1 decision Friday trying to forestall a definitive ruling in the case. That panel gave authorities until the end of the month to try to find the teen an adult sponsor, who could then help her get an abortion if she still desires one. [...]

"Every additional day she must remain pregnant against her will places a severe strain on J.D., both physically and emotionally. Every additional week the government delays her abortion increases the risks associated with the procedure," the teen's attorneys wrote in the petition for en banc review filed with the D.C. Circuit just after 10 P.M. Eastern Time Sunday. "In a matter of weeks, J.D. will no longer be able to get an abortion at all, and the government will have forced J.D. to have a child against her will."

Doe is already 15 weeks pregnant, and Texas bans abortions at 20 weeks. While there are varying opinions about the moral, ethical, and religious facets of abortion, this shouldn’t be a debate. And yet somehow, three different government agencies are weighing in and preventing Doe from having access to a medical procedure that the law and several judges all agree that she is entitled to—all under the guise of “caring for human dignity.”

Categories: Politics

U.S. troop presence in Niger comes as a surprise to some key senators

Daily Kos - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 11:17

The United States has troops dying in a country where a number of United States senators did not know troops were stationed to begin with. There are a lot of questions after four soldiers died in Niger, and apparently, for several of the 100 people in the Senate, one of the questions was, “Wait—we have troops in Niger?”

"I did not," Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania, responded to CNN's Chris Cuomo on "New Day" Monday whether he knew there were troops in Niger. "When you consider what happened here, the four sergeants lost their lives, I think there's a lot of work that both parties and both branches of government need to do. Not only to stay more informed but to focus on why we're there and what happened to get to the bottom of this." [...]

"I didn't know there was 1,000 troops in Niger," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, told NBC's Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" Sunday. "They are going to brief us next week as to why they were there and what they were doing." [...]

When Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was asked later on "Meet the Press" about knowing whether there were troops in Niger, he responded, "No, I did not."

The Pentagon says it keeps Congress informed of these things, but it sounds like maybe the information was not presented in a very attention-grabbing way if it managed to get past Lindsey Graham, who centered his entire little presidential campaign around his foreign policy credentials and hawkishness. Now, everyone’s going to be paying close attention—though whether the military comes up with a satisfactory explanation for how the soldiers got ambushed to begin with, why Sgt. La David Johnson’s body was not recovered for 48 hours, and other open questions is another story.

Categories: Politics

Trump's executive order recalls pilots as Air Force returns nuclear bombers to Cold War status

Daily Kos - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 10:36

Last week, Donald Trump signed a new executive order that’s being widely interpreted as allowing the Air Force to pull in pilots to fill between 75 and 100 critical open seats. However, the number actually called up could be far larger.

President Trump signed an executive order Friday allowing the Air Force to recall as many as 1,000 retired pilots to active duty to address a shortage in combat fliers, the White House and Pentagon announced.

By law, only 25 retired officers can be brought back to serve in any one branch. Trump's order removes those caps by expanding a state of national emergency declared by President George W. Bush after 9/11, signaling what could be a significant escalation in the 16-year-old global war on terror.

1,000 additional pilots may seem like quite an increase, but there are plans in the works that could make even that number far from enough.

The U.S. Air Force is preparing to put nuclear-armed bombers back on 24-hour ready alert, a status not seen since the Cold War ended in 1991.

That means putting the B-52s on runways, bombs on board, in a constant, round-the-clock rotation. Returning these planes to a constant alert status means refreshing barracks to hold the 100-man crews needed for each set of planes waiting for possible take-off, and that refresh comes with some retro artwork.

One painting — a symbol of the Cold War — depicts a silhouette of a B-52 with the words “Peace The Old Fashioned Way,” written underneath. 

And while Trump’s executive order might be used by the Air Force, it’s good for calling up retirees across the entire military.

Categories: Politics

White House selling tax plan through use of lies, damned lies, and statistics

Daily Kos - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 10:36

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is mostly known for spewing BS in person from behind the podium of the White House press room, but look! She can do it on Twitter, too:

x

A couple of things:

  • Will the GOP tax plan really RAISE taxes on middle-class and upper-middle-class Americans? Given that the initial plan eliminates personal exemptions (replaced by a larger standard deduction), the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center said one-quarter of American taxpayers would pay higher taxes by 2027, including 30 percent with incomes between $50,000 and $150,000 and 60 percent of those making between $150,000 and $300,000. [...]
  • How much will the wealthy benefit vs. everyone else? Since the GOP proposal, among other things, eliminates the estate tax and lowers taxes for “pass-through” businesses, the same Tax Policy Center says that more than half of the benefits in the first year go to the Top 1 percent of taxpayers, while 30 percent of the benefits will go to the Top 0.1 percent.

Also, there’s a funny thing about averages: if you’re talking about the mean rather than the median—and Sanders is—then one person getting a huge tax cut and another person getting a small tax cut produces a pretty big average. To make it concrete, as tweeter @kept_simple pointed out, “did u know that if charles koch gets a $10,000,000 tax cut and i get nothing, we average a $5,000,000 tax cut.”

So don’t start mentally spending $4,000 just yet—unless you already have the kind of money where you frequently spend $4,000 without giving it much thought.

Categories: Politics

Former Fox News anchor drops a gutsy, must-watch statement against the network and O'Reilly

Daily Kos - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 10:31

Former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly appeared on The Today Show to address the toxic culture of sexual harassment at her former network, and she specifically called out Bill O’Reilly for his repeated denials that anyone ever directly complained to the human resources department about his behavior. Kelly said O’Reilly is lying and as proof, she read an email that she herself sent to the president of the network and human resources about him, and she ran clips of O’Reilly discounting the claims of women who accused Fox stars of harassment. 

Fan of Megyn Kelly or not, this is an exceptional, must-watch statement on the culture of Fox News and how O’Reilly’s actions are precisely the kind of behavior that enabled and/or encouraged a culture of harassment, which bullied women into silence. 

Watch the video and read the full transcript below.

Categories: Politics

EPA head Pruitt is spending millions on security measures worthy of a heist movie

Daily Kos - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 09:51

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If the amount of money you spend on security is related to how important you are, then Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is a Very VERY Important Person. Pruitt’s mission to destroy the agency he heads and the environment it’s tasked with protecting has somehow led him to need to spend millions of dollars on security that previous EPA administrators did not require. There’s the 24/7 security detail that none of Pruitt’s predecessors had:

Pruitt's security detail is in the process of expanding by hiring a dozen more agents, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, as the number of threats against the agency leader increase. The incoming agents will grow the team that works in shifts to provide him around-the-clock protection, something unheard of for Pruitt's predecessors.

Salaries alone for the full team will cost at least $2 million per year, according to figures compiled by CNN from public documents. The numbers do not include costs such as training, equipment, and travel.

There’s the office security that sounds like something out of a heist movie, the challenge Danny Ocean’s intrepid team has to crack:

The agency recently made arrangements with a security vendor to have "two access control card readers" installed for his office, according to federal contracting documents reviewed by CNN. That security system, including an additional access card reader for the security office and an alarm in the office to alert agents, costs $15,780, the documents showed.

Pruitt also purchased a secure soundproof communications booth for his office at a cost of nearly $25,000, purchasing records show, even though EPA already has a similar room elsewhere in the building.

There’s the apparent paranoia that the cleaning staff is part of the Deep State out to undermine Pruitt:

Publicly released schedules show that, starting in early April, an aide to Pruitt was responsible for opening his office at 7 a.m. on weekdays for cleaning staff, rather than allowing them to enter on their own.

Pruitt’s predecessors left their office door unlocked.

It all makes you wonder just what outrageous moves Pruitt has planned next. Or maybe, taking a page from Trump’s book, it just makes him feel like a big man.

Categories: Politics