U.S. not granting loan relief to defrauded students: inspector general


U.S. not granting loan relief to defrauded students: inspector general

By Lisa Lambert, Reuters     December 11, 2017  

FILE – In this Oct. 13, 2017, file photo, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks during a dinner hosted by the Washington Policy Center in Bellevue, Wash. DeVos says college students will soon be able to file their applications for federal student aid through a mobile app. DeVos is pledging to modernize the financial aid applications and make it more accessible and simpler. She spoke Tuesday at a conference of student aid professionals in Orlando, Florida. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Education Department under President Donald Trump and Secretary Betsy DeVos has stopped cancelling the student-loan debt of people defrauded by failed for-profit schools and those borrowers face mounting interest and other burdens, its inspector general said on Monday.

DeVos is seeking to redo the process for cancelling the debts of people who attended Corinthian Colleges, which collapsed in 2015 amid government investigations into its post-graduation rates, and other failed schools.

In the final days of his administration, President Barack Obama approved rules speeding up the debt cancellations. DeVos has delayed implementing those rules, saying they would create significant costs for taxpayers.

According to a report by the inspector general, DeVos also brought the existing cancellation process to a crawl.

Since Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, the department has received 25,991 claims for discharging loans. It has denied two requests and approved none, the inspector general, an independent auditor within the agency, found.

That is in contrast to Obama’s final months in office. From July 1, 2016, through inauguration, the department received 46,274 claims and approved 27,986. It denied none.

Caught in limbo, borrowers are seeing interest and fees accrue and their credit damaged, the inspector general’s report showed. Borrowers could ultimately owe more on a denied discharge than if they had not asked for cancellation and simply continued making payments, the inspector said.

Some state attorneys general have pushed the department to cancel the loans, saying students cannot afford to repay the often-large amounts because the schools did not give them adequate training or a diploma.

The inspector general also found the department did not have a sufficient information system and had to manually retrieve claims data.

“Hundreds of thousands of students were defrauded and cheated by predatory colleges that broke the law, but today’s report confirms Secretary DeVos tried to shirk her responsibility to these students and shut down the borrower-defense program, leaving them with nowhere to turn,” said Senator Patty Murray, the senior Democrat on the Education Committee.

In a memo to the inspector general, A. Wayne Johnson, chief operating officer of the federal student aid program, said the department has “authorized an interest credit” for long-outstanding claims, will resume reviewing some claims and will soon approve claims for 11,000 Corinthian students.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Alabama has the worst poverty in the developed world, U.N official says.


Alabama has the worst poverty in the developed world, U.N official says.

by Carlos Ballesteros     December 10, 2017

U.N officials touring rural Alabama are shocked at the level of poverty and environmental degradation. They must not have seen Mississippi.
“I think it’s very uncommon in the First World. This is not a sight that one normally sees. I’d have to say that I haven’t seen this,” Philip Alston, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, told Connor Sheets of AL.com earlier this week as they toured a community in Butler County where “raw sewage flows from homes through exposed PVC pipes and into open trenches and pits.”


The tour through Alabama’s rural communities is part of a two-week investigation by the U.N. on poverty and human rights abuses in the United States. So far, U.N. investigators have visited cities and towns in California and Alabama, and will soon travel to Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia.

Of particular concern to Alston are specific poverty-related issues that have surfaced across the country in recent years, such as an outbreak of hookworm in Alabama in 2017—a disease typically found in nations with substandard sanitary conditions in South Asia and Subsaharan Africa, as reported by The Guardian.

GettyImages-465399018A pedestrian walks through a neighborhood with run down homes on March 6, 2015 in Selma, Alabama.(JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES)

The U.N. investigation aims to study the effects of systemic poverty in a prosperous nation like the United States.

According to the Census Bureau, nearly 41 million people in the U.S. live in poverty. That’s second-highest rate of poverty among rich countries, as measured by the percentage of people earning less than half the national median income, according to Quartz.

These income and wealth disparities affect minorities the most. Black, Hispanic, and Native American children, for example, are two to three times more likely to live in poverty than white kids, according to a study using Census data by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Minorities in the United States have also historically had higher rates of unemployment, worked longer hours, and gotten paid less than their white counterparts on average, as reported in a 2013 article in The Atlantic that analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics stretching back to 1975.

Economic inequality and racial discrimination have also been linked with civil rights abuses, particularly in Alabama and other states across the South. Police shootings of unarmed black men and women are also of deep concern to the U.N.

Alston, who’s also a law professor at New York University, said in a statement announcing the start of the U.N. investigation that poverty in the U.S. has been overlooked for too long.

“Some might ask why a U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights would visit a country as rich as the United States,” Alston said. “But despite great wealth in the U.S., there also exists great poverty and inequality.”

Alston also pointed out that the U.S. “has been very keen” on other countries being investigated by the U.N. for civil and human rights issues.

“Now, it’s the turn to look at what’s going on in the U.S.,” Alston said. “There are pretty extreme levels of poverty in the United States given the wealth of the country. And that does have significant human rights implications.”

GettyImages-465399024Tires lay in the grass in front of a shuttered auto parts business on March 6, 2015 in Selma, Alabama.(JUSTIN SULLIVAN/GETTY IMAGES)

Despite these concerns, the Republican Party, which controls all three branches of the federal government, is on course to pass a tax bill before the end of the year that will increase the federal deficit by $1 trillion in 10 years—costs that GOP leaders have said will be offset by reducing an already-weakened social safety net.

For Alston, these political decisions are at the root of systemic poverty in the U.S.

“The idea of human rights is that people have basic dignity and that it’s the role of the government—yes, the government!—to ensure that no one falls below the decent level,” he said.  “Civilized society doesn’t say for people to go and make it on your own and if you can’t, bad luck.”

“Politicians who say, ‘there’s nothing I can do about that’ are simply wrong,” Alston told WKMS 91.3 FM, a public radio station in Ohio near one of the other sites under investigation by the U.N.

Police officer cleared of murder after shooting a sobbing man as he crawled along a hotel corridor 

The Telegraph

‘Please don’t kill me’: Police officer cleared of murder after shooting a sobbing man as he crawled along a hotel corridor

A body camera video captured the fatal shooting of 26-year-old Daniel Shaver.


Rozina Sabur, The Telegraph     December 8, 2017

A former Arizona police officer has been acquitted of murder after he shot and killed an unarmed man outside his hotel room.

Philip Mitchell Brailsford, 27, shot Daniel Shaver in 2016 when he was responding to call that someone there was pointing a gun out of a window.

The shooting occurred in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa after officers ordered Mr Shaver to exit his hotel room, lay face-down in a hallway and refrain from making sudden movements.

Mr Shaver, a 26-year-old father-of-two, sobbed as he begged police not to shoot and was ordered to crawl toward officers.

Video of the shooting, which Shaver’s family has referred to as an “execution”, has finally been released.

It shows a sobbing Mr Shaver lying on the floor and crawling towards the police officer. He can be heard begging “please don’t kill me” at the officers.

Daniel Shaver (pictured with his daughters) was heard saying “please don’t shoot me, please don’t shot me”, according to audio heard on a police video of the incident

Daniel Shaver (pictured with his daughters) was heard saying “please don’t shoot me, please don’t shot me”, according to audio heard on a police video of the incident

As he inched forward, he reached toward the waistband of his shorts. Mr Brailsford said he fired his rifle because he believed Mr Shaver was grabbing a handgun in his waistband.

While no gun was found on Mr Shaver’s body, two pellet rifles related to his pest-control job were later found in his room.

The detective investigating the shooting had agreed Mr Shaver’s movement was similar to reaching for a pistol, but has said it also looked as though Shaver was pulling up his loose-fitting basketball shorts that had fallen down as he was ordered to crawl toward officers.

The investigator noted he did not see anything that would have prevented officers from simply handcuffing Mr Shaver as he was on the floor.

Mr Brailsford’s attorney Michael Piccarreta put an arm around his client after the verdict was read.

Mitch Brailsford has been fired from the Mesa police force and charged with second degree murder - Credit: Mesa Police department

Mitch Brailsford was fired from the Mesa police force and charged with second degree murderCredit: Mesa Police department

“There are no winners in this case, but Mitch Brailsford had to make a split-second decision on a situation that he was trained to recognize as someone drawing a weapon and had one second to react,” Mr Piccarreta said.

“He didn’t want to harm Mr Shaver… The circumstances that night that were presented led him to conclude that he was in danger. Try to make a decision in one second, life or death. It’s pretty hard.”

Mr Piccarreta also said he wasn’t sure his client would be interested in trying to get his police job back.   Mr Shaver’s widow, Laney Sweet, and Mr Shaver’s parents have filed wrongful-death lawsuits against the city of Mesa over the shooting death.

Ms Sweet shook her head after the jury’s decision and said she was not going to answer any questions.

During his trial testimony, Mr Brailsford described the stress that he faced in responding to the call and his split-second decision to shoot Mr Shaver.

Mr Brailsford told jurors that he was terrified for the safety of officers and a woman who was in the hallway. He also said he felt “incredibly sad” for Mr Shaver.

Mr Brailsford served as a Mesa officer for about two years before he was fired for violations of departmental policy, including unsatisfactory performance.

He is one of the few police officers in the US to be charged with murder for shooting someone while on duty.

The shooting occurred as police departments across the US became focal points of protests over deadly encounters with law enforcement.

Some Comments:

Tower: Tell the guy not to move, police officer can then go to him and cuff him. Why would you tell the man to crawl, making everything more dangerous and confusing?!?!

SkywardSword: More training? Nope. convicting them and holding them accountable will work better.

LDC4: A case where the jury totally got it wrong. This police officer murdered this unarmed civilian. The video more than shows this. This cop just plain panicked and did not know how to do his job and as a result an innocent human being is dead. And people wonder why the police are not trusted?

Mary: What was the point in making him crawl? This is murder.

Hank: i’m in New Zealand even makes me sick looking at the father with his 2 beautiful little girls now left without their father for the rest of their lives to read this article

James: Any reasonable person can see this cop had ZERO reason to fear for his safety. The man had already complied for a good 3 minutes. The officers commands were confusing and contradictory. Just awful.

Live Long And Prosper: Really? Made him crawl? Once he was on the floor, all they had to do was handcuff him. Idiots. Hope the family is planning for a HUGE civil trial…this dept. deserves being bankrupted.

Fish’nFinatic: How can anyone look at that video and not think the cop executed this guy?

Franz August: It’s honestly amazing. I am an American Soldier. If I did this to an Iraqi I would be in prison for war crimes. It is absolutely insane that police can treat citizens worse than enemy civilians

Arturo: Mr Brailsford you murdered this man.

The Russians risking all to oppose Vladimir Putin.

Trump voters must ask themselves: is this the “Great America” they had in mind, when they elected a Putin wannabe bent on dismantling America’s democratic institutions and installing an autocratic kleptocracy, run by oligarchs parading as crony capitalists? I hope not!       John Hanno

The Guardian

Navalny’s army: The Russians risking all to oppose Vladimir Putin.

Opposition politician’s campaign gathers steam ahead of 2018 election, but his supporters face threats and intimidation.

Alexei Navalny holds a rally in Izhevsk. His supporters are mainly young Russians who have known only a Putin presidency. Photograph: Yegor Aleyev/TASS 

Shaun Walker in Kemerovo     December 7, 2017

It has been a rough couple of months for Ksenia Pakhomova, a bright-eyed, garrulous 23-year-old from the Siberian mining town of Kemerovo. Her boyfriend was kicked out of university, her mother was fired from her teaching job at an arts school, and her grandmother was threatened with dismissal from her job at a gallery.

To top it off, someone plastered notices with her photograph in public places near her home, complete with her mobile number and an offer of sexual services.

All of this appears to be linked to Pakhomova’s job: she is the regional coordinator for the presidential campaign of Alexei Navalny, an opposition politician who wants to challenge Vladimir Putin for the Russian presidency in elections next March.

Putin finally declared his candidacy on Wednesday in a long-expected announcement, and is likely to win comfortably. Standing against him are a familiar cast of political has-beens and a few spoiler candidates whom few Russians are taking seriously.

Navalny will most likely be barred from standing due to a criminal conviction in a case that was widely seen as politically motivated, but the 41-year-old anti-corruption campaigner is ignoring this. Instead, he has chosen to engage in the kind of enthusiastic, grassroots campaigning that has been absent from Russia in recent years: real politics, in short. He has embarked on a marathon of trips across the country’s vast expanse, holding rallies and setting up campaign headquarters.

The liberal opposition has traditionally made few inroads in places like Kemerovo, a tough, working-class region four hours by plane from Moscow. Here, Navalny is attracting the support of a different kind of Russian from the chattering, Moscow intellectual class that many see as the natural supporters of the democratic opposition.

Navalny’s supporters are mainly young Russians who have known little in their lifetimes except a Putin presidency.

Pakhomova, who studied law at university, said she was not particularly political until earlier this year, when she started watching Navalny’s videos. She was particularly horrified by a video alleging staggering corruption on the part of the prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, which led to major protests in Moscow and other cities earlier this year. In Kemerovo, she began volunteering for the local Navalny campaign, and in time, she was appointed head of the local office.

“Everyone in Russia knows that officials are corrupt, but when you see the details, how openly they think they can do it, it’s shocking,” she said.

Ksenia Pakhomova, head of the Navalny campaign in Kemerovo. Photograph: Shaun Walker

Ksenia’s mother, 46-year-old Natalia Pakhomova, said she was warned in September that she should prevent her daughter from working for Navalny, but refused. At the end of October, she was removed from her job, on the pretext that anonymous parents had called the local administration and complained that teachers at her school were soliciting bribes. She had worked at the school for 26 years, and in April had received a medal from the local governor for her service.

Natalia’s 67-year-old mother, who works as a gallery attendant in the local art museum, was asked by her boss to talk her granddaughter out of working for Navalny and was also threatened with dismissal. She is on sick leave, which Natalia said was due to frayed nerves from the incident. Ksenia’s boyfriend was kicked out of university, though he has since been reinstated after an online campaign.

Navalny has said if he is not allowed on to the ballot, he will call for an “active boycott” of the elections.

“No other candidate has opened regional offices, no other candidate is properly campaigning,” he said in an interview in Moscow. “How can you have real elections without the only candidate who is campaigning?”

Navalny said that since the beginning of the year campaign staff had between them spent more than 2,000 days in jail and been fined more than 10m roubles (£129,000).

“What’s happening in Kemerovo is extreme, but it’s a pattern across Russia and it’s clearly directed from the top,” he said.

In almost every region, activists have found it hard to rent office space from which to run the campaign. In Kemerovo, Pakhomova’s team is looking to move office after its landlord said the local administration called him and warned him not to rent to the Navalny campaign.

Whenever Navalny travels, authorities also create problems, and he has been jailed or assaulted on numerous occasions this year. When he visited Kemerovo earlier this autumn, local authorities cancelled public transport to the area on the outskirts of town where they had given Navalny permission to speak.

Despite all this, more than 2,000 people attended the rally, making it one of the biggest demonstrations in Kemerovo since the miners’ strikes in the late 1980s and early 90s that heralded the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Views on how much damage Navalny can cause with his message that Putin’s inner circle are “crooks and thieves” vary. In Kemerovo, many people have still not heard of Navalny, and among those who have, views are mixed.

Boris Pavlov, the deputy head of the Kemerovo Navalny campaign, holds frequent one-man pickets (gatherings of more than one person require permission) with a Navalny sign in the centre of Kemerovo. “Sometimes people come to shake my hand, but other times I’ve had people spit at me and call me a traitor,” he said.

State television has long denied Navalny access to the airwaves, and claimed the opposition is working to promote foreign interests in Russia. Kremlin insiders portray him as a marginal figure who poses no serious electoral threat.

“His limit would be 5-10% in big cities and 2-3% overall,” said one source close to the Kremlin, who added that the only reason to keep him off the ballot was to prevent “negative vibes” around the election. “He’d have three months of telling everyone that the government is lying and corrupt, and nobody wants to listen to that.”

Russian police officers take into custody a protester during an unauthorized opposition rally in Moscow in June last year. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

But there are signs that Navalny’s message could potentially resonate among a new audience, in a country where up to now Putin has managed to remain above widespread anger at corruption.

Natalia, Ksenia’s mother, was always a Putin fan. She voted for him at the last election in 2012, and even bought Ksenia a Putin-themed calendar as a present that year, because her daughter was too young to vote, with the election falling a few days before her eighteenth birthday. But recent events have led to a recalibration of her views.

“Ksenia made me listen to the Navalny videos, and I’ll be honest, I’ve realised he’s really saying the right things. It has completely changed my views on politics,” she said.

Hers is not the only case of children changing the minds of their parents. At a training session run by Ksenia on how to deal with police last week, all but one of the eight attendees was under 18.

Dima, 14, was initially scolded by his mother for attending Navalny-backed protests in Kemerovo earlier this year, after the child support agency showed up at his house to complain. However, she is now helping to collect signatures for the campaign, and proudly took a selfie with Navalny when he came to Kemerovo.

“My mother had some problems with her politics,” said Dima, with the tone of a parent indulging an errant child, rather than vice-versa. “But afterwards she started watching Navalny’s videos and her political understanding is now more developed.”

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Senate Republicans Made a $289 Billion Mistake in the Handwritten Tax Bill They Passed at 2 a.m. Go Figure.

Not surprising that Republi-cons botched their rushed, tossed together tax bill. They are neither capable nor interested in governing effectively or crafting legislation that solves financial crisis’ for America’s middle class. Their goal was simply payback to the rich and powerful. Even a quick glance at the winners in the bill, mirrors the list of donors to Trump Inc. and the congressional GOP, not America’s other 98% or beguiled Trump voters.              John Hanno


Senate Republicans Made a $289 Billion Mistake in the Handwritten Tax Bill They Passed at 2 a.m. Go Figure.

By Jordan Weissmann      December 6, 2017

“Derp a derp derp derp derp.”  Alex Wong/Getty Images

It appears that Senate Republicans managed to make a $289 billion or so mistake while furiously hand-scribbling edits onto the tax bill they passed in the wee hours of Saturday morning. The problem involves the corporate alternative minimum tax, which the GOP initially planned to repeal, but tossed back into their stew at the last second in order to raise some desperately needed revenue. The AMT is basically a parallel tax code meant to prevent companies from zeroing out their IRS bills. It doesn’t allow businesses to take as many tax breaks but, in theory, is also supposed to have a lower rate.

Except not under the Senate bill. When Mitch McConnell & co. revived the AMT, they absentmindedly left it at its current rate of 20 percent, the same as the new, lower rate of the corporate income tax that the bill included. As a result, many companies won’t be able to use tax breaks that were supposed to be preserved in the legislation, including the extremely popular credit for research and development costs. Corporate accountants started freaking out about this over the weekend, but the situation reached high farce when a group of lawyers from Davis Polk pointed out that, by leaving the AMT intact, Republicans had essentially undermined their bill’s most important changes to the international tax code.

Without getting too stuck in the weeds, the GOP’s bill was supposed to take the U.S. from a “worldwide” system of taxation, where the IRS tries to take a cut of profits American companies earn anywhere on the globe, to a modified “territorial” system, where companies could bring back their profits either tax-free or at a much lower rate. With the AMT still kicking around at 20 percent, though, “the United States would continue to operate under a worldwide system of taxation,” the lawyers wrote.

Keeping the AMT was supposed to raise $40 billion, but that already appears to be a gross underestimate. (The figure came from Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation, whose analysts I can only assume were running on Red Bull and fumes while trying to provide the GOP with last-minute scores.) NYU Law professor and tax expert Lily Batchelder concludes that the AMT will actually cost companies at least $329 billion—good for limiting the blow to the deficit, bad for the corporations who are supposed to be stumping for this legislative Frankenstein—just based on the value of the R&D credits and international exemptions that have been rendered useless.

Lily Batchelder tweets:

Appears corporate AMT provision probably raises >$300B, not $40B JCT estimated under duress Fri night. This means Rs have to take Senate bill to conference and can’t just have House pass it, unless they want to *really* piss off bus community. 1/5

Appears corporate AMT provision probably raises >$300B, not $40B JCT estimated under duress Fri night. This means Rs have to take Senate bill to conference and can’t just have House pass it, unless they want to *really* piss off bus community. 1/5

I’m getting >$300B from fact that provision appears to repeal R&D credit, which costs ~$113B, and participation exemption, which costs $216B. See JCT estimates at https://www.jct.gov/publications.html?func=startdown&id=4860 … and https://www.jct.gov/publications.html?func=startdown&id=5043 …. 2/5

I’m getting >$300B from fact that provision appears to repeal R&D credit, which costs ~$113B, and participation exemption, which costs $216B. See JCT estimates at https://www.jct.gov/publications.html?func=startdown&id=4860 … and https://www.jct.gov/publications.html?func=startdown&id=5043 …. 2/5

And corporate AMT provision does a lot more than this, so even $300B is probably low-balling. 3/5

When I talked to Batchelder briefly on the phone Tuesday night, she pointed out that while the GOP’s AMT debacle would end up raising more money than expected, there are almost certainly other, undiscovered mistakes in the bill that would lose revenue. “I think this evidences what can go wrong when you try to pass massive tax reform this quickly,” she said.

On the bright side, this mammoth screw-up will make it harder for the House to simply pass the Senate’s bill if the GOP’s conference committee hits a wall. Republicans have to enact something that fixes this, lest they tick off the very donors this legislation was meant to appease.

One more thing

You depend on Slate for sharp, distinctive coverage of the latest developments in politics and culture. Now we need to ask for your support.

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Jordan Weissmann is Slate’s senior business and economics

Roy Moore’s Spokesperson Just Brought His Senate Campaign to a New Low


Roy Moore’s Spokesperson Just Brought His Senate Campaign to a New Low

And, with seven days left, Moore’s team will likely sink further.


By Jack Holmes     December 5, 2017

It’s easy to forget that, even before multiple women came forward to allege sexual misconduct against Roy Moore, his United States Senate campaign was already insane. The former Alabama state supreme court judge, thrown out of office twice for disregarding the rulings of higher courts, is uniquely unqualified for public service. If you needed a reminder of that, take a look at the people who have agreed to work on his campaign, such as his spokesperson, Jane Porter. She joined CNN Tuesday morning and kicked things off with a totally normal pregnancy congratulations for anchor Poppy Harlow:

“That’s why I came down as a volunteer to speak for Judge Roy Moore,” Porter said. “He’ll stand for the rights of babies like yours in the womb, while his opponent will support killing them up until the moment of birth.”

Moore’s campaign is hitting the abortion issue hard. Doug Jones, Moore’s Democratic opponent, is firmly pro-choice, though he opposes late term abortions. So, in a true shocker, Porter’s riff is shall-we-say, inaccurate. It brings to mind those Planned Parenthood “sting” videos from the 2016 campaign, which Carly Fiorina harped on incessantly. (Much of the contents turned out to be fabricated.) It also rings a bit hollow when you talk about protecting unborn children, but support a candidate whom one woman says lured her to his house when she was 14 years old and he was 32 and tried to get her to touch his genitals through his tighty-whities.

That woman, Leigh Corfman, is one of at least eight women to accuse Moore of sexual misconduct. We’re getting to the stage where some standup comedian would say, “Anyone here not a Roy Moore accuser?” Actually, that’s close to what Porter said on national television:

Yes, many women have accused Moore of sexual misconduct. But there are 150 million American women who haven’t. Why won’t the Fake News talk about that? This is both shameless and unsurprising. Oh, and that claim about Corfman’s mother undermining her story? That’s based on an attempted Breitbart smear job that admits(remarkably far down the page) that Corman’s mother clearly said the original Washington Post report was “truthful and it was researched very well.”

Sadly, the campaign’s relentless extremism is successful. Moore still incredibly has the support of 6 in 10 white women, evoking the triumph of Donald Trump in that category last year. It’s a stirring reminder that the motivating factor in the Alabama Senate race—as in every contest of this political era—is identity. Specifically, white, Christian, Real American identity versus The Other. White Alabamians will vote for Roy Moore because, like Donald Trump, he’s the White Candidate. Doug Jones, who prosecuted members of the Ku Klux Klan after the Birmingham church bombing, is the candidate of The Other. No matter that Moore is accused of molesting a 14-year-old. He’s tough on crime, while Jones is weak. Maybe that has something to do with who the crimes’ perpetrators are.


That’s been a running theme of Moore’s public career, where he has enforced the most reactionary line on every public policy issue available. Moore is lawless, as his defenestrations from the state supreme court for disregarding higher courts suggest. He is a theocrat, in that one of those removals involved his insistence on keeping a statue of the Ten Commandments on the courthouse grounds, in obvious violation of the First Amendment. He refused to recognize the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, an assertion that Christian law reigned supreme over United States civil law. Then, in a wicked piece of irony, he yelled and screamed that Sharia law was on the loose in Illinois, with the frightening idea that religious law was taking precedence over civil law. And of course, he once said Muslim Americans elected to Congress should not be seated because they are Muslim.

Oh, and he said women should not be permitted to serve in public office, either.


Moore is probably the worst American politics has to offer, although one hesitates to draw the line based on what’s happened over the last two years. His continued presence in our politics is only possible because the Republican Party has allowed it. That began with the Alabama GOP’s steadfast defense of the candidate, which involved some officials citing the Bible to defend Moore even if he did indeed sexually assault a 14-year-old. It has continued with the national party’s decision to re-enter the race on Moore’s behalf this week, after making a big show of pulling support. That mirrors Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Moore’s future colleague who went from declaring he believed Moore’s accusers and would demand an ethics investigation into him if he won to simply saying he’ll leave it up to Alabama voters. Oh, and the President of the United States fully endorsed him.

Truly, there is no bottom to the depravity. Moore will likely win the election, and McConnell will seat him in the Senate. His Republican colleagues will probably welcome him as another vote for plutocratic tax “reform,” and for conservative judges nominated for the federal bench. They might think twice about next year’s Bring Your Daughter to Work Day, though.

These corporations are helping elect an alleged child sex abuser to the U.S. Senate


These corporations are helping elect an alleged child sex abuser to the U.S. Senate

Follow the money.

Josh Israel, Danielle McLean,     December 5, 2017


Last month, after several women came forward and accused Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore of child sexual abuse and other sexual misconduct, the Republican National Committee (RNC) said it had cut ties with the candidate and terminated a joint fundraising program aimed at helping his campaign. In the time since, more women have come forward with similar stories and evidence of their relationships. Yesterday, after Donald Trump offered his full support to Moore anyway, the RNC reversed course and reportedly will resume its efforts to elect Moore in next Tuesday’s special election and will devote party resources to the effort.

A ThinkProgress review of contributions to the Republican National Committee so far in this 2017 to 2018 campaign cycle, at least 15 companies have donated $15,000 or more each from their corporate political action committees (PACs) to the party, and are thus contributing to the pro-Moore efforts. The totals include donations through the end of September. According to Federal Election Commission data from the subscription online Political MoneyLine, these include:

  • Comcast Corporation & NBCUniversal with at least $100,000.
  • AT&T Inc with at least $60,000.
  • Leo A Daly Company with at least $30,000.
  • Amerisourcebergen Corporation with at least $15,000.
  • Lockheed Martin Corporation with at least $15,000.
  • Honeywell International with at least $15,000.
  • Pricewaterhousecoopers with at least $15,000.
  • AFLAC with at least $15,000.
  • Pfizer Inc. with at least $15,000.
  • Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company with at least $15,000.
  • Textron Inc with at least $15,000.
  • Exelon Corporation with at least $15,000.
  • The Boeing Company with at least $15,000.
  • Microsoft Corporation with at least $15,000.
  • BNSF Railway Company with at least $15,000.

While federal campaign finance law prohibits corporations from donating directly to national parties and federal candidates out of their company treasuries, corporations have long influenced politics by establishing political action committees and pooling donations from executives and other employees.

ThinkProgress reached out to each of these companies to ask them if they are comfortable with their donations being used to help elect Moore. None immediately responded.

Log Cabin Republicans release brilliant Roy Moore ad that you have to see to believe

LGBTQ Nation

Log Cabin Republicans release brilliant Roy Moore ad that you have to see to believe

By Jeff Taylor     December 1, 2017

Good Christians™ screenshot

The Log Cabin Republicans are out with a clever new ad that is calling on Christians to act on their morals.

Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore has been accused by a number of women of sexual misconduct and assault, including some who say they were as young as 14 and 15 when the incidents occurred.

The conservative LGBTQ group’s new spot is titled “Good Christians.”

It opens like every far right Christian conservative campaign commercial you’ve ever seen, with a country chapel, awash in blue tint, and a voice over warning of “a war on Christianity happening right in our midst.”

And then comes the twist.

A recent poll found that 40 percent of Evangelicals were more likely to support Moore despite the allegations against him.

“Roy Moore has spent his entire career using his bigoted brand of Christianity as a weapon to relentlessly attack members of the LGBT community, all the while allegedly preying upon the most vulnerable in our society,” Log Cabin Republicans President Gregory T. Angelo said in a statement released alongside the video.

“Moore’s myopic faith prevents him from seeing that a significant number of LGBT individuals are devout Christians themselves, including many members of Log Cabin Republicans. Regardless of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, it’s time for good Christians to do what good Christians do: REJECT Roy Moore.”

Alabamans will decide between Moore and Democrat Doug Jones on Dec. 12.

Huge Human Inequality Study Hints Revolution is in Store for U.S


I need the money to go to the Super Bowl.

Huge Human Inequality Study Hints Revolution is in Store for U.S…Every society has a tipping point.

by Yasmin Tayag      November 15, 2017

There’s a common thread tying together the most disruptive revolutions of human history, and it has some scientists worried about the United States. In those revolutions, conflict largely boiled down to pervasive economic inequality. On Wednesday, a study in Nature, showing how and when those first divisions between rich and poor began, suggests not only that history has always repeated itself but also that it’s bound to do so again — and perhaps sooner than we think.

In the largest study of its kind, a team of scientists from Washington State University and 13 other institutions examined the factors leading to economic inequality throughout all of human history and noticed some worrying trends. Using a well-established score of inequality called the Gini coefficient, which gives perfect, egalitarian societies a score of 0 and high-inequality societies a 1, they showed that civilization tends to move toward inequality as some people gain the means to make others relatively poor — and employ it. Coupled with what researchers already know about inequality leading to social instability, the study does not bode well for the state of the world today.

“We could be concerned in the United States, that if Ginis get too high, we could be inviting revolution, or we could be inviting state collapse. There’s only a few things that are going to decrease our Ginis dramatically,” said Tim Kohler, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and a professor of archaeology and evolutionary anthropology in a statement.

Currently, the United States Gini score is around .81, one of the highest in the world, according to the 2016 Allianz Global Wealth Report.

The Holme

A recent Credit Suisse report shows that the richest 1 percent of humanity owns half the world’s wealth.

Kohler and his team had their work cut out for them, as studying inequality before the age of global wealth reports is not a straightforward task. It’s one thing to measure modern day economic inequality using measures of individual net worth, but those kind of metrics aren’t available for, say, hunter-gatherers chasing buffalo during the Paleolithic. To surmount this obstacle, the researchers decided to use house size as a catch-all proxy for wealth, then examined the makeup of societies from prehistoric times to modern day using data from 63 archaeological digs.

Overall, they found that human societies started off fairly equal, with the hunter-gatherer societies consistently getting Gini scores around .17. The divide between rich and poor really began once humans started to domesticate plants and animals and switch to farming-based societies. Learning to till the land meant introducing the concept of land ownership, and inevitably, some people ended up as landless peasants. Furthermore, because these societies no longer lived as nomads, it became easier to accumulate wealth (like land) and pass it down from generation to generation.

The Gini scores got higher as farming societies got bigger. The small scale “horticultural” farmers had a median Gini of .27, and larger-scale “agricultural” societies moved up to .35. This pattern continued until, oddly, humans moved into the New World — the Americas. Then, over time, the researchers saw that Gini scores kept rising in Old World Eurasia but actually hit a plateau in the Americas. The researchers think this plateau happened because there were fewer draft animals, like horse and water buffalo, in the New World, making it harder for new agricultural societies to expand and cultivate more land.

A selection of Gini scores from the 2016 Allianz Global Report are shown in red. A score of 1 is given to societies with the highest inequality.

Overall, the highest-ever historical Gini the researchers found was that of the ancient Old World (think Patrician Rome), which got a score of .59. While the degrees of inequality experienced by historical societies are quite high, the researchers note, they’re nowhere near as high as the Gini scores we’re seeing now.

“Even given the possibility that the Ginis constructed here may somewhat underestimate true household wealth disparities, it is safe to say that the degree of wealth inequality experienced by many households today is considerably higher than has been the norm over the last ten millennia,” the researchers write in their paper.

On Monday, a global report from Credit Suisse showed that modern humans are continuing the trends set by our predecessors: Now, the report showed, half of the world’s wealth really does belong to a super-rich one percent, and the gap is only growing. Historically, Kohler says in his statement, there’s only so much inequality a society can sustain before it reaches a tipping point. Among the many known effects of inequality on a society are social unrest, a decrease in health, increased violence, and decreased solidarity. Unfortunately, Kohler points out, humans have never been especially good at decreasing inequality peacefully — historically, the only effective methods for doing so are plague, massive warfare, or revolution.

The revolution will not be televised. It’ll be sent to your inbox by us.

Photos via Flickr  garryknight, Flickr / kennethkonica 

Senate Democrats stand united against GOP tax bill

Associated Press

Senate Democrats stand united against GOP tax bill

GOP tax bill passes through the Senate

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., speaks, as ...

Matthew Daly, Associated Press      December 3, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) — Rarely unified, Senate Democrats stood together in opposing the GOP revamp of the tax code despite the traditional popularity of tax cuts and warnings from President Donald Trump and Republicans about the political cost in next year’s midterm elections.

White House dinners, trips aboard Air Force One and even threats from Trump during campaign stops in their states were not enough to sway Democrats who rejected the nearly $1.5 trillion tax bill early Saturday. Lawmakers voting against the bill included 10 vulnerable Democrats from states Trump won last year, some handily.

When Trump took office 10 months ago, moderate Democrats such as Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and others were widely expected to break with their party and side with the Republican president.

But on Trump’s top two legislative priorities — taxes and dismantling former President Barack Obama’s health care law — Democrats unanimously rebuffed the GOP president despite his derision.

Trump said Saturday, “We got no Democrat help and I think that’s going to cost them in the election because they voted against tax cuts. I don’t think politically it’s good to vote against tax cuts.”

Democrats argued that the unpopularity of the tax bill with its deep cuts for business and the wealthy and modest changes for many Americans made their votes relatively easy. Multiple polls show the tax bill is supported by less than 40 percent of voters. And Democrats recall a painful political lesson: In 2010, Democrats backed the unpopular health care bill and lost their House majority months later.

“My Republican friends must know that ‘we needed to notch a political win’ isn’t a good enough excuse for a constituent who asks why you voted to raise their taxes but slash them for big corporations,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Friday.

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, who was singled out for criticism by Trump at a campaign-style event in Missouri this past week, said her vote against the tax bill — and Trump — “is not risky as long as I do the hard work in making sure Missourians understand what’s in the bill.”

Trump went to her state “and told Missourians something that just wasn’t true,” McCaskill said. “This bill is not helping teachers and police officers and construction workers. This bill is helping wealthy people, and he is among the people it is helping.”

Schumer hasn’t had to do a lot of arm twisting with a caucus whose politics range from liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to Manchin, according to a senior aide. Democrats said they had reasons enough to oppose the GOP bill, which while slashing tax rates for corporations and the wealthy adds more than $1 trillion to the national debt.

“It’s a horrible bill,” said Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, one of the vulnerable Democrats up for re-election in a state Trump won easily.

A third-generation farmer, Tester said if he imposed debt on his family farm at a rate similar to the tax bill, “my kids would go broke.”

Hours before the final vote, Tester released a video on Twitter showing him with a copy of the 479-page tax bill he had been handed minutes before. One page was filled with scribbled policy changes that Tester said he could not be read.

“This is Washington, D.C., at its worst,” he complained.

Heitkamp, who is seeking a second term next year, said the bill’s toll on the national debt made her vote easy.

“The risk is for the fiscal responsibility for this country,” she said. “We all owe a much higher debt — not to a political party or a re-election, but to the people of this country.”

Manchin, who like Heitkamp was considered for a job in Trump’s Cabinet, said he told Trump he wanted to “get to yes” on the tax bill but could not support the bill as drafted by GOP leaders.

“Millionaires, billionaires and gazillionaires should not have tax breaks,” Manchin said in an interview. “That’s what the president told me: It was not going to be for the rich. Well, the bill I have in front of me is not the bill that he talked about” at a White House dinner in September.

Republicans looking to unseat Democrats next year were ready with their criticism.

Rep. Luke Messer, one of several Indiana Republicans seeking to challenge Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, said Donnelly’s opposition to the bill showed he votes with his party’s leadership to block the president’s agenda.

“Once again, it looks like Sen. Donnelly has made his choice, siding with Chuck Schumer over Hoosiers,” Messer said in an argument that is likely to be used against other Democratic incumbents.

Donnelly said the Senate bill “would result in a tax hike for millions of middle-class families while giving a tax cut to the top 1 percent.”

Rep. Lou Barletta, a Pennsylvania Republican who is seeking to challenge Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, said he was surprised Casey opposed the bill in a state where Trump narrowly won last year.

“Blue-collar Democrats in Pennsylvania voted for Donald Trump because they want to see him do exactly what he’s doing now: allowing them to have more money in their pocket, making sure businesses they work at stay here in Pennsylvania and stopping illegal immigrants who compete for their jobs and depress their wages,” Barletta said.

Casey called the GOP plan “an insult” to middle-class families in Pennsylvania who will pay more in taxes “while the super-rich and big corporations get a windfall. It’s obscene.”

Associated Press writer Alan Fram contributed to this report.


Check out Michael Phelan’s SocialSecurityWorks.org

The government is now referring to our Social Security checks as a “Federal Benefit Payment.” This isn’t a benefit. It is our money paid out of our earned income! Not only did we all contribute to Social Security but our employers did too. It totaled 15% of our income before taxes.

If you averaged $30K per year over your working life, that’s close to $180,000 invested in Social Security.

If you calculate the future value of your monthly investment in social security ($375/month, including both you and your employers contributions) at a meager 1% interest rate compounded monthly, after 40 years of working you’d have more than $1.3+ million dollars saved!

This is your personal investment. Upon retirement, if you took out only 3% per year, you’d receive $39,318 per year, or $3,277 per month.

That’s almost three times more than today’s average Social Security benefit of $1,230 per month, according to the Social Security Administration. (Google it – it’s a fact).

And your retirement fund would last more than 33 years (until you’re 98 if you retire at age 65)! I can only imagine how much better most average-income people could live in retirement if our government had just invested our money in low-risk interest-earning accounts.

Instead, the folks in Washington pulled off a bigger “Ponzi scheme” than Bernie Madoff ever did. They took our money and used it elsewhere. They forgot (oh yes, they knew) that it was OUR money they were taking. They didn’t have a referendum to ask us if we wanted to lend the money to them. And they didn’t pay interest on the debt they assumed. And recently they’ve told us that the money won’t support us for very much longer.

But is it our fault they misused our investments? And now, to add insult to injury, they’re calling it a “benefit”, as if we never worked to earn every penny of it.

Just because they borrowed the money doesn’t mean that our investments were a charity!

Let’s take a stand. We have earned our right to Social Security and Medicare. Demand that our legislators bring some sense into our government.

Find a way to keep Social Security and Medicare going for the sake of that 92% of our population who need it.

Then call it what it is: Our Earned Retirement Income.