March 14, 2018
This girl is a shining star!
This girl is a shining star!
Posted by Power of Positivity on Wednesday, March 14, 2018
March 14, 2018
This girl is a shining star!
This girl is a shining star!
Posted by Power of Positivity on Wednesday, March 14, 2018
By Mark Sumner January 10, 2018
The transcript of Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee released to the public by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is both the entire congressional investigation in brief, and a revealing insight into why Republicans have been so anxious to keep this information under lock and key.
Every question asked by Republicans in the meeting—every single question—focused on trying to find information they could use to demean and defame the witness. They wanted to paint Fusion GPS as a “Democratic operation.” They were determined to turn Christopher Steele’s visit to the FBI into a partisan act. They used every moment of their time to find something Fusion had done wrong, or that Steele had done wrong … some way that both the company and the information they had gathered could be dismissed. In a day-long interview that was supposed to further the investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, no Republican expressed the slightest interest in that topic.
Instead, surfacing any information related to Trump’s activities in Russia was left to Democrats. Not that Democrats didn’t spend a good portion of their time tying to illuminate the motives behind Fusion’s actions. They did. Democrats also walked carefully through the information that made Christopher Steele feel that he had to go to the FBI. But they also spent time on the topic that was supposed to be the point of the hearing.
By the end of the transcript, a few things were clear: Even before they hired Christopher Steele, Fusion GPS was well aware of Trump’s numerous connections to crime bosses in Russia and in former Soviet states. Steele was hired, not to generate information, but to fill in the gaps around relationships that were already obvious from the public record and Trump’s own statements.
And almost from the moment he began investigating, Steele came across a flood of confirmation—information that included deliberate efforts on the part of the Russian government to influence the United States election. Information so disturbing that Steele felt it was requisite on him, as a professional with decades of experience in intelligence, to take what he had learned to American authorities and inform them of a grave and growing danger. When he did, Steele was relieved to find that the FBI was already on the topic and taking it seriously, thanks to information that originated inside Trump’s campaign.
Most of all, the transcript revealed just why Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) was so determined to keep it hidden. Because the clear words on the page made it obvious that the criminal charges leveled at Steele by Grassley and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) went beyond political showboating and into the realm of egregious obstruction. The transcript makes it dead clear that Republicans have no interest in finding the truth, or in protecting the nation.
The transcripts revealed the reasons that Republicans have been so determined to dismiss the “Steele dossier” and the other information put together by Fusion GPS. They did so because the information collected by Fusion confirmed what investigations at the Financial Times made public months ago—Donald Trump was deeply involved with Russian mobsters, who were largely responsible for his finances. In fact, much of Trump’s claimed wealth was simply inexplicable, apparently unmoored from any legitimate source. Donald Trump, successful real estate tycoon, was a fiction.
Steele’s network of contacts and years of relationship-building, along with his entry into Russia at a point where the connection between Trump and this international criminal underground had not yet become a topic of general discussion, allowed him to gather a great deal of information quickly. That information made it clear that the Russian government was determined to assist Trump, if for no other reason than to harm Hillary Clinton. It also became clear from the outset that Trump’s activities in Russia had opened him to potential blackmail, putting an American presidential candidate under the thumb of Russian operatives both fiscally and personally.
Christopher Steele and the partners at Fusion GPS weren’t cackling together over vague, salacious rumors and spinning out tales of Trump’s wild nights in Moscow. They were confronted by a mountain of evidence that showed Trump was both financially dependent on, and personally compromised by, Russian oligarchs with connections both to criminal families—and to the corrupt Russian government.
What we learned from the release of the transcripts only confirmed what we’ve seen in public hearings: Republicans are doing everything they can to protect Trump, even if that means attacking people who only did their best to uncover the truth. Republicans are even willing to press criminal charges against a man who put himself at personal risk and brought what he had learned to the attention of the FBI because what he found was such a threat to America, and possibly to the world.
What the transcripts reveal is that, in investigating connections between Donald Trump and corrupt governments overseas, Fusion GPS demonstrated that the government right here in the United States is equally corrupt. Equally willing to trade truth for power. Equally ready to condemn those whose only crime is uncovering information which those in charge want thoroughly buried.
The information collected by Fusion GPS is an indictment of Donald Trump as a front man for mobsters and corrupt governments whose crooked dealing and personal excesses left him open to easy manipulation.
But the Fusion GPS transcripts are an indictment of the Republican Party, as an entity that has lost any concern for the nation, fairness, or the facts—an entity addicted to power by any means, and willing to use that power to close the mouths of those they view as threats.
President Trump lied almost TWO THOUSAND times in his first year as president
Posted by NowThis Politics on Tuesday, January 2, 2018
GOP senator says tax cuts must be followed by ‘structural changes to Social Security and Medicare’
Peter Weber November 30, 2017
Senate Republicans started the clock for a final vote on their tax plan Wednesday evening, but among the unresolved demands from GOP waverers is a provision to prevent the bill from adding up to $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over 10 years. No serious analysis has suggested the growth from slashing taxes for corporations and other businesses would make up that shortfall, and Republicans haven’t offered any evidence. At a Politico Playbook forum on Wednesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said that cutting taxes needs to be followed by cutting spending on popular federal programs.
“I analyze this very differently than most,” Rubio said. “Many argue that you can’t cut taxes because it will drive up the deficit. But we have to do two things. We have to generate economic growth which generates revenue, while reducing spending. That will mean instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future.” He suggested reducing benefits and raising the retirement age for future retirees, so people can prepare for the changes. “Tax reform is the economic component of this equation,” Rubio said. “When more people are working, there are more taxpayers and more revenue, but that alone won’t be enough. You are still going to have a debt problem in the absence of spending cuts.”
The broadly unpopular tax bill — rushed through with almost no debate or expert testimony and zero Democratic input — would have wide-ranging and uncertain effects on all Americans. As AARP noted, the legislation already includes $25 billion in automatic Medicare cuts for next year alone, along with $111 billion in other cuts to federal programs, and it would either raise taxes or keep them the same for 6.3 million Americans 65 or older in 2019 and 10.8 million by 2027. President Trump, who is pushing the legislation hard, promised during the campaign he would not change Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. You can watch Rubio’s interview at Politico. Peter Weber
Dan Charles, Heard on Morning Addition August 3, 2017
The teal blue area along the Louisiana coastline represents a “dead zone” of oxygen-depleted water. Resulting from nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the Mississippi River, it can potentially hurt fisheries. NASA/Getty Images
It has become a rite of summer. Every year, a “dead zone” appears in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s an area where water doesn’t have enough oxygen for fish to survive. And every year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration commissions scientists to venture out into the Gulf to measure it.
This week, NOAA announced that this year’s dead zone is the biggest one ever measured. It covers 8,776 square miles — an area the size of New Jersey. And it’s adding fuel to a debate over whether state and federal governments are doing enough to cut pollution that comes from farms.
The debate actually goes back many years, at least to 1985, when Don Scavia was a scientist at the NOAA. He and his colleagues asked some scientists, for the first time, to go look for a dead zone in the Gulf.
“We expected it to be there,” Scavia recalls. They expected to find it because they knew that the Mississippi River delivers a heavy load of nutrient pollution, specifically nitrogen and phosphorus, into the Gulf.
Every year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tasks scientists with measuring the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. This year’s map, based on that data, shows a zone the collective size of New Jersey. Courtesy of NOAA
“Most of the nitrogen and phosphorus that drives this problem comes from the Upper Midwest,” Scavia says. “It’s coming from agriculture.”
Farmers use those nutrients on fields as fertilizer. Rain washes them into nearby streams and rivers. And when they reach the Gulf of Mexico, those nutrients unleash blooms of algae, which then die and decompose. That is what uses up the oxygen in a thick layer of water at the bottom of the Gulf, in a band that follows the coastline.
“Fish that can swim will move out of the way. Organisms that are living on the bottom, that the fish feed on, can’t move, and they often die,” says Scavia, who now is a professor of environment and sustainability at the University of Michigan.
The record-breaking dead zone this year is the result of unusually heavy rains in the Midwest, which flushed a lot of nutrients into the Gulf.
The dead zone is invisible from the surface of the ocean. Scientists lower instruments into the water to measure oxygen levels near the bottom. But Scavia describes it as a kind of hidden environmental disaster. “You know, it’s 8,000 square miles of no oxygen. That can’t be good!” he says. Potentially, it could have huge economic costs as well, because it imperils Louisiana’s shrimp industry.
Federal and state agencies have promised to take action against the dead zone. As part of their “action plan” to shrink it, they’re encouraging Midwestern farmers to try to keep nutrients from washing away by doing such things as planting wide grassy strips along streams to trap fertilizer runoff.
Scavia, however, recently published a blog post calling these voluntary measures inadequate. In a separate scientific paper, he also calculated that meeting the government’s goal for a smaller dead zone will require dramatic cuts in nutrient pollution from farms.
Scavia argues that the Gulf should get the same kind of protection as the Chesapeake Bay, on the East Coast. The Chesapeake has had a similar dead zone problem. In 2010, though, despite fierce objections from farmers, the federal government set mandatory limits on nutrient pollution entering the bay. State governments spent billions of dollars to meet those targets. Now pollution in the bay is down, and some wildlife in the Chesapeake is starting to recover.
Prior to the 2016 election, Eddie Lee Holloway Jr., a 58-year-old African-American man, moved from Illinois to Wisconsin, which implemented a strict voter-ID law for the first time in 2016. He brought his expired Illinois photo ID, birth certificate, and Social Security card to get a photo ID for voting in Wisconsin, but the DMV in Milwaukee rejected his application because the name on his birth certificate read “Eddie Junior Holloway,” the result of a clerical error when it was issued. Holloway ended up making seven trips to different public agencies in two states and spent over $200 in an attempt to correct his birth certificate, but he was never able to obtain a voter ID in Wisconsin. Before the election, his lawyer for the ACLU told me Holloway was so disgusted he left Wisconsin for Illinois.
By Ari Berman
Holloway’s story was sadly familiar in 2016. According to federal court records, 300,000 registered voters, 9 percent of the electorate, lacked strict forms of voter ID in Wisconsin. A new study by Priorities USA, shared exclusively with The Nation, shows that strict voter-ID laws, in Wisconsin and other states, led to a significant reduction in voter turnout in 2016, with a disproportionate impact on African-American and Democratic-leaning voters. Wisconsin’s voter-ID law reduced turnout by 200,000 votes, according to the new analysis. Donald Trump won the state by only 22,748 votes.
The study compared turnout in states that adopted strict voter-ID laws between 2012 and 2016, like Wisconsin, to states that did not.
While states with no change to voter identification laws witnessed an average increased turnout of +1.3% from 2012 to 2016, Wisconsin’s turnout (where voter ID laws changed to strict) dropped by -3.3%. If turnout had instead increased by the national no-change average, we estimate that over 200,000 more voters would have voted in Wisconsin in 2016.
This reduction in turnout particularly hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
The lost voters skewed more African-American and more Democrat. For example, Wisconsin’s 2016 electorate was 6.1% more Republican, and 5.7% less Democrat, than the group of ‘lost voters’. Furthermore, the WI electorate was 3.7% more White and 3.8% less African American than the group of ‘lost voters.’ This analysis suggests that the 200,000 lost voters would have both been more racially diverse and have voted more Democratic.
(Priorities USA is a progressive advocacy group and Super PAC that supported Clinton in 2016 and Barack Obama in 2012. The study was conducted by Civis Analytics, a data science firm founded by the chief analytics officer for Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012.)
Though Wisconsin saw the most dramatic reduction in turnout among voter-ID states, it was reflective of a worrisome broader national trend.
In states where the voter identification laws did not change between ’12 and ’16, turnout was up +1.3%. In states where ID laws changed to non-strict (AL, NH, RI) turnout increased less, and was only up by +0.7%. In states where ID laws changed to strict (MS, VA, WI) turnout actually decreased by – 1.7%.
The drop in turnout in these six states led to 400,000 fewer votes relative to turnout in states where ID laws did not change. In Mississippi, Virginia, and Wisconsin, strict voter-ID laws had an especially pronounced negative impact on African-American voters.
In counties where African Americans make up less than 10% of the population AND there were no changes to voter ID laws, 2016 turnout was up +1.9% from 2012, but in similar <10% African American counties where ID laws changed to be strict, total turnout decreased by -0.7%. In counties where African Americans make up more than 40% of the population, however, 2016 turnout was down -2.2% from 2012 in states where ID laws did not change, but down -5 points in states where ID laws changed to be strict.
The study also compared turnout in Wisconsin to Minnesota, which has very similar demographics but no voter-ID law, and found “turnout in African-American counties dropped off at significantly higher levels than in their Minnesota-counterparts.”
It’s important to note that this study was conducted by a Democratic Party–affiliated group and has not been peer-reviewed or gone through the typical academic vetting process. While some studies have shown big reductions in turnout among minority voters because of voter-ID laws, others have not. But the Priorities USA study is consistent with a 2014 study by the Government Accountability Office, which found that strict voter-ID laws in Kansas and Tennessee reduced turnout by 2 percent, enough to swing a close election, with the largest drop-off among newly registered voters, young voters, and voters of color.
This study provides more evidence for the claim that voter-ID laws are designed not to stop voter impersonation fraud, which is virtually nonexistent, but to make it harder for certain communities to vote. This matters greatly today, because 87 bills to restrict access to the ballot have been introduced in 29 states this year, including voter-ID laws in 19 states. Arkansas and Iowa have already passed strict voter-ID laws in 2017.
“Americans’ fundamental right to vote is under attack by Republican governors and state legislatures around the country,” said Guy Cecil, Chairman of Priorities USA. “Under the false pretense of combating voter fraud, Republicans are passing laws that make it more difficult and time-consuming for average citizens to participate in the democratic process.”
A Maryland-based electrical contractor claims they worked “nonstop” to get Trump’s new Washington hotel ready for September’s campaign event.
By Ari Melber and Corky Siemaszko – January 25, 2017
Vehicles participating in an inaugural parade rehearsal pass by the Trump International Hotel, January 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson / Getty Images
A Maryland-based electrical contractor claims they worked “nonstop” to get President Trump’s new Washington hotel ready in time for a televised campaign stop in September — and then got stiffed on the bill.
AES Electrical, which is also known as Freestate Electrical, has filed suit in Washington D.C.’s Superior Court to recoup the $2,075,731.61 it claims it is still owed for helping turn the Old Post Office into the luxury Trump International Hotel.
In addition to the Trump Organization, it names Trump’s contractor, Lend Lease of New York, in the suit.
Freestate states in court papers that it began working on the project on Sept. 29, 2014 and was ordered to “accelerate work” last fall.
The reason? “To permit Mr. Trump’s nationally televised campaign event from the Hotel on September 16, 2016, which was to honor U.S. veterans,” the papers state.
Also, the Trump hotel had already started booking “paid events” and rooms for a “soft opening” on Sept. 12.
To get the work done on time, the company claims, “required Freestate’s crews to work nonstop, seven days per week, 10 to 14 hours per day, for nearly 50 consecutive days, prior to the ‘soft opening,’ at significant additional cost and expense for which Freestate expected payment.”
Freestate claims it continued to work at the same pace to ensure the hotel was ready for its “grand opening” on Oct. 26.
“The ‘grand opening’ of the Trump Hotel by this day, was also a nationally covered event, which was planned just prior to the U.S. presidential election,” the suit states. “Although Mr. Trump’s Hotel has now been opened and has operated for business since September 2016, and despite the fact that Mr. Trump was successfully elected as the next U.S. President, Trump refuses to pay the sums due for the account of work of subcontractors, like Freestate.”
Freestate, which states in the suit that it has thus far been paid $15,130,267.39, said that when it submitted the bill for the extra costs, the Trump organization offered to pay just a third of the bill.
A spokesman for Freestate, which employs union electricians, did not immediately return a phone call from NBC to elaborate on the lawsuit, which was filed last Thursday — a day before Trump’s inauguration.
A spokesperson for the Trump Organization responded to the lawsuit with the following statement:
“In developments of this scale and complexity the filing of nominal liens at the conclusion of construction is not uncommon as part of the close out process. In the case of Trump International Hotel, Washington D.C., the Trump Organization has invested over $200 million dollars into the redevelopment of the historic Old Post Office and is incredibly proud of what is now considered to be one the most iconic hotels anywhere in the country.”
The White House insists that Trump himself has divested himself from his companies and has turned over management of his empire to his sons.
This is not the first time the Trump organization has been accused of pressuring contractors to accept reduced payments on projects — or flat out failing to pay workers what they are owed.
USA Today and other news organizations have reported that Trump and his companies have been hit with more than 3,500 lawsuits for non-payment of bills or wages over the past three decades. Also, Trump companies have been cited for 24 violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act since 2005, the paper reported.
Perhaps the most infamous example were the undocumented Polish workers who were hired to build Trump’s glitzy home, Trump Tower in Manhattan. They went on strike when they weren’t paid, triggering a multi-year legal battle that ended with a settlement.
Trump denied doing anything wrong, and the Polish workers never got a nickel from the settlement.
By Mia Lerm Hayes – February 17, 2014
By Barry McCaffrey
Mia Lerm Hayes is a professor of Art History at the University of Ulster. Her family moved from East to West Germany in 1975 and she has worked in Northern Ireland for ten years. She recalls what life was like growing up in East Germany during the Cold War.
Mia was born in the East German city of Jena in the late 1960s. Her parents had met around the time when the Berlin Wall was built between the two Germanys on June 15, 1961. An old map of London, bought from an antique bookshop, hung on a wall in the family’s living room as a daily reminder of the free world, which they knew they could never see.
Despite (or because of) the parents’ university education – in Theology, which did not conform with the regime – they knew that Mia and her younger sister would never be allowed the same opportunity. The communist leadership’s punishment against anyone who opposed its regime meant that the children of those interested in human rights in the Eastern bloc would have to pay a heavy price.
“My parents knew that their daughters would never be allowed to do ‘A’ Levels, study or have a proper job that would allow us to use our brains,” Mia now explains.
“Those regarded as oppositional or academic children, whose parents were not members of the communist party, were not allowed to study. It was the social engineering of the East German dictatorship. They wanted to ensure that children who were socialised at home to be independent thinkers and would not rise to any position.”
As the top student in her class, the seven year-old Mia had to bring her schoolmates to attention every morning and give a military salute to her teacher. Even then the schoolgirl was aware of the dreaded Stasi and the dangers they posed. We were aware of the fact that we really could not speak to anyone about certain things that were said at home.”
When a parcel containing chocolate arrived from the west one day Mia offered some to a friend.
“No, I don’t want anything from the class enemy,” the indoctrinated child replied.
Knowing that their daughters faced a life of discrimination in the GDR, the Lerms applied in 1973 for permission to leave the Eastern Bloc.
The fact that Mia’s mother had been injured in a car accident some years before meant that the Communist regime saw her as a financial liability and was happy for her to leave.
“My mother had a car accident in 1970, which meant that she was left a ‘pensioner’ at the age of 28. She could travel to the West, because the GDR government let anyone who was on a pension go to the West and receive their pension there.”
This may have been a longer-term separation, but those in the West who agreed to help the family convinced her that she could return and enough money would be made available to pay for their release from the East. Even if permitted by the East German regime to escape to the West, each person had to pay a ‘ransom’ to leave the GDR.
“It was 1975 and was in the middle of the Cold War and very early on in terms of expatriations,” Mia now recalls.
“For someone who was educated and highly skilled it would have been a lot more, but for a little girl like me I think I was worth only a couple of thousand West Mark to them. They needed the hard currency to buy more and better surveillance equipment, thus making our friends’ lives more difficult by leaving.”
It would take a full two years before the Communist regime would finally allow the family to leave. In that period moving boxes were constantly packed, ready to leave their east German lives behind within the required 24 hours.
“I remember the day in 1975 when we moved very well, because it was so strange. Everybody came and helped with the moving. We were so lucky that we didn’t have to escape on an air balloon or dig a tunnel or swim across a river like other people had to do.”
The fear that the Stasi was watching to see who helped the Lerms meant that only a family of close friends, who were already known to be active in the opposition, felt brave enough to wave goodbye to them at the train station. It would be another 32 years before Mia would see them again.
The final remaining obstacle between the family’s freedom was the infamous Friedrichstrase train station, known to Berliners as the ‘Palace of the Tears’, as it was the final place where loved ones could embrace as a handful escaped while others were forced to stay behind the wall.
Despite making it to the West, it was difficult to have left family and friends behind.
“We knew that we would not necessarily be allowed to go back. In the first year we didn’t have the money to go back a lot. After that we weren’t allowed to visit our friends or family for another seven years as the East Germans wouldn’t let us in. Once we drove from Northern Germany to Bavaria, just to pass Jena (their former hometown) on the transit motorway. We weren’t allowed to stop – it was heart-breaking.”
Mia’s mother has never requested her Stasi file
Despite huge problems the family made every effort not to lose contact with their loved ones in the East.
“Even then I knew that all the letters being sent back and forth were read and all the parcels were opened. Every telephone conversation was monitored. You could hear the click on the line. Just because we were now in the West, didn’t mean that the spying had stopped. You grew up with that sort of knowledge, that they always listened in.”
In 1989 both the Berlin Wall and then the GDR finally collapsed after tens of thousands of East Germany citizens took to the streets in what became known as the Peaceful Revolution.
Later, thousands of former GDR citizens sought to discover whether or not they had been spied on by the Stasi, but Mia’s mother has chosen not to.
“Mother never requested her Stasi file,” explained Mia.
“I went to the Stasi Archive and wondered whether I could have a look at my family’s file, but I got a letter back to say that there were no files on children.
“I don’t know about my father, because my parents separated, but my mother, probably because of her culture of forgiveness, decided not to ask if the Stasi had spied on her and who might have informed them.”
Mia’s mother’s unbreakable determination that her daughters had access to a good and democratic education was a direct factor in her decision to move to Northern Ireland in the 2000s.
“The link between my history and being here in Northern Ireland is very straight forward for me.
“Economic prosperity wasn’t part of the motivation for my mother at all. It was her daughters’ education that drove her. From my schooling I learned to think critically. I feel I have an obligation to use the education that I received under such difficult circumstances for the democratisation of a society that needs it. That’s why I chose to come to Northern Ireland.”
While the University of Ulster art history professor believes there are lessons that her adopted home Northern Ireland can learn from her place of birth, she warns that it would be a mistake to try to impose a “one-size fits all” approach to truth recovery for victims.
“I do think there are parallels, but not the kind of parallels you might find in the technicalities of simply saying ‘let’s use what happened to the Stasi files in Northern Ireland’.
“If you say: ‘we’ll look at the Stasi archive and see what we might learn from that for Northern Ireland’ you’re making a lot of assumptions. You’re assuming that there are archives in Northern Ireland, and did the paramilitaries on both sides have archives?
“What you are actually talking about are the crimes committed through collusion. You are talking about state violence. You’re assuming almost that it was a dictatorship here, which, in a systematic way, gathered information on those who were not supporting it, and you’re assuming that the state has not carried on doing the same.
“One is encouraged of course by what happened eventually in the case of Bloody Sunday and David Cameron’s apology.”
However, Mia believes that the intransigent approaches adopted by all sides in Northern Ireland remains a stumbling block to progress.
“What we could learn is that there are more than just two sides.
“What you see in a film like ‘Good Vibrations’ is that there was also a music community here, which didn’t care if you were from one side of the fence or the other; similarly with visual artists.
“There was also the Civil Rights movement in the late 1960s and the tragedy of Northern Ireland is that the moral high ground that it had was not sustained as a model. Obviously it was considered by the government of the day to be dangerous; otherwise Blood Sunday wouldn’t have happened.
“The sad thing is that the Civil Rights movement is not universally acknowledged as having been a cross-community movement. People like John Hume aren’t enough considered to be the heroes of Northern Ireland. If this was the model, the thinking might be quite different. We might actually consider having someone like Heaney as a president, like Vaclav Havel was in Czechoslovakia. It is as if Northern Ireland is still stuck before 1968 or 1989, desperately trying to hang on to hierarchies, to authoritarian thinking.”