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Established 1973 — Last updated: Sunday, April 30, 2017, 1:07 PM
Aggregated news for a better world – we raise awareness of what corporate media suppresses
Today's posts in bigger type—>
Prior 2/3 days in little type.
Obama's ACA didn't fix this:
The U.S. wastes $1.6 Trillion/yr on bloated health care spending compared with the 2013 OECD per capita average of advanced countries, which becomes extra cost overhead on U.S. exports—resulting in offshoring manufacturing and jobs. Let's end price gouging and adopt efficient practices instead of cutting Medicare and Medicaid coverage as part of some "Grand Bargain"
In 2015 US total per capita health care spending was $9451, $5044 more per person than in France without better results.

Lastly, importantly, health worker pay is NOT the problem.

We must aggressively transition our energy system away from fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable energy solutions. And we need to do so now

....No matter what agenda President Trump and his administration of climate deniers push, it is clear that jobs in clean energy like wind and solar are growing much more rapidly than jobs in the coal, oil and gas sectors. The number of workers maintaining wind turbines in the US is set to more than double between 2014 and 2024, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Around the world, more than 9.4 million people already work in the renewable energy sector. These are the jobs of the future.

Not only does renewable energy help fight climate change and create jobs, but it’s also good for public health. Cutting carbon pollution emissions by just 32% by 2030 would prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks in children, and 1,700 heart attacks each year.

We’re beginning to transition to a clean energy economy – but scientists say we need to do it faster to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

University researchers and the non-profit Solutions Project have mapped out how we can achieve a 100% clean, renewable energy future for all 50 US states and 139 countries by 2050. With their research, governments in the US and around the world can learn exactly how to break dependence on fossil fuel, why we don’t need fracking and how we can move aggressively in terms of sustainable energy and energy efficiency.

Now is the time for taking swift, aggressive action.

Bernie Sanders and Mark Jacobson | The Guardian
Wind and solar could create many, many more jobs than coal — especially if the government stops propping it up.

....Could domestic regulation have played some role in the decline of coal? Sure, some. Rules limiting emissions of mercury and other pollutants from burning coal, and limiting the ability of coal-burning utilities to dump toxic coal ash in rivers and streams, likely put some financial pressure on coal power plants.

However, those costs should be weighed against the profound health benefits of cleaner air and water.

Cleaning up coal power plants (and reducing their number) leads to fewer children with asthma, fewer costly emergency room visits, and fewer costly disaster responses when massive amounts of toxic coal ash leach into drinking water sources, to name just a few benefits. Most reasonable people would agree those aren’t small things.

There’s also the fact that the decline in coal jobs, while painful for those who rely on them, tells only a small part of the story. In fact, there are alternatives that could put hundreds of thousands of people back to work.

Here are a few little-known facts: Coal accounts for about 26 percent of the electricity generating capacity in our country — and about 160,000 jobs. Solar energy accounts for just 2 percent of our power generation — and 374,000 jobs.

In other words, solar has created more than twice as many jobs as coal, with only a sliver of the electric grid. So if the intent truly is to create more jobs, where would a rational government focus its efforts?

Basav Sen | Informed Comment
Ministers hide the truth about levels of atmospheric contamination, so people are taking precautions for themselves And who can blame them?

....The problem is widespread. A recent investigation by the Guardian and Greenpeace found that “hundreds of thousands of children are being exposed to illegal levels of damaging air pollution from diesel vehicles at schools and nurseries across England and Wales”. This is no small thing. Exposure over short periods can aggravate respiratory diseases – particularly asthma – leading to respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing. It helps to explain why childhood asthma increased hugely in Europe over the second half of the 20th century. The presence of NO2 also triggers allergic reactions to pollen. More than one in four Britons now suffer from hayfever, up from one in eight in the early 80s.

The problems caused by NO2 have been apparent for quite some time. As has acknowledgement that something has to be done about them. EU nations were tasked in the 1999 directive with getting these dangerous emissions down to healthier levels by 2010. Instead Britain, along with most of the continent, has been flouting those guidelines outrageously. Britain has been pumping its annual NO2 quota into the atmosphere by early spring for years.This year, in Brixton, south London, hourly limits on NO2 emissions were breached just five days in. We have been in the midst of a full-blown public health crisis for decades. The idea of the government being bounced into something “a bit hasty” is utterly absurd.

....Meanwhile, the sum of human knowledge grows apace. While it remains clear that NO2 damages children’s health and development, it has now been found that pollution from particulates is even more damaging. Like NO2, these are emitted by diesel vehicles.

Meanwhile, in the schools that the children of hardworking diesel drivers attend, there is talk of moving playgrounds away from school gates near busy roads, or simply not letting the kids play outside when air pollution is particularly bad.

It’s sad that people are having to make their own plans to try to protect their children, when this is so very obviously a crisis that needs national and international cooperation and commitment. But what else can worried people do, except swallow fake news and hope?

Deborah Orr | The Guardian
President expected to sign executive order to review areas potentially rich in fossil fuels that were put out of reach of drilling by the Obama administration

Communities along the east coast are steeling themselves for a fresh round of angst and protest over offshore drilling, with Donald Trump set to throw open vast swathes of the Atlantic seaboard to oil and gas companies.

On Friday, the president is expected to sign an executive order that will ask the interior department to review offshore areas potentially rich in fossil fuels that were put out of reach of drilling by Barack Obama’s administration.

The review will scrutinize plots in the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific that the Obama administration said would not be made available for drilling until at least 2022. In the final weeks of his presidency, Obama announced what he called a permanent ban on drilling along much of Alaska’s coast as well as the ocean floor from Virginia to Maine.

Trump is now taking the first steps to undo this, setting up a confrontation with environmentalists and residents concerned about the impact upon wildlife and the potentially ruinous economic consequences of a Deepwater Horizon-level oil spill.

Oliver Milman | The Guardian
1.2 million children in the US have lead poisoning. We’re only treating half of them. [willfully ignoring children's health so the rich can get tax breaks—to be even richer—is immoral and costs much more long-term]
Several states are doing an abysmal job of testing at-risk children for lead poisoning.
Sarah Frostenson | Vox
Court rules that immediate publication is essential and rejects Defra’s plea to delay until after the general election

The government has been ordered to publish tough new plans to tackle air pollution after the high court rejected attempts by ministers to keep the policy under wraps until after the general election.

In the latest defeat for ministers over their continued failure to tackle the UK’s air pollution crisis, which is believed to be responsible for 40,000 premature deaths a year, Mr Justice Garnham said the secretary of state, Andrea Leadsom, was in breach of a court order to take action in the shortest possible time and that any further delays would constitute a further breach.

He said it was essential to publish draft plans to cut air pollution immediately to safeguard public health. The judge rejected a government application to appeal, saying that ministers would have to go to the appeal court if they wanted to seek permission to challenge his ruling.

The judgment came after ministers applied to court to keep their plans secret until after the general election, saying it was necessary to “comply with pre-election propriety rules”. The new measures are likely to include the imposition of multiple clean-air zones across the country, where drivers will face fines if their vehicles do not pass roadside emissions tests.

Garnham on Thursday ordered ministers to publish their draft plan within two weeks – on 9 May, after local elections on 4 May – and said the government must comply with his original order and release their final policy on tackling the air crisis by 31 July.

Sandra Laville | The Guardian
The Last time there was this much CO2 in the air, Florida was under Water [Trump will sell his Fla. properties before admitting to a problem]

....New scientific estimates are that the last time there was this much carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere may have been the Pliocene, some 4.5 million years ago. Some earlier estimates suggested that it had been 24 million years since we had this much CO2. In past eras, carbon dioxide levels tended to go up mainly because of volcanic eruptions. The CO2 gradually gets scrubbed back out of the atmosphere by going into the ocean or by binding with igneous rock, over hundreds of thousands or millions of years. In the meantime, more CO2 means more heat.

....Sea levels 4.5 million years ago were as much as 131 feet feet [40 meters] higher than today.

Here are the coastal communities in the US at risk just from a four feet ocean level rise:

Sea levels 4.5 million years ago were as much as 131 feet feet [40 meters] higher than today.

Click for larger image. Credit: h/t Climate Central
Juan Cole / Source: Climate Central | Informed Comment
Trumpcare 2.0 will make the opioid problem only worse by slashing the Medicaid funds that get people treated

President Donald Trump, motivated by a congenital inability to admit defeat, is trying to revive Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The move is getting resistance from a surprising corner, as attorneys general from 19 states and the District of Columbia sent a letter to the president expressing concerns about what this means for their ability to fight crime.

What does health care have to do with crime? According to the attorneys general, quite a bit, due to the epidemic of opioid addiction.

“As the chief law enforcement officials in many of our states, we are on the front lines of battling this epidemic,” reads the letter, which was sent on April 21. “But we know that law enforcement alone cannot end this crisis. Our residents also need access to drug treatment.”

Most of the focus on Republican health care efforts has understandably been on what it means for individuals who could lose their health insurance if the GOP successfully pares down Medicaid and reduces the subsidy system that makes private health insurance more affordable under the Obamacare laws. But this letter highlights another problem, which is that undermining the health care system will have broader consequences for state and local governments. Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to fighting the drug addiction epidemic.

“If you repeal the Affordable Care Act or you dramatically transform the Medicaid program in such a fashion that it doesn’t have the resources to pay for these services, that funding is going to dry up and you’re going to shift back onto states this big financial burden,” explained Brendan Saloner, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in a phone interview. “That’s going to cause a lot of pain on states.”

Scientists at Imperial College London used MRI scans and algorithms to produce computer-generated brain age and spot risk of dying young

By combining MRI scans with machine learning algorithms, a team of neuroscientists trained computers to predict the age of a person’s brain based on their volume of brain tissue.

When the technique was tested on a group of older adults in Scotland, they found that the greater the difference between the computer-generated brain age and the person’s actual age, the higher their risk of poor mental and physical health and the more likely they were to die before they turned 80.

Those with a brain age older than their real age also had weaker grip, lower lung capacity and slower walking speed.

Nicola Slawson | The Guardian

Millions of tons of plastic bags end up on landfill sites every year, risking the health of the environment and destroying the natural habitat of certain animals.

But amateur beekeeper Federica Bertocchini has made an astounding discovery when removing wax worms from honeycombs, which she hopes could help solve the problems caused by plastic bags.

In the wild, the worms live as parasites in bee colonies by laying their eggs inside hives and, once hatched, grow on the beeswax. The worms on Professor Bertocchini's property had been kept in a plastic shopping bag, which she saw were full of holes....

Narjas Zatat | Independent

dryriver | SlashDot

....Researchers, Eicke Latz at the University of Bonn and colleagues, followed up on the parents’ hypothesis and found that in mice, cyclodextrin indeed blocked plaque formation, melted away plaques that had already formed in arteries, reduced atherosclerosis-associated inflammation, and revved up cholesterol metabolism—even in rodents fed cholesterol-rich diets.

Beth Mole | ars technica | Ref.
Though it won't 'cure' Alzheimer's, tests show compound, similar to that found in energy drinks, clears amyloid beta plaques, which build up in the brain in early stages of Alzheimer’s
Ian Sample | Guardian | Ref.
JOE ROMM | Climate Progress | Ref. | Ref.
Green buildings and better infrastructure would not only spur economic growth but also cut carbon emissions equal to India’s annual output
Suzanne Goldenberg | Guardian | Ref.

A growing body of evidence suggests pollution can do a number on the brain. The July/August Mother Jones cover story chronicled the research connecting neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's to the dirty air we breathe; studies have found that pollution may also age the brain prematurely. And according to new research from the University of Texas-El Paso, pollution's damage to the brain may start even sooner than was previously thought: Fourth and fifth graders exposed to exhaust emissions, researchers found, don't do as well in school as their peers who breathe cleaner air.

Gabrielle Canon | Mother Jones | Ref.
Janet Redman / Foreign Policy in Focus | Informed Comment | Ref.
Though Canada's system is the second most expensive in the world per capita, it would save America $1.3 Trillion/yr and cover everyone
OLGA KHAZAN | Atlantic | Ref.
Lesley Stahl discovers the shock and anxiety of a cancer diagnosis can be followed by a second jolt: the astronomical price of cancer drugs
[All the other OECD countries negotiate much lower drug & medical procedure costs]
CBS News | Ref.
Elisabeth Rosenthal in New York Times | Ref.


"Where will this downward spiral take us?" asks Reporters Without Borders in latest annual report
Andrea Germanos, staff writer | Common Dreams
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'.
BOB SOMERBY in The Daily Howler | EVERY DAY
"Trump has accomplished only one thing that is remarkable—he's awoken American democracy like never before"

Some of the nation's leading watchdog groups released reports this week taking stock of President Donald Trump's first 100 days in office, covering everything from his failure to "drain the swamp" to the resistance movement meeting his administration head-on.

The consensus seems to be that Trump and his administration are doing everything they can to dismantle recent progress on civil rights, climate action, government accountability, and other critical measures for democracy—but in doing so, have ushered in a game-changing era of grassroots activism.

Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW), which has sued the president over his conflicts of interest, released its report Friday, detailing "the ethical failings of both the president and his staff."

"President Trump promised to 'drain the swamp,' but instead the first 100 days of his administration have illustrated the catastrophic consequences when a president fails to prioritize ethics when entering public service," CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder said. "This failure of leadership resounds through the administration and the government as a whole, and ultimately harms our democracy and the interests of the American people.”

CREW's report also looks at the track records of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Health and Human Services (HHS) head Tom Price, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, senior White House staff, and the president's children.

Nadia Prupis, staff writer | Common Dreams
Pressure on House leadership to advance HR676 comes as legislation reaches new milestone

Seizing upon the now record high support for a Medicare-for-all bill, advocates for such a system are pushing House Minority Leader Nancy Peolosi (D-Calif.) to throw her weight behind the legislation.

The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, HR676, reintroduced in January by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) this week claimed for the first time support from more than half of the Democratic caucus, reaching 104 co-sponsors in Congress.

Pelosi is not among them.

Instead, she appears on a list of 89 House Democrats not supporting Conyers' legislation. Justice Democrats, an advocacy group calling for an overhaul of the Democratic Party, put out on social media this week an infographic highlighting their names.

Andrea Germanos, staff writer | Common Dreams
Donald Trump's tax plan punishes single parents with low to moderate incomes.

....I live in a poor place, which has certainly seen its share of tough times. A friend dumpster-dived for food. Another burned cardboard for heat. But along with teaching me about poverty, Appalachia has taught me solidarity and compassion. My town rallied to throw a young expectant mother with multiple illnesses a baby shower; to help buy a van for a man with disabilities; to help unemployed workers after a fire. This is a place where people have the least, yet give the most.

It’s easy to give at least a little, and doing so is essential to all for our survival. When one of us struggles, we all struggle. We all deal with trickle-down devastation.

The president’s tax plan is going to make the nation weak — not just for single parents who, frankly, are being punished enough already. It is true that some choose to parent alone, but many of us were denied a choice.

Many single parents are dealing with a broken promise. Many of us come to single parenting through horrible circumstances: death, or abandonment, or trying to escape abuse, or to deal with the pain of infidelity. I wouldn’t wish single parenting on anyone. It’s exhausting, lonely, and nearly impossible to do absolutely everything a child needs by yourself.

Now, it looks like I’ll have to do it on even less. And you — even you — will pay the price for that, too.

Alison Stine | Common Dreams
Why Are House Dems Treating 2016 Campaign Autopsy Like a Classified Document? [obsessive money focus requires compromises that kill best and most-efficient public programs and policy—and that makes the public very very angry]
Bottom line, says one commentator: "There's no good reason for the secrecy"
Deirdre Fulton, staff writer | Common Dreams
Teacher in Milwaukee said six-year-old student "crawled into her lap crying [and] told her, 'I am so scared that somebody is going to take my daddy away'"
Nadia Prupis, staff writer | Common Dreams
A record-breaking 104 House Democrats are co-sponsoring a Medicare-for-All bill
Nika Knight, staff writer | Common Dreams
Scant on details, critics say this is a massive tax break for corporations that the White House is determined to label a 'middle-class tax cut'
Lauren McCauley, staff writer | Common Dreams
The U.S. leads the free world in its helplessness before the dissolution of its most cherished values.

....Everywhere the disaffected are recoiling from establishment politicians and the mainstream media, and succumbing to alternative facts — a fragmentation of truth quickened by digital technology. It is in this sense, unanticipated by optimists like Mr. Obama, that the 21st century is proving to be the American Century.

Authoritarian regimes like China and Iran stave off challenges to their authority by limiting internet access and repairing myths of national unity. But the country taken to be the world’s oldest modern democracy leads the free world in its helplessness before the dissolution of its most cherished beliefs and values. Rejoining the tormented history of modernity under an obsessive liar, America has accelerated its most insidious tendency: nihilism.

PANKAJ MISHRA Op-Ed | The New York Times
The U.S. leads the free world in its helplessness before the dissolution of its most cherished values.

The best test for judging any Trump administration tax plan is the Mnuchin test — the standard that President Trump’s own Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, laid out a few months ago:

“Any reductions we have in upper-income taxes will be offset by less deductions, so that there will be no absolute tax cut for the upper class. There will be a big tax cut for the middle class, but any tax cuts we have for the upper class will be offset by less deductions that pay for it.”

I’ll repeat the key phrase for emphasis: “there will be no absolute tax cut for the upper class.”

Mnuchin was right to make this commitment. While middle-class incomes have stagnated, the top 0.01 percent of earners have had their average inflation-adjusted income roughly quadruple to $11.3 million since 1980. Their taxes have fallen, too. There’s no justification for cutting those taxes further.

Yet on Wednesday Trump, with Mnuchin as the pitch man, proposed precisely that, violating Mnuchin’s own standard.

David Leonhardt Op-Ed | The New York Times
  • ‘There is no area where Trump is more wrong than on climate change’
  • Bill proposes switch to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2050

....Sanders added: “No, Mr President, climate change is not a hoax. Climate change is real.”

At the event, held just outside the US Capitol, Sanders, Merkley and Markey unveiled legislation which seeks to completely phase out the use of fossil fuels through a transition to 100% clean and renewable energy by the middle of this century. But the bill, called the 100 by ’50 Act, is unlikely to be considered by a Republican-controlled Congress, where many GOP lawmakers are still unwilling to acknowledge the science behind global warming and contribution of human activity.

The partisan nature of the debate was not lost on the audience, as one attendee interrupted the proceedings to ask: “Where are the Republicans?”

Sabrina Siddiqui | The Guardian
Police clash with striking union workers in streets of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo as protesters in 26 states demonstrate against Michel Temer’s proposed reforms

....Demonstrators in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo blocked key roads with barricades of burning tires on. Riot police used teargas and percussion grenades to try to disperse the crowds and open the routes.

Domestic media said it was the biggest general strike in decades, with protests reported in 26 states and strikes by teachers, bus drivers, healthcare providers, oil industry workers and public servants.

As night fell on Friday, there were multiple clashes in central Rio between protesters, who set fire to a bus, and riot police, who fired dozens of rounds of tear gas.

....Many voters are furious that politicians are insisting on the need for cuts in benefits and public services even as evidence grows that they benefited personally from illegal kickbacks on overinflated contracts.

Eight cabinet ministers have been implicated in the Lava Jato (Car Wash) investigation into corruption at the country’s two biggest companies, Petrobras and Odebrecht. Temer’s approval ratings have slipped into single digits, similar to the level of his predecessor, Rousseff, when she was impeached last year.

Jonathan Watts | The Guardian
Frustration mounts among locals on the Greek island, where refugees feel like prisoners with no hope of getting to mainland Europe

....On Chios, more than 825 asylum seekers, the vast majority Syrians, arrived from Turkey in March. This month almost 600 have come. With at least 3,000, according to authorities, housed in two overcrowded camps – one makeshift, the other a razor-wire topped detention centre in a former factory known as Vial – it is anger that hangs in the air.

Greece’s Aegean isles have become de facto detention facilities – a dumping ground for nearly 14,000 stranded souls, unable to move until permits are processed and fearful of what lies ahead.

“Anything could happen because everything is hanging by a thread,” says Makis Mylonas, a policy adviser at the town hall. “Chios, Samos, Lesvos, Kos, Leros were sacrificed in the name of Europe’s fixation to keep immigrants out,” he claims, listing the isles that continue to bear the brunt of the flows.

....Officials are scrambling to cope with rising tensions. A coterie of far-right extremists has emerged and there have been attacks on migrant camps. Last week, neo-fascists threw incendiary devices at immigrants living at the Souda camp.

Frustration is also growing among refugees with nothing to do but wait for requests to run through an asylum-processing machine widely damned for moving at glacial speed. In March a young Syrian self-immolated.

Helena Smith | The Guardian
Decades after the military murdered thousands, Mothers of Plaza de Mayo warn that the current era of alternative facts poses a new threat
Uki Goñi | The Guardian
Leaders expected to discuss statement at weekend summit that if the island reunifies, the north will automatically regain EU membership

European leaders may be preparing to recognise a united Ireland, in a declaration that would pave the way for the north to swiftly rejoin the European Union. At their first Brexit summit on Saturday, the EU’s 27 leaders are expected to discuss a text stating that if Ireland unified, the north would automatically become part of the EU.

The inclusion of the text is a victory for the Irish government, which had pressed for the inclusion of a “GDR clause”, a reference to the integration of the former east German state into the European Community after the fall of the Berlin wall. The declaration is bound to raise fears that Brexit could trigger the unravelling of the UK, although there is no majority in Northern Ireland for unification.

EU diplomats are braced for a fierce reaction from the UK, given the angry tabloid headlines that followed speculation about the status of Gibraltar. After lobbying from Madrid, the EU agreed that the Spanish government would be able to exclude the Rock from any EU-UK trade agreement if it was not satisfied with the status of the territory.

The Irish clause is informed by the Good Friday peace agreement, which states that north and south of Ireland have a right to unify if a majority agree north of the border. Enda Kenny, the taoiseach, has argued that it is important for the north of Ireland to have “ease of access” to rejoin the EU if reunification were to occur.

A draft of the summit minutes seen by the Guardian refers to the Good Friday provision for a united Ireland and adds that this event would bring the north into the EU. The draft says: “The European Council acknowledges that, in accordance with international law, the entire territory of such a united Ireland would thus be part of the European Union [in the event of Irish unification].”

Jennifer Rankin | The Guardian
FN says Jean-François Jalkh, only named acting president this week, is preparing legal action over comments reportedly made 17 years ago
Jon Henley | The Guardian
Scrapping payments to wealthiest 5% to 10% would allow government to give more to people in greater need, says thinktank
Angela Monaghan | The Guardian
To eradicate slavery we need to understand what drives slaveholders, says American sociologist and academic – and it’s not always just about money

....Thanks to a growing abolitionist movement, labourers and their allies worldwide are working towards eradicating slavery in all its forms. These labourers are increasingly finding the law on their side, and organisations are on hand to help them overcome corruption and discrimination and see justice served.

My interviews with slaveholders in India revealed that they regard the emancipation of labourers as an injustice, the loss of a “family feeling”. They perceive the upholding of these human rights as a gross violation of communal and social bonds, ties rooted in a history that, they insist, runs deeper than new laws.

The men I spoke to while researching my book represent just one variety of perpetrator. A diverse range of people keep operations running across the many forms of exploitation involved in trafficking and slavery. Finding, breaking and controlling fellow human beings requires a division of labour.

There are women, mothers among them, who traffic infants. There are women who, once trafficked into prostitution, now work as brothel madams, an upward move seen as a sort of empowerment and freedom. There are powerless and unemployed workers, arrested for introducing other vulnerable workers to trafficking networks. Of course, there are also sadists who delight in the harm of others: this is a brutal truth.

For me, the fact that many perpetrators are otherwise ordinary people is far more unsettling. Some are doing anything to get by; others, like Paratapa, are engaged in economic activities inherited from previous generations. Born at the top of India’s caste hierarchy, members of Paratapa’s family have enjoyed the privileges of status for generations. No wonder he opposes change.

If estimates of contemporary slavery are reliable – about 46 million people are victims currently – we cannot simply rely on the law and the power of arrest to end the problem. More sophisticated and sustainable approaches to emancipation will emerge as donors and policymakers recognise the diverse motives and mindsets of those involved in slavery.

Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick | The Guardian
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly tells critics to change the law or "shut up"
Ajit Pai's plan will 'turn the web into a place where the wealthiest and most powerful can be heard'

Open internet advocates slammed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair Ajit Pai's plan to dismantle net neutrality, announced as expected on Wednesday, and vowed to fight him "tooth and nail."

Pai, a former lawyer for Verizon, said in a speech to the anti-regulation group FreedomWorks that he wants to get rid of the rule that classifies the internet as a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act and prohibits Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from discriminating against websites or charging more for faster loading times.

Doing so would leave internet users "at the mercy of the phone and cable companies—some of the most-hated companies in America," said Craig Aaron, president of the open internet advocacy group Free Press, at a press conference with senators on Wednesday.

Pai's announcement comes just weeks after he met with telecommunications lobbyists. Opponents slammed him as a puppet of the industry.

Evan Greer, campaign director at the digital rights group Fight for the Future, said in a statement, "Pai's speech was an insult to the intelligence of internet users. He attempts to portray basic free speech protections as heavy handed government regulation [...] Internet users will fight tooth and nail to defend our basic right to connect, create, learn, and share."

The Open Internet Order, enshrined by the FCC in 2015 under the leadership of then-chair Tom Wheeler, blocks ISPs from taking advantage of websites. Pai's replacement plan would ask service providers to sign a voluntary agreement to maintain a set of conditions that has yet to be disclosed—but, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) noted Tuesday, "nothing in the law will require those companies to keep those promises. They are more than free to change their pledges to reshape the internet, charge higher prices, and invade consumer privacy."

Pai is expected to release more details on Thursday.

Nadia Prupis, staff writer | Common Dreams
Brazilians fight back against corruption– with the help of a purple plug-in [we hope app is updated to list taking of bribes and dishonesty of politicians everywhere!]
Colour of Corruption, a plug-in that works with Google Chrome, details criminal allegations against Brazil’s top politicians, who have long been accused of greasing the wheels

In an age of epic corruption and political cynicism in Brazil, a new browser plug-in aims to attract and inform voters about the extent of their representatives’ involvement in graft.

Released before what is expected to be the biggest general strike in decades, Colour of Corruption is an online political scorecard that details criminal allegations against members of the cabinet, the upper and lower houses of parliament, state governors, their deputies – and even the president.

Dom Phillips and Jonathan Watts | The Guardian

In the past few weeks, we've written a few times about this weird urgency among some in Congress to rush through a pretty major change to Copyright Office oversight. I wrote a deep dive piece over at The Verge discussing the issues at play, but Congress is pushing a bill to stop the new Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, from appointing a new head of the Copyright Office. Instead, the Congressional plan is to make the position a political appointee, nominated by the President, and approved by Congress. In that Verge piece, we explained why it was a major change, and scratched our heads at the fact that there appears to be no reason for pushing for this change other than (1) the legacy copyright industries know that their lobbying power will mean that the appointment will be to their liking and (2) they fear who Hayden might appoint. But, what's really odd is how quickly Congress is trying to push this through. As if the matter is incredibly urgent. There have been no hearings on the matter. There's been no public discussion on the pros and cons of such a move. Just a mad dash by a bunch of people in Congress to make this change official before Hayden can appoint someone.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren -- who appears to be one of the few people in Congress questioning why this is happening -- has put out a statement highlighting why this move is so problematic. A key point: if there is such a rush to make the change, how does it make sense to put this appointment power in the hands of a President who has left hundreds of federal jobs completely empty without any nominations at all?

... this legislation will harm and delay much-needed modernization efforts by making the Register a Presidentially appointed position. Currently, there is a backlog of 495 Appointee positions that have not even been nominated. This not only will delay effective administration of the Copyright Office, but also puts the efficiency gains made by the Library at risk. Under current modernization plans, the Library believes it can speed up the modernization plan by almost two years and save significant amounts of money. Those plans depend on an active Register of Copyright who is compliant and accountable to the Librarian. The long delay created by this bill in needing Senate confirmation of a Register will only harm these efforts.

In other words, the arguments for "urgency" because the Copyright Register position is currently vacant are undermining their own argument. Considering the nearly 500 federal government positions that have no nominees yet, who actually thinks that Trump will quickly get around to nominating a new Copyright Register, let alone having that person confirmed by the Senate? The current Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, on the other hand, has been reviewing candidates for months now and is likely close to having someone in place.

Mike Masnick | TechDirt
"The true depth of the administration's unswerving commitment to an especially savage version of corporate capitalism is now, as we approach the first 100 days under the Trump administration, utterly clear."
Lauren McCauley, staff writer / Source: Public Citizen | Common Dreams

How to Hide $400 Million [("Ideal," thinks Trump.) Tax-shelters have evolved into a distributed, international system of deregulation loopholes that enable vast worldwide corruption]
When a wealthy businessman set out to divorce his wife, their fortune vanished. The quest to find it would reveal the depths of an offshore financial system bigger than the U.S. economy.
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE | The New York Times Magazine | Ref.

The Financial Times headline is uncharacteristically dramatic: America’s Middle Class Meltdown: core shrinks to half of US homes.

YVES SMITH | Naked Capitalism | Ref.
We're tracking where taxpayer money has gone in the ongoing bailout of the financial system. Our database accounts for both the broader $700 billion bill and the separate bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
ProPublica | Ref.
SARAH ANDERSON in CounterPunch | Ref.
ANDREW HACKER in The New York Review of Books | Ref.


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