May 20, 2018

Mental illness is no small factor in mass killings

Grant Duwe & Michael Rocque, LA Times - Efforts to downplay the role of mental illness in mass shootings are simply misleading. There is a clear relationship between mental illness and mass public shootings.

At the broadest level, peer-reviewed research has shown that individuals with major mental disorders (those that substantially interfere with life activities) are more likely to commit violent acts, especially if they abuse drugs. When we focus more narrowly on mass public shootings — an extreme and, fortunately, rare form of violence — we see a relatively high rate of mental illness.

According to our research, at least 59% of the 185 public mass shootings that took place in the United States from 1900 through 2017 were carried out by people who had either been diagnosed with a mental disorder or demonstrated signs of serious mental illness prior to the attack. (We define a mass public shooting as any incident in which four or more victims are killed with a gun within a 24-hour period at a public location in the absence of military conflict, collective violence or other criminal activity, such as robberies, drug deals or gang turf wars.)

Mother Jones found a similarly high rate of potential mental health problems among perpetrators of mass shootings — 61% — when the magazine examined 62 cases in 2012.

Revival of the union co-op movement

Cooperative Grocer  - Earlier this month in Cincinnati, Ohio, roughly 150 worker co-op and union activists came together for the Third Biennial Union Co-op Symposium. This conference marked a watershed of sorts, as the union co-op idea is increasingly seen by both union and co-opactivists as a vehicle for community transformation. At the conference, leaders announced their intent to form a national network organization in the coming year. Participants also explored developing new debt and equity investment vehicles to expand the pace of development nationwide.

The idea of a unionized worker co-op may seem odd. By definition, worker co-op members own the company for which they work. You can’t really go on strike against yourself, for example. But unionized worker co-ops in the US have a proud history. In the 1880s, the Knights of Labor, then the leading US trade union with over one million members, not only had members in traditional companies but its members operated over 200 worker co-ops. In Minneapolis-St. Paul alone, according to historian Steve Leiken, there were 32 worker co-ops. In Leiken’s account, a combination of insufficient solidarity within the co-op sector and opposition from outside the sector ultimately led to the sector’s demise, but “for a few years in the 1880s, the cooperative coopers of Minneapolis dominated an entire industry.” Some of the worker co-ops formed remained in business for decades, but the links with the labor movement weakened over time.

New CDC head is strongly anti-gay

Gay Star News - Dr. Robert Redfield is the new head of the United States’ Center for Disease Control.

In the past, Redfield has said the AIDS epidemic was ‘God’s judgment’ against homosexuals He believes its spread through the United States in the 1980s was due to a lack of traditional family values,,,,

Outside of his work for the military, he was involved with Americans for a Sound AIDS/HIV Policy . ASAP is a Christian organization led by W. Shepherd Smith Jr. that promotes mandatory testing of HIV and quarantining those who are HIV positive.

Redfield penned the intro to Shepherd’s 1990 book, Christians in the Age of AIDS. He wrote:

‘It is time to reject the temptation of denial of the AIDS/HIV crisis; to reject false prophets who preach the quick-fix strategies of condoms and free needles; to reject those who preach prejudice; and to reject those who try to replace God as judge. The time has come for the Christian community — members and leaders alike — to confront the epidemic.’

In the early 1990s, ASAP and Redfield supported H.R. 2788, a house bill by extremely Conservative Representative William Dannemeyer. This bill would have subjected people to mandatory HIV testing and loss of professional licenses if the results came back positive. The bill never passed.

Word: Texas killings

Image may contain: text 

The underrated secret for minorities: lead the majority

Sam Smith - Black Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry's prominence in the Harry-Meaghan wedding is one more example of the power of an underrated strategy for minorities: lead the majority. As noted here before, there is ample historic precedence, witness the Irish role in American politics, the Jewish impact on our culture, and Martin Luther King's impact on whites.

Back in the early nineties I wrote in Shadows of Hope: 
For multiculturalism to work, we need a willing suspension of our politics as well as the creation of places where this can happen, both neutral places and places where we can participate in another culture that will leave us feeling that something good has happened. Outside of restaurants and ethnic nightclubs, this is now rarely available in America. We are not taught the pleasures of diversity, only its problems and burdens.

We are seldom invited to enjoy other cultures, only to be sensitive towards them and -- unspoken -- to feel sorry for them. Thus, inevitably, we tend to think of multiculturalism in terms of conflict and crisis. The restaurant analogy is not trivial. Political scientist Milton L. Rakove, credits Irish dominance in Chicago partially to the fact that the Irish ran saloons that "became centers of social and political activity not only for the Irish but also for the Polish, Lithuanian, Bohemian and Italian immigrants. . . As a consequence of their control of these recreational centers of the neighborhoods, the Irish saloon keepers and bartenders became the political counselors of their customers, and the political bosses of the wards and, eventually, of the city." As one politician put it, "A Lithuanian won't vote for a Pole, and a Pole won't vote for a Lithuanian.  A German won't vote for either of them -- but all three will vote for an Irishman."
We badly underestimate the importance  of non-political factors in a multi-cultural society. Thus we rarely notice that among the most typically cross-ethnic places in America are shopping malls, sports stadiums and ethnic restaurants. And I was easily introduced to civil rights by having an appreciation of black culture gained as a jazz musician. And now we have two black preachers - Michael Curry at the royal wedding and William Barber II of the new Poor People's Campaign - showing how to do it.

It is interesting, and significant, that Barber;s efforts - shared with white preacher Liz Theoharis.- have not only attracted the support of Rev. Curry, the black bishop overseeing a largely white religion. but a remarkably diverse group of backers including:
A Philip Randolph Institute
About Face (Iraq Veteran’s Against the War)
Advocates for Youth
AFSCME American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO
American Federation of Teachers
American Friends Service Committee
Coalition Against Corporate Higher Education
Coalition of Veterans Organizations
CWA Communications Workers of America
Democratic Socialists of America
Earth News Channel
Food and Water Watch
Franciscan Action Network
Jewish Voice for Peace
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice
Movement for a People’s Party
Muslim Peace Fellowship
Muslim Public Affairs Council
National Council of Churches
National Economic and Social Rights Initiative
National LGBTQ Taskforce
National Physicians Alliance
National Welfare Rights Union
Physicans For a National Health Plan (PNHP)
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Progressive Doctors
Progressive National Baptist Convention
Students United for a National Health Program
Unitarian Universalist Association
United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
United Steel Workers (USW)
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Women’s March

Bishop Curry and the Poor People's Campaign are strong reminders that to produce change in a varied world you have to bring people together and not just cite their differences. For example,
according to the Institute for Policy Studies, "nearly 41 million Americans live below the federal poverty line. In absolute terms, White people made up 42.5 percent of this population (17.3 million), and the next two largest groups are Latinx (11.1 million) at 27.4 percent, and Black Americans (9.2 million) at 22.7 percent."

A good society is not merely dependent on good politics; it requires institutions and individuals to help us see life as something more than just politics.  And Bishop Curry and the Poor People's Campaign have given us some good hints as to how to do it.

Gay says Pope told him God had made him gay and loved him

Guardian - A survivor of clerical sexual abuse has said Pope Francis told him that God had made him gay and loved him, in arguably the most strikingly accepting comments about homosexuality to be uttered by the leader of the Roman Catholic church.

Juan Carlos Cruz, who spoke privately with the pope last week about the abuse he suffered at the hands of one of Chile’s most notorious paedophiles, said the issue of his sexuality had arisen because some of the Latin American country’s bishops had sought to depict him as a pervert as they accused him of lying about the abuse.

Best roryal wedding tweet

The fears of gun owners

Scientific American - Research suggests white men are storing guns largely because they're anxious about their ability to protect their families, insecure about their place in the job market and beset by racial fears. Three percent of the population now owns half of the country’s firearms

Mid East countries tried to influence 2016 elections, too

Common Dreams - The New York Times reported Saturday that Trump, Jr. met with George Nader, a businessman who was representing the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in August 2016. Nader reportedly informed Trump, Jr. that both countries were "eager to help his father win election as president."

The report marks the first indication that foreign entities other than Russia may have sought to influence the election, working closely with the Trump campaign.

Erik Prince—brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, advisor to the Trump transition team, and former head of the private military company Blackwater—apparently arranged the meeting, and an Israeli "social media specialist" named Joel Zamel presented information about his company's ability to give Trump's campaign an "edge" on social media.

May 19, 2018

At least they are better than the Kardashians

Sam Smith – I confess. For four hours last week I watched a trashy royal wedding preview series on PBS. And then, even more inexplicably, I slept through the wedding itself.

In retrospect I became aware that I was far more interested in the media and public reaction to the royal marriage than to the event. I assumed, once inside the chapel at Windsor Castle, every one would behave according to rules that only those regularly allowed inside the castle fully understand.

One reason for my interest in the public and media stems from the residuals of a major in anthropology. How people treat positive myth is often as interesting as how they handle, say, conspiracy theories. After all, there is no more logic in putting so much power in the hands of one family and its descendants as there is in declaring climate change to be a liberal plot. But the former is far less dangerous.

Myth is universal in human existence and while one can come up with no logical explanation for the same culture that produced William Shakespeare and Oxford University getting ready to name Prince Charles as its next king, a nation with Donald Trump as its elected president shouldn’t be too critical.

In the end, it is the results of a myth that truly count. As I tell people of my religious status as a Seventh Day Agnostic, “I don’t give a shit about what you believe; it’s what you do with it that counts.”

In fact, religious participation is declining. Even schools seem to have lost interest in our moral status as humans and the media couldn’t care less. Without shared reminders such as at church or an event that reflect values such as love, loyalty, or – in this case – cross ethnic potential, we now are often pretty much on our own. So the wedding reminded us of things we tend to forget these days.

Besides such noble reflections, however, I must also confess that I suffer from a journalistic addiction to trashy behavior. Not because I approve of it, but because it makes such a good story.

Watching the royal wedding previews, I was reminded of an incident back in the 1960s that I once described thus:
A friend at Congressional Quarterly called with news that a mutual acquaintance -- a deputy editor at the National Enquirer - was looking for a Washington column. The Enquirer was willing to pay $800 a week -- an enormous sum at the time albeit some of it intended for loosening lips.

My friend's scheme was brilliant. Four of us would write under a single pseudonym. Thus we could all keep our day jobs while writing one quarter of a column for a fee greater than my recent salary as a Coast Guard lieutenant.

For five hours, we sat in the dark, dignified dining hall of the Mayflower Hotel discussing the project with the tabloid's chief editor, a small, dapper Englishman who moved from national politics to the importance of dog stories in perfect segue. We sold each other on ourselves and the three other conspirators -- all of whom worked for Congressional Quarterly -- returned to broach the subject with their publisher, Nelson Pointer. Pointer pointedly responded that they could either work for CQ or for the Enquirer but not for both. The scheme disintegrated. I did get paid $100 for a one paragraph item the Enquirer published, but afterwards I felt a little tawdry and never submitted anything else.

I was introduced to the grandmother of Prince Harry when I was in high school and my parents bought their first TV so they could watch her coronation. Queen Elizabeth has been the most consistent public figure in my life (beating out Fidel Castro by about eight years).

On the whole, I find the Queen and her family fairly dull but infinitely better than, say, the Kardashians.  I will now put them aside and return to real matters such as the fact that Donald Trump has lied again.

Senate polls

Key Senate Races
Democratic lead in blue, GOP in red
Most recent poll to right

Democratic seats in danger
Florida: 1,4,4,10,4
North Dakota:
8, 2, 0, 1, 4%
West Virginia: 2%

Republican losses
1, 6%

Republican seats in danger
Texas: 3

216 things that Donald Trump Jr doesn't know or can't remember

Huffington Post - The Senate Judiciary Committee  released more than 2,500 pages of documents from its inquiry into the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting on June 9, 2016. One of the bigger, more troubling revelations from that release is the fact that, at least by the evidence of his five hours of interviews, Donald Trump Jr. seems to have lived his entire adult life in a coma.

According to his testimony, he doesn’t know his own home phone number. He d

A comprehensive list of everything Don Jr. claims he doesn’t know

400 months of above average global temperatures

USA Today - Last month marked the planet's 400th consecutive month with above-average temperatures, federal scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced

"We live in and share a world that is unequivocally, appreciably and consequentially warmer than just a few decades ago, and our world continues to warm," said NOAA climate scientist Deke Arndt. "Speeding by a '400' sign only underscores that, but it does not prove anything new."

Trump wants to gag doctors on abortion

Slate -= The Trump administration is planning to instate a rule that will bar recipients of federal family planning funding from educating women about abortion options, making referrals to doctors that provide abortions, or providing abortion care. Conservatives have cheered the move as a way for the federal government to partially “defund” Planned Parenthood without requiring an act of Congress.

Reproductive-rights advocates are calling the policy a “domestic gag rule”—a U.S.-based version of the global gag rule that prevents U.S. aid dollars from going to any international organization that so much as acknowledges the existence of abortion. Every Republican president has instated the global gag rule since Ronald Reagan first implemented it; every Democratic president has rolled it back.

Would-be dictator Trump strikes at Amazon

Alternet - President Donald Trump has personally been pressuring the U.S. Postal Service to raise rates on Amazon, according to a new report from the Washington Post. While the report is not particularly surprising, given Trump's public statement on the matter, it also suggests he's engaging in high-level corruption in an attempt to punish Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Post.

Postal banking coming back?

The Vindicator - Postal banking used to be widespread. Now it could be coming back.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand recently announced a bill to reintroduce the practice, aiming to put the post offices scattered throughout the country for a broader use: providing banking to the unbanked. The bill would allow postal banks to make loans of up to $1,000 at low interest rates, cash people’s paychecks free of charge, and provide other basic services such as checking accounts.

The idea, long touted by progressive senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and many local activists, would give millions of Americans a service long excluded from their communities. It’s “a solution to take on payday lenders, to take on the problems that the unbanked have all across the country,” Gillibrand has said.

It would also tackle the banking industry writ large.

Big banks often refuse to open branches in poor or minority areas, and the few banks still around shutter thanks to industry consolidation and online banking. None of this is due to a lack of profits or money – banks are saving billions thanks to the Republican tax reform. Instead, it’s a larger, conscious choice by these banks.

FBI was investigating Trump campaign because of Russian contacts

NY Times - President Trump accused the F.B.I., without evidence, of sending a spy to secretly infiltrate his 2016 campaign “for political purposes” even before the bureau had any inkling of the “phony Russia hoax.”

In fact, F.B.I. agents sent an informant to talk to two campaign advisers only after they received evidence that the pair had suspicious contacts linked to Russia during the campaign. The informant, an American academic who teaches in Britain, made contact late that summer with one campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, according to people familiar with the matter. He also met repeatedly in the ensuing months with the other aide, Carter Page, who was also under F.B.I. scrutiny for his ties to Russia.

Flotsam & Jetsam: On pumping iron

Sam Smith - When your editor was a kid, he was the one they sent out to right field where he would do the least damage. When he got to college, he gained fifty pounds and became known as Fat Jolly Sam. Not appreciating this title, I secretly began going to the gym and pumping iron, not a particularly respected activity in the 1950s. Before I graduated I had lost most of the gained weight and was vigorously combining intellectual activity with pumping iron. This essay, written when I was almost 40, describes the progression. Forty years later, as an arthritic 80 year old, I can no longer bench press 300 pounds, but I still ride my recumbent bike most days while watching bad Netflix series, and work out on my Soloflex machine. Pumping iron has been right up there with EB White as positive influences on my life.

On pumping iron

May 18, 2018

A Mainer shows how to pass on a business

Popular Resistance - Two months ago, Rock City Coffee, a cafe and coffee roastery [in Rockland, ME], became a worker-owned cooperative, with employees buying the business from its previous owner and founder, Susanne Ward.

For [Susanne] Ward, selling the business to her employees was a reward to people who worked for her and a way to ensure that what she and her husband began 26 years ago would live on true to character.

For the employees, the opportunity allowed them a path to business ownership and to keep Rock City as the place where they love to work.

“I hated the idea of somebody else coming in and trying to change everything. I feel like because it’s [an employee] cooperative, it will always be Rock City,” said Kevin Malmstrom, who has worked at Rock City for 14 years and is now one of the 17 employee-owners.

Until closing day on the loan the cooperative took out to purchase Rock City, each of the 30 employees had the opportunity to join the cooperative and become part owners of the business.

Employee-owned cooperatives are on the rise across business sectors, according to Rob Brown, director of business ownership solutions at the Cooperative Development Institute. This is especially true in Maine, Brown said, largely due to the state’s aging population, with business owners finding themselves at retirement age but not wanting to endure the traditional sale process.

Word: A doctor who examined victims of new CIA chief

Intercept - An American doctor and Naval reserve officer who has done extensive medical evaluation of a high-profile prisoner who was tortured under the supervision of Gina Haspel privately urged Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to oppose Haspel’s confirmation as CIA director, according to an email obtained by The Intercept.

“I have evaluated Mr. Abdal Rahim al-Nashiri, as well as close to 20 other men who were tortured” in U.S. custody, including several who were tortured “as part of the CIA’s RDI [Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation] program. I am one of the only health professionals he has ever talked to about his torture, its effects, and his ongoing suffering,” Dr. Sondra Crosby, a professor of public health at Boston University, wrote to Warner’s legislative director on Monday. “He is irreversibly damaged by torture that was unusually cruel and designed to break him. In my over 20 years of experience treating torture victims from around the world, including Syria, Iraq, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr. al-Nashiri presents as one of the most severely traumatized individuals I have ever seen.”

Nashiri was snatched in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in 2002 and “rendered” to Afghanistan by the CIA and eventually taken to the Cat’s Eye prison in Thailand that was run by Haspel from October to December 2002. He was suspected of involvement in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen. He is currently being held at Guantánamo Bay prison

Fox named to FTC chicken coop

Intercept - In a rare party-line vote, the Federal Trade Commission appointed a corporate lawyer who has represented Uber, Equifax, Facebook, and a jailed payday lender to run its Bureau of Consumer Protection. The appointment [of Andrew Smith] was one of the first moves of the new five-member panel, all of whom were confirmed by the Senate last month.

As the New York Times explained last week, while Smith once worked at the FTC, he was most recently a partner with the financial services practice at Covington & Burling, a leading white-collar defense firm. His clients included dozens of financial institutions, credit-reporting agencies, and tech firms, including players in some of the most notorious corporate scandals of the past several years. For example, Smith represented convicted payday lender Scott Tucker, from whom the FTC won a $1.3 billion judgment for deceiving and exploiting consumers. Tucker faces 16 years in prison.

Three other Smith-repped companies have active investigations at the FTC: Facebook, for potentially violating a 2011 consent decree over safeguarding user privacy; and Uber and Equifax, over separate data breaches that exposed the personal information of hundreds of millions of Americans. Smith even testified on Equifax’s behalf in the Senate last year.

How to win sympathy from Trump

Newsweek - Qatar bought a $6.5 million apartment in a Donald Trump tower in New York City possibly to get back in the president’s “good graces,” a watchdog suing Trump alleges. The speculation comes because the purchase happened after Qatar’s government declined to invest in real estate owned by Jared Kushner's family, and his subsequent backing of a blockade against Qatar.

Kushner’s family business, Kushner Cos., reportedly sought financing from the Qatari government for its troubled New York City property in April 2017, but no deal transpired. A month later, Kushner and the White House supported a Qatar blockade organized by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that shifted alliances in the region, aligning Qatar closer to Iran and Turkey.

Kentucky has lost 61% of its farmland

The Rural Blog reports that the American Farmland Trust will issue a report that shows Kentucky having lost 791,000 acres of farmland from 1992 to 2012 and 499,000 acres of that, or 61 percent, was from building of single-family homes on lots of two to 10 acres. The national figure was 41 percent, so Kentucky stands out.

May 17, 2018

Just wondering

Given the US position on Jerusalem, should we give our capital city back to native Americans?

Cohen alleged to have sought $1 million fee for participation in Trump regime plan

Slate - Al-Rumaihi. In 2016, Al-Rumaihi ran a $100 billion investment fund for the Qatari government; he’s reportedly now a private investor. Last week, an estranged American business partner of Al-Rumaihi’s made an explosive claim in a court filing: that Al-Rumaihi had bragged to him, in vague terms, that former national security adviser Michael Flynn had taken a Qatari government bribe. Over the weekend, Stormy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti tweeted images that show Al-Rumaihi with Trump lawyer Michael Cohen at Trump Tower on Dec. 12 , 2016, a day that Flynn was also present for presidential transition meetings.

Al-Rumaihi has now surfaced and, in an interview with the Intercept, says he didn’t bribe Flynn—but that Cohen did ask him for a personal $1 million “fee” as a prerequisite for Qatari participation in a Trump administration infrastructure initiative that never came to fruition.

94% of public school teachers help pay for supplies

NY Times - According to a federal Department of Education survey released on Tuesday, 94 percent of public school teachers in the United States reported paying for supplies without reimbursement in the school year that straddled 2014 and 2015.

It made little difference whether they taught in cities, suburbs or rural areas, or whether or not their students were poor — virtually every public school teacher said they had used their own money for their classrooms.

The teachers who reported spending their own money on supplies shelled out $479 each on average, according to the survey. Seven percent reported spending more than $1,000.

Slavery in private prisons

Record drop in births

USA Today - U.S. birth rates declined last year for women in their teens, 20s and – surprisingly – their 30s, leading to the fewest babies in 30 years, according to a government report released Thursday.

Experts said several factors may be combining to drive the declines, including shifting attitudes about motherhood and changing immigration patterns.

Births have been declining since 2014, but 2017 saw the greatest year-to-year drop – about 92,000 less than the previous year.

Trump made $40 million off of Washington hotel last year

Donald Trump gained $40 million in 2017 from his Washington hotel, including sums from various foreign countries.

Just wondering

If Donald Trump can spend $130,000 for having sex with just one woman, do you really want him handlng the federal budget?

US spent as much as $3.8 trillion on anti-terrorism

Wall Street Journal - The U.S. has spent as much as $2.8 trillion on the fight against terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to a study published Wednesday.

The report from the Washington-based Stimson Center think tank said the figure included spending on the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, in addition to homeland-security efforts and overseas programs. Spending on counterterrorism reached a peak of $260 billion in 2008, accounting for more than a fifth of the government’s discretionary budget.

May 16, 2018

Many states supporting public colleges less than tuition paid by students

Atlantic - Drawing almost no attention, the nation crossed an ominous milestone last year that threatens more economic polarization and social division: For the first time, public colleges and universities in most states received most of their revenue from tuition rather than government appropriations.

This historic shift away from tax dollars funding the bulk of public higher education comes precisely as the nation’s youth population is crossing a succession of milestones to become more racially diverse than ever. As statisticians would say, it’s an open question whether these twin trends represent an example of causation or just correlation. But whether resources are shrinking because diversity is growing, or the two trends are proceeding independently, their convergence is still a dangerous development—not only for higher education, but also for the nation’s economic future.

Vermont legalizes importing drugs from Canada

Politico- Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott  signed legislation making his state the first to legalize importing prescription drugs from Canada, an idea President Donald Trump's top health officials oppose that's also drawn fierce opposition from the pharmaceutical industry.

Several steps remain before the Vermont program would take effect. The state would be required to submit a certification request to the federal government by July 2019. Vermont also has not yet established a funding mechanism to pay for the program. 

North Carolina teachers on strike

Huffington Post - Thousands of North Carolina teachers poured into downtown Raleigh and marched to the state’s General Assembly on Wednesday morning in the latest in a series of red-state public school teacher uprisings across the country.The demonstration was believed to be the largest teacher protest in North Carolina’s history, with educators creating a sea of red on Fayetteville Street and inside the assembly galleries as they demanded more public school funding and better salaries for school staffers.

Countries trying to bribe our president

Word: The royal wedding

Piers Morgan, Daily Mail, UK = What a mess.

Weddings are supposed to be wonderfully positive occasions filled with love, romance and good cheer.

A chance for two families, and two sets of disparate friends, to come together as one to celebrate the union of a happy couple.

Fat chance of that with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, which has swiftly descended into an acrimonious, disorganised fiasco - and there are still three long days until the big day.

Most of the blame for this falls on Meghan’s family, who’ve conspired to behave like a bunch of repulsive PR-crazed Kardashians, exploiting their girl’s royal romance for as much money and residual fame as they can squeeze out of it.

From the moment Harry and Meghan went public with their engagement, barely a week has gone by without ever-tackier revelations exploding from the Markles.

It’s been the most outrageous, uproarious family reality show in town:

....As best-selling romantic novelist Lisa Kleypas said: ‘Weddings are never about the bride and groom, weddings are public platforms for dysfunctional families.’

US healthcare again ranked worst in developed world

Time - The U.S. health care system has been subject to heated debate over the past decade, but one thing that has remained consistent is the level of performance, which has been ranked as the worst among industrialized nations for the fifth time, according to the 2014 Commonwealth Fund survey 2014. The U.K. ranked best with Switzerland following a close second.

The Commonwealth Fund report compares the U.S. with 10 other nations: France, Australia, Germany, Canada, Sweden, New Zealand, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the U.K. were all judged to be superior based on various factors. These include quality of care, access to doctors and equity throughout the country. Results of the study rely on data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Health Organization and interviews from physicians and patients.

Although the U.S. has the most expensive health care system in the world, the nation ranks lowest in terms of “efficiency, equity and outcomes,” according to the report. One of the most piercing revelations is that the high rate of expenditure for insurance is not commensurate to the satisfaction of patients or quality of service. High out-of-pocket costs and gaps in coverage “undermine efforts in the U.S. to improve care coordination,” the report summarized.

Trump regime planning to send immigrant childen to military concentration camps

Washington Post - The Trump administration wants to warehouse migrant children on military bases, according to Defense Department communications, the latest sign the government is moving forward with plans to split up families who cross the border illegally.

South Carolina passes law banning criticism of Israel

Activist Post - South Carolina will become the first state to legally define criticism of Israel as “anti-Semitism” when a new measure goes into effect on July 1, targeting public schools and universities. While politicians have tried to pass the measure as a standalone law for two years, they finally succeeded temporarily by passing it as a “proviso” that was slipped into the 2018-2019 budget.

Republicans push blatantly segregationist Medicaid rules

Alternet - Michigan isn't the only state where Republicans are pushing a Medicaid work requirement that’s blatantly racist. Ohio and Kentucky are running the same play, passing a work requirement for Medicaid but exempting mostly white, rural counties. The claim is that the exemptions are for places with high unemployment rates where people simply can’t find work—but cities with high unemployment rates often don’t get the same treatment, because they’re surrounded by (and within county lines of) wealthy suburbs that pull the county’s overall unemployment down. The end effect is that, in what a health law scholar described to TPM as “a version of racial redlining,”work requirements apply to poor black people but not poor white people. The numbers are striking:
The waiver in Kentucky, the first state to win federal approval for a Medicaid work requirement, will have the effect of exempting eight southeastern counties where the percentage of white residents is over 90 percent. The work requirements will be imposed first in Northern Kentucky, which includes Jefferson, the county with the highest concentration of black residents in the state. [...]
A Washington Post analysis found that while African Americans make up about 23 percent of Medicaid enrollees in Michigan, they would make up just 1.2 percent of the people eligible for an exemption. Meanwhile, 57 percent of Michigan Medicaid enrollees are white, but white residents would make up 85 percent of the population eligible for an exemption. Don't let big tech control what news you see. Get more stories like this in your inbox, every day.
The numbers in Ohio are similar—26 counties would get exemptions, and they’re 94 percent white on average. John Corlett, a former Medicaid director for Ohio, points out that these patterns aren’t accidental, either, thanks to a “past history of institutionalized segregation.” And the stakes are high for the most vulnerable:
“The communities most at risk under this scenario are African American, and those communities already have significantly higher rates of infant mortality, lower life expectancy, and a number of other serious health disparities,” he told TPM.

Word: Torturer nears confirmation

David Corn, Mother Jones - The nomination of Gina Haspel to be President Donald Trump’s CIA director has become something of a referendum on torture. Not so much on the use of torture in the here-and-now. Even though Trump in 2016 called for re-deploying torture against terrorist suspects, Haspel, a longtime CIA official who was involved in the agency’s use of waterboarding in the post-9/11 period, stated during her confirmation hearings that now she does not support resorting to torture and that she accepts “the higher moral standard.” But when testifying, Haspel refused to concede that the Bush-Cheney embrace of waterboarding and other forms of torture had been immoral. In essence, she would not acknowledge the CIA had taken a terrible turn. “The American public sips its coffee and reads of its soldiers administering the ‘water cure’…and remarks, ‘How very unpleasant!’ It then butters its bread.”

That is what’s at the heart of her confirmation process. Despite Trump’s rhetoric, the question is not the revival of torture but the admission that the United States had been wrong to employ it, even during the collective freakout following the horrific 9/11 attacks. Haspel ran a CIA facility in Thailand where waterboarding had occurred, and she played a role in the now controversial destruction of videotapes of waterboarding sessions. (The tapes were destroyed, though CIA lawyers and White House officials had not approved.) The Senate vote on her nomination is scheduled for Wednesday. And throughout her confirmation, she has walked the fine line between rejecting future torture and justifying its past use.

Manhattan DA to stop prosecuting minor pot cases

Slate - Manhattan’s district attorney announced his office would largely stop prosecuting people for possession or smoking marijuana in the borough as part of a broader effort to end the wide racial disparity in marijuana prosecutions. District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said the marijuana prosecutions will halt starting Aug. 1, other than in cases where there is a clear public safety concern, which, he predicts, will reduce the yearly marijuana prosecutions in Manhattan from 5,000 to 200.

Evangelicals fading

LGBTQ Nation - A new survey by ABC News and the Washington Post shows that the number of evangelicals in the U.S. is on the decline.

Moreover, at this point, they are outnumbered by people who identify with no religion at all.

According to the survey, the number of white evangelicals dropped from 21 percent in 2003 to just 13 percent last year. (The number of non-evangelical white Protestants fell by six percentage points, to 11 percent.)

By contrast, the number of Americans who say they have no religion now stands at 21 percent.

CEO-average worker pay gap 339 to 1

Guardian - The first comprehensive study of the massive pay gap between the US executive suite and average workers has found that the average CEO-to-worker pay ratio has now reached 339 to 1, with the highest gap approaching 5,000 to 1.

The study, titled Rewarding Or Hoarding?, was published on Wednesday by Minnesota’s Democratic US congressman Keith Ellison, and includes data on almost 14 million workers at 225 US companies with total annual revenues of $6.3tn.

Biden still leads among Democrats


Biden 56, 26%
Sanders 46, 18%
Warren 33, 14%
Harris 4%
Booker 2%

May 15, 2018

Gaza stats

 Intercept -   Since  the start of the protests, Israel has killed more than  100 Palestinians who approached the fence around Gaza,  surpassing the total number of East Germans shot & killed for trying  to scale the Berlin Wall from 1961 to 1989.

Word: the oligarchy strikes again

Bernie Sanders - This is what oligarchy looks like. Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate, just cut a $30 million check to keep the Republicans in charge of Congress. That may sound like a lot of money but, for Mr. Adelson, it's simply a good investment. After all, what's $30 million when Mr. Adelson's casino operations just got a $670 million tax break from Trump and the Republican Congress? Our job: overturn Citizens United and move to public funding of elections.

Holocaust surviver sees Nazi parallels in America today

Newsweek - Stephen B. Jacobs has a warning from the past for America today: It’s happening again.

At 79 years old he is among the youngest of the living Holocaust survivors and was born six years after Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany. But Jacobs can remember life in the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald; what the Nazis did to him, his family, his friends.

He worries about what’s happening right now in America, where he has lived and prospered since arriving a couple of years after Buchenwald’s liberation on April 11, 1945.

The American far-right appears emboldened since the election of President Donald Trump, who led an inflammatory, nationalist campaign. Since then, clashes like the one in Charlottesville are becoming almost commonplace.

Perhaps more alarming than the far-right getting braver is the seep into mainstream politics of their hate, their talking points, their rhetoric. “It feels like 1929 or 1930 Berlin,” Jacobs speculated, ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day 2018 on Thursday.

...In Trump, Jacobs says, the far-right sees an “enabler.”

“I’m involved with New York real estate, I know this man personally,” says Jacobs, whose eponymous architecture firm celebrated its 50th birthday in 2017. “Trump is an enabler. Trump has no ideas. Trump is out for himself.

“He’s a sick, very disturbed individual. I couldn’t say that Trump is a fascist because you’ve got to know what fascism is. And I don’t think he has the mental power to even understand it.”


Poll; Self driving cars


  • 75% would use own human-operated car even if driverless cars were common
  • 52% say they would never want to use a self-driving car
  • Libraries find cheese, bacon and sawblades used as bookmarks

    Guardian - What is the cheesiest book you’ve ever read? For Washington DC librarian Anna Holmes, it wasn’t so much the book, as the slice of Kraft American that she found inside it, clearly used by a cheese-loving patron as a bookmark. The library branch has seen three “cheese bookmark” incidents to date, according to Holmes, who made a plea on Twitter for readers to “PLEASE stop using cheese as a bookmark. Please. We give away actual bookmarks for free. Or like use a receipt or something. Just not perishables.”

    Whiffy as that sounds, that trio of dairy product delinquents are not the worst offenders, librarians across the world have revealed in response to Holmes’s plea. There are those who use banana skins, broccoli (“It was cooked and buttered well. I think the greasy stain made it easy for them to find their page”), cooked bacon and a fried chicken leg. Inedible but equally jarring fold-ins reported included Lego, flowers, money, a used condom, and a sawblade.

    Depression found up 33% in recent years

    CBS, Pittsburgh  - A study by health insurance provider Blue Cross Blue Shield has found that the number of Americans being diagnosed with severe depression has jumped by a staggering 33 percent in recent years.

    “The high rates for adolescents and millennials could have a substantial health impact for decades to come,” BCBSA chief medical officer Trent Haywood said in a press release.


    Key Senate Races
    Democratic lead in blue, GOP in red
    Most recent poll to right

    Democratic seats in danger
    Florida: 1,4,4,10, 4
    North Dakota:
    8, 2, 0, 1, 4% NEW POLL
    West Virginia: 2%

    Republican losses
    1, 6%

    Republican seats in danger
    Texas: 3

    America's most and list fit cities

    WBD MD

    Most fit: Arlington Va, Madison, Portland OR, Seattle, Denver, St. Paul, San Jose Boise

    Least fit: Oklahoma City, Indianapollis, Louisville, Detroit, Toled0

    Poor Peoples Campaign launched

    Popular Resistance - The Poor People’s Campaign kicked off 40 days of civil resistance calling for a new economy where workers have a wage “commensurate for the 21st-century economy,” everyone has healthcare through a single payer system, homelessness is ended and war and militarism no longer dominate the economy.

    Poor People’s Campaign comes 50 years after the campaign Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was doing when he was assassinated. Today’s Campaign officially launched on Monday with advocates for economic justice rallying in Washington, D.C. and more than 30 state capitols nationwide. Hundreds were arrested in Washington, DC alone.

    Rev. William Barber called for a “moral confrontation” stressing that 140 million people live in poverty in the U.S.—one of the world’s wealthiest countries—and the abandonment of American workers indicates a profound moral failing of the government. On poverty, he added, “250,000 people are dying every year from poverty and low wealth.”

    The 40 days of nonviolent direct action building to a final mass protest in Washinton, DC on June 23 was described by Barber as the launch of a “multi-year campaign.”

    Pay to play Trump way

    Talking Points Memo - Just days before President Trump tweeted that he was intent on saving that sanctions-busting Chinese telecommunications company, China had agreed to loan $500 million to a major Trump-backed development in Indonesia. These kinds of situations are now basically commonplace in the Trump Era.


    Word: Israel's ethnic cleansing

    Ethan Ackelsberg, Socialist Worker - The ethnic cleansing of Palestine's indigenous Arab population is well established, thanks to the work of Palestinian scholars such as Noura Erekat, Rashid Khalidi and the late Naseer Aruri; Israeli historians such as Ilan Pappé; organizations like the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights and Jewish Voice for Peace; and, of course, the memories of Palestinians themselves.

    Yet this claim of "ethnic cleansing" remains highly controversial. So it is worth revisiting some of the basic facts from 70 years ago about the founding of Israel in May 1948.

    While there is no accepted definition of "ethnic cleansing" under international law, a United Nations report from investigations in the former Yugoslavia defines it as "rendering an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove persons of given groups from the area" and later as "a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas."

    The forcible removal and displacement of roughly 750,000 Palestinians during the 1948 war--about 80 percent of the Palestinian Arab inhabitants of the land that became Israel--in order to create a Jewish-majority state certainly fits both of these definitions.

    The Israeli nonprofit Zochrot has carefully documented the destruction of Palestinian villages from 1948. According to its research, 601 Palestinian villages were destroyed--33 of which had more than 3,000 residents, including Jaffa (76,000) and Haifa (70,000).

    One of the most heinous acts of "terror-inspiring" violence occurred on April 9, 1948, when two right-wing Zionist militias banded together to attack the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin, massacring at least 110 of its residents. Other Palestinians were placed in labor camps by Israeli forces between 1948 and 1955.

    Even today, Israel continues its policy of "transfer" of Israeli citizens into the West Bank in order to advance its agenda of pushing Palestinians off their land in order to establish ever more Jewish-only settlements.

    For all 70 years of its existence, Israel has denied the massive Palestinian refugee population the right to return to their homes--a right required by UN General Assembly Resolution 194, article 11, which reads in part:
    Refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and...compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible. 


    Pending legislation would allow endless imprisonment of citizens with no criminal charges

    Popular Resistance - Under the guise of exercising supervisory power over the president’s ability to use military force, Congress is considering writing Donald Trump a blank check to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens with no criminal charges. Alarmingly, this legislation could permit the president to lock up Americans who dissent against U.S. military policy.

    The bill that risks conveying this power to the president is the broad new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), S.J.Res.59, that is pending in Congress. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Corker (R-TN) and Democratic committee member Tim Kaine (VA) introduced the bipartisan bill on April 16, and it has four additional co-sponsors.

    Moving beyond Trump

    Sam Smith – I apologize for not writing in a more interesting fashion about our president but he is painfully predictable, repetitive, and simplistic. The media, unable to find anything else of interest going on in the United States, simulates him in its coverage, also predictable, repetitive and simplistic. Besides, how does one write with subtlety about a tiger that is at your neck, or compose a sonnet as you are falling down a well? How do you scream differently every day?

    What a far cry from, say, Barack Obama who offered such complexities as being half black and half Harvard Law School. And who pushed measures like Obamacare -  one third good, one third bad, and one third totally unpredictable. 

    Trump is not only evil, greedy, and dumb, he is painfully dull. Once you have grasped his nature he is like a traffic jam that never ends. Even his wife stands beside him as emotionless as a Secret Service agent. 

    I am trying to write less about Trump and leave the true remaining excitement of his story to Robert Mueller and the New York US Attorney. Instead, I am trying to tell what’s going on with over 300 million other Americans, either as a result of our government or their own choices and perceptions. Let CNN and MSNBC tell you how Trump repeated his Mafioso madness in the last 24 hours.  

    May 14, 2018

    Word: Jerusalem

    Rachel Shabi, Guardian - with the embassy move, Trump has deployed that far-rightist trick of disruption for the sake of it. There is no follow-up, no renewed talks in the pipeline, no international diplomacy, just the usual, multipurpose mumblings from Trump about sealing a good deal. This is no Middle East policy, unless you count as policy the practice of being a fire-starter and appearing to sanction overwhelming Israeli violence. And as we are seeing today, it is those living in the region who will suffer the punishing consequences of his folly.

    Most and least drug addicted atates

    Wallet Hub

    MOST ADDICTED: Rhode Island, Ohio, Alaska, Maryland, Westd Virginia, Maine, New Hanpshire, Vermont, Michigan

    LEAST ADDICTED: Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Texas, Kansas, Utah, Virginia

    America's prison boom

    No automatic alt text available. 

    New York City still arresting 8 times more blacks than whites on pot charges

    NY Times- There are many ways to be arrested on marijuana charges, but one pattern has remained true through years of piecemeal policy changes in New York: The primary targets are black and Hispanic people.

    Across the city, black people were arrested on low-level marijuana charges at eight times the rate of white, non-Hispanic people over the past three years, The New York Times found. Hispanic people were arrested at five times the rate of white people. In Manhattan, the gap is even starker: Black people there were arrested at 15 times the rate of white people.

    Trump regime dumps investigation of for-profit college fraud

    NY Times - Members of a special team at the Education Department that had been investigating widespread abuses by for-profit colleges have been marginalized, reassigned or instructed to focus on other matters, according to current and former employees.

    The unwinding of the team has effectively killed investigations into possibly fraudulent activities at several large for-profit colleges where top hires of Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, had previously worked.

    During the final months of the Obama administration, the team had expanded to include a dozen or so lawyers and investigators who were looking into advertising, recruitment practices and job placement claims at several institutions, including DeVry Education Group.