Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Feel Good: Volunteer With AARP Foundation Tax-Aide for 2016

This is a very gratifying job. Please share it. We need volunteers, including greeters.
The AARP foundation provides training.
They also need monetary donations, to pay for the computers and training materials.


Help people and give your mind a workout, too.

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is the nation's largest volunteer-run tax preparation and assistance service. And we want you to join us.

We started in 1968 with just four volunteers at one site preparing 100 tax returns. AARP Foundation Tax-Aide now involves more than 35,000 volunteers and serves 2.6 million taxpayers annually at more than 5,000 sites nationwide. In fact, we're one of the most effective volunteer programs in America.

But even though we've grown a lot, we're still all about the grassroots. You'll be helping people in your own community with a much-needed service that's free, individualized and has no strings attached.

Almost four out of five people who turn to AARP Foundation Tax-Aide are 60 or older. Household incomes aren't high. For many of them, a tax refund could mean they won't have to choose between paying for groceries and keeping the lights on.

Who volunteers?

People like you. And there's a role for everyone.

Good with numbers? Be a tax volunteer.

You'll work with taxpayers directly; filling out tax returns and helping them seek a refund. Experience isn't necessary — we'll train you on the latest tax preparation forms and software.

Skilled in all things digital? Be a technology coordinator.

You'll manage computer equipment, ensure taxpayer data security and provide technical assistance to volunteers at multiple sites.

Love working with people? Be a greeter.

You'll welcome taxpayers, help organize their paperwork and manage the overall flow of service.

Want to help us get the word out? Be a communications coordinator.

You'll promote AARP Foundation Tax-Aide and recruit volunteers in your community.

Have a knack for running things? Be a leadership or administrative volunteer.

Manage volunteers, make sure program operations run smoothly, track volunteer assignments and site activities, and maintain quality control.

Speak a second language? You're urgently needed!

We have a big demand for bilingual speakers. Dedicated translators who can assist our volunteers are also welcome.

Get the joy and satisfaction of helping others by applying to join the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteer team today! Your expertise will be appreciated more than you can imagine.

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is offered in conjunction with the IRS.

Sign up to be an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Volunteer. Go


I would like to offer my sympathy to the victims of the shooting at the Quebec mosque on Sunday.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Who enfoces the law?

I still see comments on Facebook saying we don't have to worry about Trump, we have checks & balances, the other branches of government.

Congress & the Supreme Court may talk, may enact laws and hand down rulings, but it's the executive branch, headed by the president, who is supposed to act on this. They are the ones who sign checks. They are the ones who detain people at airports. They are the ones who arrest people. Saying Nixon backed down doesn't prove that every other president will. It doesn't show us what would have happened if he hadn't backed down.



A federal judge in Alexandria, Va., on Saturday ordered government officials to give lawyers access to all legal permanent residents being detained at Dulles. But when lawyers showed border agents there the court order and requested access to detainees, a supervisor replied, “That’s not going to happen.”


I still see comments on Facebook saying we don't have to worry about Trump, we have checks & balances, the other branches of government.

Congress & the Supreme Court may talk, may enact laws and hand down rulings, but it's the executive branch, headed by the president, who is supposed to act on this. They are the ones who sign checks. They are the ones who detain people at airports. They are the ones who arrest people. Saying Nixon backed down doesn't prove that every other president will. It doesn't show us what would have happened if he hadn't backed down.



A federal judge in Alexandria, Va., on Saturday ordered government officials to give lawyers access to all legal permanent residents being detained at Dulles. But when lawyers showed border agents there the court order and requested access to detainees, a supervisor replied, “That’s not going to happen.”


Informative links

Links I have been saving to post in my blog if they are not out of date by the time I can get back to regular posting.


Slow posting

I'm working to get certified for Tax-Aide. Should get back to regular posting soon.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Homeopathic Teething Aid Contains Toxic Belladonna, FDA Says

by Maggie Fox
Jan. 27, 2017

Certain brands of "homeopathic" teething products contain belladonna, a toxic chemical, and shouldn't be used, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Friday.

The company that makes Hyland's homeopathic teething products has refused to recall them so the FDA said it was issuing a warning.

"Laboratory analysis found inconsistent amounts of belladonna, a toxic substance, in certain homeopathic teething tablets, sometimes far exceeding the amount claimed on the label," the FDA said in a statement.

They're made by Standard Homeopathic Company in Los Angeles.

Belladonna is an extract of the deadly nightshade plant. It has hallucinogenic qualities but is highly toxic in large amounts.


Many studies have shown that homeopathic products do not benefit health in the ways they are marketed. The FDA does not approve such products but can work to get dangerous food or drug products of any kind removed from the market.

That's because of a law passed by Congress called DSHEA — the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 that exempts "natural" products, vitamins and supplements from FDA supervision.

"Homeopathic teething products have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA for safety or effectiveness. The agency is unaware of any proven health benefit of the products, which are labeled to relieve teething symptoms in children," the FDA said.


The FDA also gave advice to parents.

"Consumers should seek medical care immediately if their child experiences seizures, difficulty breathing, lethargy, excessive sleepiness, muscle weakness, skin flushing, constipation, difficulty urinating, or agitation after using homeopathic teething products."

Trump’s Immigration Ban Excludes Countries With Business Ties to Him


By Caleb Melby, Blacki Migliozzi and Michael Keller
January 26, 2017

President Trump is poised to sign an executive order that would suspend all entry to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East, according to a draft proposal obtained by Bloomberg News. His proposed list doesn’t include Muslim-majority countries where his Trump Organization has done business or pursued potential deals. Properties include golf courses in the United Arab Emirates and two luxury towers operating in Turkey.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Google, Breitbart give misleading poll results for President Obama's approval ratings

In Google "news", there is a link to a Breitbart article that claims President Obama had an approval rating lower than Nixon or G.W. Bush. They might have been giving the average over their whole term, I'm not going there to find out. I did look at Gallup, and what happened is that Obama had a much more even approval rating than the other two, and at the end of his term was FAR above them.
Typical of Breitbart, a right-wing propaganda site, full of lies. They obviously were trying to find a way to distract from the fact that President Obama's approval ratings when he left office were so high, and Trump's current ratings are so low.


From news.google.com

Breitbart News

Gallup Poll: Obama Approval Rating Lower Than Nixon, Bush
Breitbart News - ‎7 hours ago‎

Former President Barack Obama had an overall average approval rating of 47.9 percent, according to a Gallup poll released Friday. Obama is behind Richard Nixon, who resigned from office, and George W. Bush, who had an approval rating drop to 25 ...


State Dept. senior management team resigns


State Dept. senior management team resigns: report
By Rebecca Savransky - 01/26/17 11:34 AM EST

The State Department's entire senior level of management has resigned less than a week into Donald Trump's administration.

The resignations, reported by the The Washington Post, included Patrick Kennedy, the agency's undersecretary for management who had served in the role for nine years.

Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Anne Barr, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond and Ambassador Gentry O. Smith, director of the Office of Foreign Missions, resigned as well, the Post reported.


It is not clear whether the officials were forced out by the incoming Trump administration, but the changes shook up Washington — where Trump's approach to the foreign service had already raised eyebrows.

“It’s the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember, and that’s incredibly difficult to replicate,” David Wade, who served as State Department chief of staff under Secretary of State John Kerry, told The Post.

Earlier this year, it emerged that Trump's team had asked all politically-appointed U.S. ambassadors to clear out of their posts by Inauguration Day, in what was seen as a break with precedent.

In a statement, acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said all of the politically appointed officers were asked to submit letters of resignation, something he said was typical in a transition.


All four had previously served presidents in both parties.

The exiting officials join a number of others who have departed since President Trump took office last week.


Rains From Thunderstorms Rising Rapidly in Europe, Asia

Seems to me this decreases the rate at which aquifers recharge. Well water comes from aquifers.


By Andrea Thompson
Jan. 26, 2017

Across a vast swath of Europe and Asia, rain is increasingly falling in the short, localized bursts associated with thunderstorms, seemingly at the expense of events where a steady rain falls over many hours, a new study finds.

The study, detailed Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, directly links this trend to the warming and moistening of the atmosphere caused by rising greenhouse gas levels.

The results fit with rainfall trends already observed in the U.S., as well as model predictions that massive rains associated with thunderstorms could become both more frequent and more intense in the U.S. as the world continues to heat up.

The shift toward more extreme rains could have implications for water management and flooding because the ground is less able to absorb rainwater when it falls all at once.


That a warming atmosphere will lead to more extreme rainfall events is one of the basic predictions of climate science, and is linked to the fact that warming leads to more evaporation, which leads to more water vapor in the atmosphere. That means that when rains occur, there’s more water vapor available to dump as rain.

Extreme downpours have already been increasing in the U.S., most notably in the Northeast, where they have increased by 71 percent since mid-century, according to the 2014 National Climate Assessment.


As these trends continue with warming, they could have major impacts on water management. The trade-off in non-convective rains for more convective rain means that there will be fewer days that have rain, but more rain falling on days when storms do occur, Ye said.

A shift from more frequent non-convective rains to less frequent downpours could overwhelm the ability of the soil and plants to absorb rainwater. If the ground can’t absorb the water, it runs off into streams, potentially causing floods and changing how cities and countries must think about capturing their water.

The U.S. Was Just Downgraded from a ‘Full’ to ‘Flawed Democracy’


Lucinda Shen
Jan 25, 2017

While U.S. citizens could once claim to be part of the 9% of people in the world governed by a "full democracy," they are now part of the near 45% who live in a "flawed democracy."

That's according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, which downgraded the U.S. in their 2016 Democracy Index published Wednesday. The move puts the U.S. in the same category as Poland, Mongolia, and Italy.

To arrive at this conclusion, the paper analyzed over 200 countries and considered factors like political culture and political participation.

"Popular trust in government, elected representatives and political parties has fallen to extremely low levels in the U.S.," the paper's authors wrote. "This has been a long-term trend and one that preceded the election of [Donald] Trump as U.S. president in November 2016."

The report sorted the countries into four categories: "full democracy," "flawed democracy," "hybrid regime," and "authoritarian regime," with the majority of the world population governed by a "flawed democracy."

Indiana’s Model For Medicaid Could Spread—But It’s Not Working For Everyone


By Jake Harper • Jan 18, 2017

If she’s confirmed, Indiana policy consultant Seema Verma will start work as Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. She’ll bring her experience designing Indiana’s unique Medicaid expansion to the national policy conversation.

Expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income Americans was a major component of the Affordable Care Act, and under then-Governor Mike Pence, Verma added a conservative twist: a requirement to pay into the system.

Legal and health care advocates say that requirement is causing problems.

Under Indiana’s Medicaid program, the Healthy Indiana Plan, or HIP 2.0, recipients are required to make monthly payments into an account, called a POWER account, to receive coverage. Verma’s idea, as she wrote in a blog post for Health Affairs, was to get people to take personal responsibility for their health coverage and provide an “incentive to make cost-conscious health care decisions.”

The payments run between $1 and $26 per month. But if you fail to make them, repercussions are harsh. Individuals making below the poverty level (about $12,000 per year) get bumped to a lower level of coverage, HIP Basic, which requires copays for drugs and doctor visits and doesn’t cover dental or vision. People making between 100 and 138 percent of the federal poverty level (about $16,000 per year) get locked out of coverage for six months.

About 250,000 people gained coverage under HIP 2.0, and with Verma’s new national role, health policy experts think the Indiana model could spread to other states if Medicaid survives efforts to repeal Obamacare. But David Machledt, a policy analyst with the National Health Law Program, argues that forcing poor people to pay for Medicaid is counterproductive. “Adding these supposed incentives, they may look good from a policy point of view, but when you get on the ground, people just don’t know what’s going on,” he says.

And even if someone on HIP 2.0 does everything right — they make their POWER account contributions on time each month — they could still lose coverage because the state and insurers running HIP 2.0 are making mistakes, according to Indiana Legal Services, a nonprofit that has helped dozens of Indiana residents appeal HIP 2.0 cases.

59-year-old Allen Wilson is one of their clients. He was an over-the-road truck driver for 38 years before his health issues forced him into retirement. He has diabetes, heart disease and kidney problems.

Wilson signed up for HIP 2.0 in 2015 and paid his bills each month. But he says one time when he went to the doctor, they told him he was not covered. When he called his insurance company, Anthem, he says they told him he missed a payment.

“My wife's like, ‘Excuse me?’” he says. “Well, she keeps the receipts.”

Even with evidence of his POWER account payments, Wilson says this kept happening. Bills that should have been covered went unpaid, and he and his wife were frustrated, he says: “She finally told them straight out, ‘Are you trying to kill my husband? Is this what you're doing?’”

Eventually, they got help from Katherine Wood, an attorney at Indiana Legal Services who handles a lot of HIP 2.0 cases. Wood tried to get the HIP system to recognize his coverage.

Attorneys with Indiana Legal Services say they’ve appealed and resolved dozens of cases where the state or insurance companies made mistakes that got people kicked off of HIP 2.0. They think the errors stem from miscommunications between the state and insurers.

“The reason we win appeals with our clients is because our clients did everything correctly from the beginning,” Wood says.

And Wood says, the mistakes her organization is seeing could be just a fraction of what’s out there. State reports show thousands of people have been kicked off of their HIP coverage for missing a POWER account payment. But if a HIP 2.0 client actually made that payment, they may not know they can appeal, or that they can get help through organizations like Indiana Legal Services.


But advocates like Wood say administrative errors are inevitable, given how HIP 2.0 is structured. The program requires coordination between large bureaucracies — the state and three insurance companies — to manage thousands of monthly payments.

“Things fall through the cracks,” Wood says.

These kinds of errors are “a completely predictable result of layering on a bunch of rules and entities,” says law professor Fran Quigley of the Health and Human Rights Law Clinic at the Indiana University McKinney School of Law.

“It’s supposed to be a small government, conservative solution, but HIP is the opposite of small government,” says Quigley.


And the logistics of the system can be baffling for the people who need it. Many HIP 2.0 members never had health insurance before and may not have bank accounts or credit cards to make their POWER account contributions. According to a survey commissioned by the state, 40 percent of HIP members had never heard of a POWER account, even though they all have one. More than half of survey respondents who had been bumped to HIP Basic for missing a payment said they did not know they needed to make a contribution to their POWER account, or that they were confused about their membership and plan type.

“I think one of the big lessons of the Indiana program is that people are confused by it,” David Machledt says. He adds that the requirement to make monthly payments has been shown to reduce enrollment in other states. About 397,000 people were enrolled in HIP 2.0 as of November, although Indiana projected 424,000 Hoosiers would be enrolled by that time. (The state estimated that 573,000 people would eligible.)

Even when a judge sides with Katherine Wood’s clients, it doesn’t always help. Allen Wilson eventually got on Medicare, but Anthem still hasn’t paid some of the bills he accrued when he should have been covered by HIP 2.0. He says the bills total a few thousand dollars and that debt collectors frequently call him, demanding money.

“What else can I say but, ‘I’m probably never gonna have the money to straighten you out,’” he says. “It’s just not gonna happen.”

If Anthem doesn’t end up paying, Wilson plans to file bankruptcy. He still worries about the money, about his credit, but he’s glad to be off of HIP 2.0 for good.

“It was just an ongoing battle with them,” he says. “All the time.”

Trump's Health Secretary Thinks Poor Should Pay More For Medicaid

The republican strategy of fighting climate disruption - decrease the population by increasing the death rate.


Jan. 22, 2017
Bruce Japsen

Poor Americans insured by Medicaid will pay more out-of-pocket toward their healthcare services under proposals favored by Dr. Tom Price, Donald Trump’s pick to be U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

During the first of two committee hearings he faces before the U.S. Senate votes on whether to confirm him, Price said he supports a plan within Indiana’s Medicaid program that requires a copayment or premium to get a richer benefit package. Price, who goes before the Senate Finance Committee this week, favors repealing the Affordable Care Act and its Medicaid expansion, and his testimony offers ideas on what he may push to replace the law.


But reports out of Indiana say Healthy Indiana doesn’t work for everybody. And “the state and insurers running HIP 2.0 are making mistakes,” according to this story. [See my next blog post]

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Illegal votes?

It doesn't make sense that someone would vote illegally for Hillary and also for republicans for the House. That is what millions would have had to do if Trump is right about illegal votes.

How is it fair if billionaires pay a smaller rate of taxes than you do?

April 9, 2014


[Including text, in case the Facebook post is lost.]

from Facebook post by Robert Reich:

It’s getting to be tax time again, when our minds turn toward paying the taxes we owe or possibly getting a tax refund. But what we don’t think about enough the unfairness of our tax system. The richest .1 percent of Americans is now getting the largest percent of total national income they've received in almost a century, so you might think they’d pay a much higher tax rate than everyone else. But you'd be wrong. Many pay a lower total tax rate than middle-class Americans.

How can this be? Five reasons: They (1) deduct from their taxable income such things as large interest payments on mortgages for huge homes, the costs of business entertainment and conferences (vacations at golf resorts), and gold-plated health care plans; (2) park their earnings in offshore tax havens; (3) treat other income as capital gains, subject to a much lower tax rate (if they happen to be hedge-fund or private-equity managers, the "carried interest" loophole is designed especially for them); (4) spend a tiny portion of their incomes on Social Security payroll taxes, which are capped this year at $117,000; and (5) pay a much smaller share of their incomes on state and local sales taxes than anyone else (the poorest fifth of Americans pay an average state and local tax rate of over 11 percent of their incomes, while the richest fifth pay only 5.6 percent of theirs).

Republicans want to cut taxes on the wealthy even more. Paul Ryan's new budget lowers the top federal tax rate to 25 percent. When the rich are let off the hook in all these ways, the rest of America has to pay more in taxes to make up the difference – or have services cut because government doesn’t have the funds. It's not fair. Make a ruckus.

A meaning to life: How a sense of purpose can keep you healthy


Feb. 25, 2017

By Teal Burrell

SOMETHING to live for. This simple idea is at the heart of our greatest stories, driving our heroes on. It is the thread from which more complex philosophies are woven. As Nietzsche once wrote, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how”.

As human beings, it is hard for us to shake the idea that our existence must have significance beyond the here and now. Life begins and ends, yes, but surely there is a greater meaning. The trouble is, these stories we tell ourselves do nothing to soften the harsh reality: as far as the universe is concerned, we are nothing but fleeting and randomly assembled collections of energy and matter. One day, we will all be dust.

One day, but not yet. Just because life is ultimately meaningless doesn’t stop us searching for meaning while we are alive. Some seek it in religion, others in a career, money, family or pure escapism. But all who find it seem to stumble across the same thing – a thing psychologists call “purpose”.

The notion of purpose in life may seem ill-defined and even unscientific. But a growing heap of research is pinning down what it is, and how it affects our lives. People with a greater sense of purpose live longer, sleep better and have better sex. Purpose cuts the risk of stroke and depression. It helps people recover from addiction or manage their glucose levels if they are diabetic. If a pharmaceutical company could bottle such a treatment, it would make billions. But you can find your own, and it’s free.


He Was at Trump’s Inauguration. It Was Tiny.


I Was at Trump’s Inauguration. It Was Tiny.

By Dave ZirinTwitter
January 23, 2017

On Friday, I spent roughly nine hours—from 6 am to 3 pm—on the streets of drizzling Washington, DC, inside and outside the Secret Service checkpoints at Donald Trump’s inauguration. I have been to every inauguration since 1997, gauging the size and enthusiasm of the crowds. It’s fun and a perk of living in DC.

I wasn’t planning to write about what I saw on Friday until I saw White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer say on Saturday, “This was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.” Then, as his voice shook and his face became mottled, he shouted, “These attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration are shameful and wrong.” The next day, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said that Spicer was merely stating “alternative facts.”

These are not “alternative facts.” These are lies. This is an attempt at “gaslighting”: manipulating someone by psychological means into questioning their sanity. It’s unconscionable behavior for an anonymous Internet troll, let alone the press secretary of the president of the United States.

It’s one thing for a campaign to say things that are demonstrably untrue. That’s been the reality for as long as we’ve had campaigns. But it is chilling when people who hold the levers of power will look straight at a bank of cameras and lie.

So here’s the straight truth from someone who walked every inch of the inaugural ground on Friday. This was the smallest inauguration I’ve ever seen. I was tweeting that and saying it on camera to Democracy Now! during the day on Friday before I heard those observations justified by both aerial shots and Metro rider statistics. I said it because I saw the empty stands that were supposed to be filled with throngs of Trump supporters. I said it because I saw how easy it was to ride public transportation and drive into downtown. I said it because of the surprisingly sparse smatterings of red baseball caps as well as my conversations with local souvenir salespeople who were overloaded with “Make America Great Again” merchandise that wasn’t moving. It was obvious. The people just weren’t there.


In addition, the Secret Service and TSA personnel in charge of the checkpoints, both groups maligned by this administration, were cracking jokes about the president-elect as we were going through the metal detectors. One TSA agent even took a button from me that said, “Solidarity Trumps Hate.” He wasn’t confiscating the button. He took it to wear (“later,” he told me). If it wasn’t for the thousands of protesters who came out for both permitted and non-permitted demonstrations, the day would’ve had no life at all.

I know many are making jokes about Sean Spicer, Kellyanne Conway, and their embrace of “alternative facts.” On one level, you laugh to keep from losing your mind. But jokes alone are not going to cut it right now. It would’ve been so easy for Sean Spicer to say, “It was a rainy Friday. The crowds were small. Time to get to work making America great again.” The fact that they can’t admit something so small raises the terrifying prospect of what they will say when the question is not about crowd sizes but whether or not to go to war.


There’s Now an Unofficial National Parks Account Tweeting Against President Trump


Sarah Begley
Jan. 25, 2017

After a National Park Service account went rogue on Tuesday and began tweeting climate change facts — which were quickly deleted — an unofficial account purporting to be run by NPS staffers picked up the resistance to President Donald Trump.

The official Badlands NPS account drew widespread attention on Tuesday with its tweets on climate change, which followed stop-and-start "gag orders" from Trump's administration on the Twitter accounts of the national parks. Now the unofficial account has picked up a similar call-to-action message on climate change.

"AltUSNatParkService" is billing itself as "The Unofficial 'Resistance' team of U.S. National Park Service. Not taxpayer subsidised! Come for rugged scenery, fossil beds, 89 million acres of landscape." A pinned tweet on its page notes, "Can't wait for President Trump to call us FAKE NEWS. You can take our official twitter, but you'll never take our free time!"

Tweets from the account have covered everything from climate change data to resistance to pipelines. In between serious tweets, the folks behind the account are not afraid to strike a lighthearted note:


Regrets by Trump voters

You can see tweets from Trump voters who regret voting for him at the following link:


Fairness in taxation

Jan. 25, 2017

If we continue with the electoral college, federal tax rates should be proportional to people's power in presidential and Congressional elections. Unfair for people whose votes count for less to have to pay the same amount as those whose votes count more.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Trump issues "gag order" silencing federal agencies


Jan. 24, 2017

After temporarily banning the U.S. Department of the Interior from tweeting during the inauguration, the Trump administration has moved to muzzle federal officials. A memo sent to several agencies—the Environmental Protection Agency; Departments of Health & Human Services, Transportation, Agriculture, and Interior; the National Institutes of Health—instructs all staff to halt press releases, social media, blogs, and web content, among other forms of external communication. The memo also states that scheduled speaking engagements and webinars will be reviewed before they are allowed to proceed. Agency officials are puzzled by the move since the Trump administration has yet to offer any explanation.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Women's marches were peaceful


More than one million people marched through Washington, D.C., and other American cities Saturday to show support for women's rights and express their discontent over the election of President Donald Trump.


CNN did not make its own crowd estimates, but compiled official estimates from law enforcement agencies for many of the "sister marches" around the country that drew large crowds. The million-person count doesn't include the thousands of people who took part in the Women's March on Washington for which there was no official crowd estimate.

Marches were also held in cities around the world.

The biggest demonstration took place in Washington, where protesters filled Pennsylvania Avenue, the same street Trump walked down a day before during his inaugural parade. In the evening, the crowd moved toward the White House.


March organizers said protests took place in more than 600 cities across the world.
Attendance was not always easy to determine. For instance, Washington march organizers said about 500,000 people took part, but authorities did not confirm that number or provide their own estimate.


In Boston, 120,000 to 125,000 people protested, according to a police aerial photo analysis cited by a senior Boston Police official. Police said the crowd there was too big for the march route and could not proceed because "it would be like a snake eating its tail."


In Los Angeles, more than 100,000 people marched, police said. So many people crammed into the streets that "our march turned into a stand," said Ellen Crafts, who handled public relations for the event.


Police said 20,000 people protested in Houston, 60,000 in Oakland. In Atlanta, 60,000 people marched with US Rep. John Lewis, a major Trump critic.

CNN could not independently confirm any of these crowd estimates.

Overall, the protesters were law-abiding, with police reporting only four arrests in 21 American cities. Nobody was arrested in Washington.


"Sister marches" happened outside the United States, too.
People gathered to demonstrate in most major cities around the world, including London; Tel Aviv; Melbourne, Australia; Pristina, Kosovo; Moscow; Berlin and Mexico City -- often in front of US embassies.
London marches for 'hope not hate'
In Athens, Greece, protesters included refugees from Elliniko Camp, located in the old Athens airport.
There was even a protest in Antarctica -- about 30 eco-minded tourists and non-government scientists aboard a ship in international waters hoisted signs saying "Penguins for peace" and "Seals for science," organizers said.


The protesters, which included many men, hit the streets for different reasons, among them health care, the future of the Affordable Care Act, the environment and income equality.
But Trump's stated attitudes toward women and his comments about judging women by their weight and appearance kept coming up, as did his now infamous remarks about grabbing women by their genitalia.


We’re now breaking global temperature records once every three years


Dana Nuccitelli
Jan. 23, 2017

According to Nasa, in 2016 the Earth’s surface temperature shattered the previous record for hottest year by 0.12°C. That record was set in 2015, which broke the previous record by 0.13°C. That record had been set in 2014, beating out 2010, which in turn had broken the previous record set in 2005.

If you think that seems like a lot of record-breaking hot years, you’re right. The streak of three consecutive record hot years is unprecedented since measurements began in 1880. In the 35 years between 1945 and 1979, there were no record-breakers. In the 37 years since 1980, there have been 12. The video below illustrates all of the record-breaking years in the Nasa global surface temperature record since 1880.


These include a spate of five record hot years between 1937 and 1944; however, ongoing research is investigating whether some of those are artificial, due to changes in the way temperatures were measured during World War II.
Donald Trump's first 100 days as president – daily updates
Read more

Even including World War II, in the first 100 years of the Nasa data, the high temperature record was broken seven times. It’s been broken seven times in just the past 20 years.

This rapid rate of record-breaking heat (once every three years) is consistent with climate scientists’ expectations. A 2011 paper by Stefan Rahmstorf and Dim Coumou found that as global warming continues, we should expect to set new records about once every four years.


Global temperature wasn’t the only record-setter in 2016. Global warming causes climate change, and North America saw its highest number of storms and floods in over four decades. Globally, we saw over 1.5 times more extreme weather catastrophes in 2016 than the average over the past 30 years. Global sea ice cover plunged to a record low as well. California endured a fifth consecutive year of its worst drought in over a millennium. A drought also savaged the maize harvest in Southern Africa, causing a famine. The list of climate consequences goes on.


Quite obviously, human-caused global warming is the driver behind these frequent record-breaking hot years. Usually an El Niño event will help push a given year over the top, as happened in 2016 and 2015 (but not 2014). However, today’s El Niño years are hotter than past El Niño years because of global warming.


Every study quantifying the various contributions to global warming has found humans are the dominant cause. Our fingerprints are all over climate change – the changes are precisely in line with what we’d expect to see as a result of an increased greenhouse effect from human carbon pollution. That’s why there’s a 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming.


But physical reality doesn’t bend to denial or “alternative facts.” Until we address the problem, we’ll continue to see record-breaking heat and extreme weather. The longer we deny and the less action we take, the more extreme the consequences will become. As the renowned glaciologist Lonnie Thompson put it, “the only question is how much we will mitigate, adapt, and suffer.” Allowing for more denial and less action will maximize the third variable in that equation.



Sam Thielman
Jan. 23, 2017

Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn has appeared to back away from claims it is preparing to build a $7bn factory in the US.

News of the plant, which could create some 30,000 to 50,000 American manufacturing jobs, first surfaced last year after a meeting between now President Donald Trump and the Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son, head of Japanese telecom and tech investment giant SoftBank.

“There is such a plan, but it is not a promise. It is a wish,” Foxconn’s chief executive officer, Terry Gou, told reporters on Sunday. Gou added that he wanted guarantees of inexpensive land and electricity before the company made its investment and warned against US protectionism, according to Reuters.

Trump promised to bring jobs to the US and repeatedly singled out Apple for its use of Chinese manufacturers – Foxconn among them – in stump speeches across the country during his campaign.


This is not the first time Gou has said he wanted to build a facility in the US. In 2013, Foxconn promised to invest “over $30m to build a high-tech manufacturing facility” in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, according to a Bloomberg report. The plant never materialized.


Even rightwing sites call out Trump administration over 'alternative facts'


Adam Gabbatt
Jan. 23, 2017

In their false claims about the size of the crowd at the inauguration on Friday, and in the introduction to common parlance of the term “alternative facts”, senior aides to Donald Trump managed to achieve the unthinkable: getting rightwing news sites to disagree with the president.
Donald Trump's team defends 'alternative facts' after widespread protests
Read more

The Blaze, the Daily Caller and Fox News – generally staunch supporters – all called out Trump for his statement that “a million, million and a half people” attended his inauguration in Washington DC.

It was left to Breitbart News – whose former executive chair Steve Bannon is a senior adviser to Trump and which employs Julia Hahn, a writer linked this weekend to a White House post of her own – to defend the president. The conservative news site insisted that “it looked like the entire mall was full” on Friday and described “alternative facts” as “a harmless, and accurate, term in a legal setting”.


Rightwing news sites have stuck by Trump as he repeatedly lied on everything from poll numbers to his support for the Iraq war. But his lie about the number of people who attended his swearing-in – which was contradicted by photographs circulated on Friday and District of Columbia transit data – prompted some such outlets to call out the president.

The Blaze, founded by the rightwing commentator Glenn Beck, contradicted Spicer’s claim that “this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration” by posting a photograph comparing Trump’s crowd with that of President Obama in 2009.

The Daily Caller did the same, while Fox News wrote that “there is little question that Obama’s 2009 inauguration drew a much bigger in-person crowd than Trump’s ceremonies”.


Breitbart also provided the most vigorous defense of the term “alternative facts”. Alternative facts, according to Breitbart, is “a harmless, and accurate, term in a legal setting, where each side of a dispute will lay out its own version of the facts for the court to decide”.


A search of several online legal dictionaries, however, did not yield any results for the term.

Even the rightwing conspiracy sites Infowars and the Gateway Pundit did not defend Trump’s untruths, instead choosing not to cover the debacle at all.
Munira Ahmed: the woman who became the face of the Trump resistance
Read more

On Thursday, the founder of Gateway Pundit, Jim Hoft, reportedly claimed the site had been granted a White House press credential.

Given the site’s track record, a White House press credential for Gateway Pundit would set a dangerous precedent. It has published reports speculating that Obama is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and falsely claimed that anti-Trump protests have been funded by George Soros.


Inauguration and Women’s March, By The Numbers

By Max Kutner On 1/21/17

Riders took fewer trips on Washington, D.C.’s Metro on Friday morning during President Donald Trump’s inauguration than did during his predecessor’s inaugurations, according to the transportation provider. The number during the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday was also higher. While local and federal agencies have not yet released estimates for how many people attended Trump’s inauguration, Metro figures suggest the total was far below those of Barack Obama.

As of 11 a.m. ET on Friday, Metro counted 193,000 rides, less than half the 513,000 it counted in 2009 and far fewer than the 317,000 it did for Obama’s second inauguration, in 2013. On Saturday, Metro counted 275,000 trips before 11 a.m., also surpassing the figure from the previous morning.


Organizers of the Women’s March on Washington initially expected more than 200,000 people to participate in that event on Saturday. Citing organizers, D.C. Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Kevin Donahue tweeted Saturday morning that the anticipated number had jumped to 500,000. Just before 1 p.m. on Saturday, the D.C. government’s Inauguration Twitter account said Metro stations were “at full capacity.” By 4 p.m., Metro said its ridership for the day was at 597,000. Many more people participated in simultaneous demonstrations around the country and abroad.


Flooding More Than Doubled Across Europe in 35 Years


By Arthur Neslen, The Guardian
Jan. 22, 2017

The number of devastating floods that trigger insurance payouts has more than doubled in Europe since 1980, according to new research by Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurance company.

The firm’s latest data shows there were 30 flood events requiring insurance payouts in Europe last year – up from just 12 in 1980 – and the trend is set to accelerate as warming temperatures drive up atmospheric moisture levels.

Globally, 2016 saw 384 flood disasters, compared with 58 in 1980, although the greater proportional increase probably reflects poorer flood protections and lower building standards in the developing world.

Ernst Rauch, the head of Munich Re’s corporate climate centre, said: “Flood events together with wind storm events are the two perils where we have the biggest increase in frequency worldwide.

“In Europe, we’ve seen a steep increase in flood events related to severe convective [thunder] storms. The frequency of flash floods has increased much more than river floods since 1980.”

Storm intensity had also surged in Europe and abroad, he added.

In the past month alone, 18 people have been killed by unusually intense rainfalls in Thailand, while British government advisers have warned that floods of the sort that devastated large parts of the UK last winter are becoming the new normal.

Munich Re cautions that the trend is a non-linear one, following a pattern that will be significantly determined by manmade greenhouse gas emissions. “Unfortunately this is in line with climate change,” Rauch said. “It is amazing how closely these developments fit with the outcomes of climate models.”

Eight of the 10 deadliest natural catastrophes in Europe since 1980 have taken place in the past 13 years, Munich Re’s data shows, and one of the other two incidents was not weather-related.

Phenomena such as earthquakes are included in the company’s figures, but more than 90 percent of the natural catastrophes logged since 1980 have been climate-related.

Worryingly, the rate of extreme weather events appears to be increasing around the world, with 750 natural catastrophes last year, compared with an yearly average of 590 in the past decade. The 30-year mean figure was 470 disasters a year.

Since the 1950s, annual precipitation has increased in northern Europe and declined in the Mediterranean, a trend that UN climate scientists expect to increase.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment report also predicted with “high confidence” that northern Europe would see a rise in extreme rainfall in the decades ahead.

“We have very strong evidence that extreme rainfall events are increasing whichever way around you look at it,” said Peter Stott, the head of the Met Office’s climate monitoring and attribution team. “That’s simply a result of the physics of how the atmosphere works.”

For every degree of global warming, the earth’s atmosphere is able to hold about 6 percent more moisture, increasing the energy available to be fed into thunderstorms, Stott said.

The circulation of weather systems is also affected, with warmer air that has risen in the tropics descending in more northerly latitudes. For northern Europe, the result is wetter winters. In the south, the Mediterranean faces potentially arid conditions, similar to those in north Africa.

“The increase in record-breaking precipitation can only be explained by increasing temperatures caused by climate change,” said Fred Hattermann, a hydrologist and expert on regional climate impacts at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

The FEC Inadvertently Confirms That Trump Paid Actors to Attend His Announcement Event


By Sarah Jones on Fri, Jan 20th, 2017

Remember when the Hollywood Reporter revealed that Donald Trump’s campaign had hired actors to attend Trump’s announcement event held at Trump Tower on June 16 and Donald Trump’s team denied this? I’m sure you will be shocked to learn that it’s true. Yes, an FEC document confirmed it.

The Trump campaign won’t get in trouble for this, the FEC concluded, but yes they used a casting agency called The Extra Mile to pay extras to attend Donald Trump’s announcement. Here’s the highlights from the FEC doc:

SUBJECT: The complaint alleged that the Committee paid actors to attend Trump’s candidacy announcement but failed to disclose payments to the actors or the companies that allegedly hired them, or to report a debt or obligations to Gotham, one of the companies involved with running the announcement event. Consequently, Gotham and Extra Mile, the other company allegedly involved with hiring the actors, may have made and Trump and the Committee may have accepted prohibited or excessive contributions. Trump was a 2016 candidate for United States President.

DISPOSITION: The Commission exercised its prosecutorial discretion and dismissed the allegation that the Committee failed to report debt to Gotham, in light of the relatively modest amount at issue. The Commission closed the file in connection with the remaining allegations.

We believe that the service at issue here — assembling a crowd of attendees for a candidacy announcement — provided a benefit to the Trump campaign…

In this matter, the available information indicates that the Committee, retained Gotham as an event consultant, and Gotham, in turn, subcontracted with Extra Mile to provide extra administrative support at Trump’s announcement, including the provision of at least some of the rally crowd.

Extra Mile issued a casting call e-mail for actors “to wear t-shirts and carry signs and help cheer [Trump] in support of his announcement” in exchange for a payment of S50.


Friday, January 20, 2017

Warmest week ahead in decades / world ice cover plummets

Followed by lower than normal temps the following week.

By: Steve Gregory , 10:13 PM GMT on January 17, 2017

The pattern change continues to be on track, with colder than normal Temps expected to develop across the southern US during Week 2 - following the warmest ‘same week’ (Week 1) Temps in decades. Amazingly above normal Temps are overspreading much of the nation but will trend back down towards more normal levels in the northern US by the end of JAN and on into the opening days of FEB.

The breakdown of the near perpetual upper level ‘block’ in the north-central NORPAC but continuation of the highly progressive flow pattern – and resulting zonal-like flow pattern across much of NORAMER – has eroded away the deep, arctic air mass over much of Canada while also bringing above to much above normal Temps from the Rockies eastward. In some locations, daily average Temps during Week 1 will run well over 30 degrees above seasonal norms, with potential record breaking values.

By later this week, a developing long wave TROF from Alaska to just off the west coast will deepen further as it shifts towards the E/SE as individual short wave TROFs first move southeastward on the west side of the long wave TROF axis into the SW US before turning eastward - eventually moving across the Gulf states region. The below normal upper level heights combined with widespread & prolonged periods of Precip will cause surface Temps to fall below normal across the southern half of the nation starting next week.

At the same time, upper level heights will be rising across Canada, with much above normal Temps developing during the week ahead and continuing thru Week 2 (and possibly longer, especially over eastern Canada). And while heights will gradually fall off in the northern US and Canada during Week 2 - along with a more northerly flow developing over Canada - the absence of true arctic air over southern Canada means Temps will only manage to gradually fall to near normal levels over the northern US during by the end of Week 2.


References to climate change disappear from White House website


January 20, 2017 by Steven Mufson and Brady Dennis

The energy page on the new White House website, which went up within moments of Friday’s inauguration, reiterates the priorities Trump had voiced during the campaign, from focusing on “energy independence” to promising to scale back the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency.

It also appeared to remove any reference to combating climate change, a topic that had been featured prominently on the White House site under President Barack Obama. The page that once detailed the potential consequences of climate change and the Obama administration’s efforts to address it vanished on Friday just as President Trump was sworn in. It now redirected to a broken link: “The requested page ‘/energy/climate-change’ could not be found.”

In its place, listed among the top issues of the Trump administration, was a page entitled, “An America First Energy Plan.”

The incoming administration vows to eliminate “harmful and unnecessary policies” such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the United States rule. The first represents a variety of efforts Obama pursued to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, while the second is a rule issued by the EPA to protect not only the largest waterways but smaller tributaries that others believe should fall under the jurisdiction of states rather than the federal government.

The new White House site says that Trump would “refocus the EPA on its essential mission of protecting our air and water.”

It also says the incoming president will pursue “clean coal technology,” a reference to efforts to remove carbon dioxide emissions from coal-burning plants and bury those emissions in the ground to use them to enhance oil recovery. The Obama Energy Department has already been funding a variety of projects in this area. Though, without nearby enhanced oil recovery projects, the technology is not economic. Trump’s White House site says the new administration would aim at “reviving America’s coal industry.”

Faux Noise propaganda at President Obama's last press conference

There was a peaceful transfer of power. Trump was inaugurated. The current administration did not try to block it, did not call in troops to prevent it. Whether other people were there or not have nothing to do with it being a peaceful transfer of power. Good for President Obama that he didn't waste time on this stupid question from a Fox "News" person.



Kevin Corke.

Thank you, Mr. President. You have been a strong supporter of the idea of a peaceful transfer of power demonstrated not terribly far from the Rose Garden. And yet, even as you and I speak, there are more than five dozen Democrats that are going to boycott the inauguration of the incoming president. Do you support that? And what message would you send to Democrats to better demonstrate the peaceful transfer of power?


Agents Provocateurs: What and Who They Are

I suggest reading the whole article at the following link:


by Sue Basko

I write this from my many years of experience in protest involvement, as an organizer, a participant, as one of the first media activists, and as a lawyer. I have helped a couple people who have been victimized by agents provocateurs – that is, goaded into activity they would not normally do and arrested for it.


“AGENTS PROVOCATEURS” is the French term for people that come into a protest group and try to get you to do illegal or dangerous things, preferably to get you arrested or to set you up over time.


I think Agents provocateurs can be broken into 2 CATEGORIES:
1) Real agents provocateurs, and
2) undercover police, FBI, NSA, and Homeland Security.

1) Real Agents Provocateurs - “Revolutionaries or “Terrorists” - Some people actually belong to a supposed revolutionary or terrorist group. These groups are real. The FBI and NSA keep lists of them. The vast majority of these groups are just a bunch of hot air and usually boring as all get-out, self-important, and often, from my observation, with main members who are on SSI for some mental disability that involves paranoia. So while they have no job, they have plenty of time to be a “revolutionary” and talk big. Others are professors or part-time professors with secure jobs. Others work for non-profits. Others are retired. What I am saying is that most of them are not risking much by getting you to do something stupid.

These folks want “action” – and they mostly want YOU to do the action. They will lie to you and tell you what you are doing is okay, that it is legal, that nothing will happen, that it is good to get arrested, that it is “civil disobedience,” that you dare not challenge them or argue with it. (“Civil disobedience” is something else and is covered a little bit in the Note just below this post.)

These people are manipulative. They will challenge you and play an “ism” card to make it so you are supposed to be ashamed to stop them – they will say you are racist, sexist, against people with disabilities, against immigrants, ageist, elitist, or whatever. They will claim they have to do illegal acts because of the system, the man, police brutality, poverty, war, the cause, or something – demands it. None of this is true. No one gets to use their “status” as a “victim” to victimize you and wreck your life.

GUESS WHAT? Once you get arrested, your “comrades” will NOT be there with bail money, a lawyer, to support you and your family since you will be out of a job, to get you into school despite a felony, etc. In fact, they will use you to try to show the system is corrupt, the police are brutal, and on and on. You will be a pawn in their game.

KEEP IN MIND: No responsible person with a job or family or going to school runs around doing violent or goofball things to get arrested. Just does not happen.

HOW TO GET RID OF THEM: Demand that everyone follow the law. DO NOT let them define “peace” as including “violence.” Demand peace, non-violence and only legal activity. End of story -- Only legal behavior as defined in the law, not in their imaginations.


2) UNDERCOVER POLICE, FBI, NSA, HOMELAND SECURITY. Wake up, folks! Almost every big domestic “terror” arrest has been a set-up by an FBI agent or someone working part-time for them. HOW UNDERCOVER AGENTS WORK:

THEY JOIN YOUR GROUP. They often take leadership roles. They might be the friendliest people there. They might have "good friends" in the group, but if you ask the good friends how long they have actually known the person and in what context, you are likely to find it is not very long and they only know the person from the group. Undercover agents do not allow anyone to question them - they might toss the question back to you. They control the flow of information and try to block out those that question them.

In fact, they work almost exactly like the people listed above -- except instead of being goofs trying to draw you into some violent act and get you arrested so they can feel they are part of exciting action and have something to talk about (for years to come) – these folks will set you up for a huge arrest. Supposedly, they are hunting out terrorists. In many cases, it appears as if the agents did most of the talking, most of the planning, and the "stooge" just kind of went along for the ride.


Also, if someone comes to you with a plan or request to harm someone else, you should report this to the police quickly, so that you are not involved in the plan. This can be someone looking to shoot someone, someone wanting to buy bomb-making materials, someone planning a break-in or kidnapping, someone planning to bring weapons to school or a job. You should never feel locked into a promise of silence, even if you have promised that.


Civil Disobedience: Some people talk about “civil disobedience" as if it is something that might happen at an everyday typical protest march. Civil Disobedience is about refusing to obey an unjust law or rule. Today, many people mistakenly call it "civil disobedience" when they are breaking laws that are just and for the good of all, such as laws that tell us not to stand in traffic or laws that say a park closes at a certain time. That is a protest technique that involves breaking the law, but it is not civil disobedience. True civil disobedience is where the law is fundamentally unjust and where by breaking it, the person accomplishes a greater good. For example, if a law says you cannot feed the homeless, and if there are homeless hungry people and you feed them, that may be true civil disobedience. It also may not be true civil disobedience, because the law may be just; there may be free feeding centers and the city may want the homeless fed only at those locations for reasons of food sanitation.


Examples: Rosa Parks sitting in the front seat on the bus. People walking teens into segregated schools. Black men eating at a segregated lunch counter.

"Civil disobedience" does not involve: bombs, weapons, following a person, stopping a person from going anywhere, destruction of property, breaking and entering, looting, being disorderly at a protest, endangering anyone, harassing or terrorizing anyone on the internet, or other such acts.

Real-life psychopaths actually have below-average intelligence


By Jessica Hamzelou

Manipulative, dishonest and lacking in empathy – the traits that describe a psychopath aren’t particularly pleasant. But the idea that they are also fiendishly clever – as often portrayed in films and TV – isn’t quite true. In fact, in general, psychopaths seem to have below-average intelligence.

You have probably met a psychopath at some point in your life. They make up around 1 per cent of the population, says Brian Boutwell at St Louis University in Missouri. A person is classified as a psychopath if they achieve a certain score on a test of psychopathic traits, which include callousness, impulsiveness, aggression and a sense of grandiosity. “Not all psychopaths will break the law or hurt someone, but the odds of them doing so are higher,” says Boutwell.

Because many psychopaths are charming and manipulative, people have assumed they also have above-average intelligence, says Boutwell. Psychologists term this the “Hannibal Lecter myth”, referring to the fictional serial killer, cannibal and psychiatrist from the book and film The Silence of the Lambs.


To investigate, Boutwell and his colleagues analysed the results of 187 published studies on intelligence and psychopathy. These papers included research on psychopaths in prison as well as those enjoying high-flying careers. They also included a range of measures of intelligence.

Overall, the team found no evidence that psychopaths were more intelligent than people who don’t have psychopathic traits. In fact, the relationship went the other way. The psychopaths, on average, scored significantly lower on intelligence tests. “I think the results will surprise a lot of people,” says Boutwell.


In his experience, DeLisi says psychopaths tend to do poorly at school. “They are very sensation-seeking,” he says. “They don’t like to sit and read books – they end up engaging in substance abuse.” In his own interviews, he has found psychopaths to be rather inarticulate, and to swear a lot. “They talk over you in a brusque, aggressive style,” he says.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Student Loan Collector Navient Sued for Overcharging Borrowers

Ah yes, the wonderful power elite, who get rich by cheating their customers, proving how worthy they are of their riches.

by Martha C. White
Jan. 19, 2017

Navient, the nation's largest student loan servicer — and formerly part of Sallie Mae — was just hit with a federal lawsuit that alleges the company deceived borrowers to the tune of $4 billion.

Customers who took out student loans were hit with unnecessary interest payments, denied options to reduce their debt, and suffered damage to their credit scores, according to a lawsuit from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed on Wednesday.

It's one of the Bureau's last actions before the transition to a GOP-led administration — one that has made no secret of its desire to defang or outright eliminate the regulator, which was put into place following the financial crisis to put oversight to all aspects of the financial services industry under one umbrella.

The CFPB sued Navient Corporation, along with subsidiaries Navient Solutions and Pioneer Credit Recovery. Altogether, the company services the student loans of more than 12 million borrowers, roughly half of whom are under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education.

Just between 2010 and 2015, the CFPB said Navient collected $4 billion in interest alone from pushing students into "forbearance" — that is, their payments were suspended but the debt continued to grow — rather than enrolling them in income-based repayment programs for which they were eligible.

Borrowers who were disabled and suffered financial hardship — including injured and disabled veterans who were trying to earn a degree — had their loans reported to credit bureaus as in default rather than discharged, devastating their credit score.


On Wednesday, the Attorneys General of Illinois and Washington also filed suit against Navient, claiming deceptive and predatory practices in the company's loan servicing and collection activities.

"My investigation found Sallie Mae put student borrowers into expensive subprime loans that it knew were going to fail," Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in a statement. Her suit also included Sallie Mae Bank and General Revenue Corporation, a collection agency and another subsidiary of Navient.


Congress moves to give away national lands, discounting billions in revenue


Heather Hansman
Jan. 19,2017

In the midst of highly publicized steps to dismantle insurance coverage for 32 million people and defund women’s healthcare facilities, Republican lawmakers have quietly laid the foundation to give away Americans’ birthright: 640m acres of national land. In a single line of changes to the rules for the House of Representatives, Republicans have overwritten the value of federal lands, easing the path to disposing of federal property even if doing so loses money for the government and provides no demonstrable compensation to American citizens.

At stake are areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Forests and Federal Wildlife Refuges, which contribute to an estimated $646bn each year in economic stimulus from recreation on public lands and 6.1m jobs. Transferring these lands to the states, critics fear, could decimate those numbers by eliminating mixed-use requirements, limiting public access and turning over large portions for energy or property development.

In the midst of highly publicized steps to dismantle insurance coverage for 32 million people and defund women’s healthcare facilities, Republican lawmakers have quietly laid the foundation to give away Americans’ birthright: 640m acres of national land. In a single line of changes to the rules for the House of Representatives, Republicans have overwritten the value of federal lands, easing the path to disposing of federal property even if doing so loses money for the government and provides no demonstrable compensation to American citizens.

At stake are areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Forests and Federal Wildlife Refuges, which contribute to an estimated $646bn each year in economic stimulus from recreation on public lands and 6.1m jobs. Transferring these lands to the states, critics fear, could decimate those numbers by eliminating mixed-use requirements, limiting public access and turning over large portions for energy or property development.



“Western Republicans that are perpetuating the idea are very well funded by the oil and gas industry during their campaign,” Rowsome said. “It’s special interests wielding power for an agenda that will advance their goal. Nearly 90% of BLM lands are already open, but they can’t stop trying to get more.”

A 2016 Colorado College survey of seven western states found that 60% of voters rejected both the sale of public lands to states and giving states control without sale.

In 2012, Arizona voters struck down two pieces of legislation that would have turned over federal land to the state, including one that claimed the Grand Canyon as state land.


Historically, when federal lands have been transferred to states, they have become less accessible. Idaho sold off almost 100,000 acres of its public land between 2000 and 2009. In Colorado, access has been limited the public can only use 20% of state trust land for hunting and fishing.


“70% of the headwaters of our streams and rivers in the West are on public lands,” he said. “Rivers and migratory corridors don’t follow state boundaries.”


“It’s not just natural resources that are on the auction block, but jobs,” said Gale. “For a party that prides itself on being fiscally conservative ... they’re talking out of both sides of their mouth.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Trump’s EPA May ‘Review’ California’s Car Pollution Rules

Republicans are only for states rights when it means that states are allowed to hurt people.


By John Upton
Jan. 18, 2017

It became clear Wednesday that far-reaching car pollution rules enforced by California and a handful of other states could be jeopardized if EPA nominee Scott Pruitt is confirmed by the Senate.

After repeatedly suing the EPA as Oklahoma's attorney general over what he has characterized as federal overreach, President-elect Trump’s pick to lead the agency said during his senate hearing that he plans to review whether California will be allowed to continue operating its own pollution rules affecting vehicles.

California has long set the standard nationwide on environmental regulations, and it has been enforcing pollution rules on automakers for more than 50 years that have helped to reduce smog, slow global warming and improve mileage.

California’s rules for 2017 to 2025 require automakers to sell minimum numbers of electric vehicles, which are typically less polluting than traditional alternatives and can help slow global warming. Motorists can recharge electric vehicles using solar and wind power, which are becoming more common and affordable.

Pruitt said he would review a federal waiver provided to California that allows it to operate clean car standards that are more stringent than federal rules. Pruitt said “we shouldn’t prejudge the outcome” of his review.

Federal standards are silent on electric vehicles. Under a longstanding provision of the Clean Air Act, Massachusetts and some other states are allowed to enforce California’s vehicle regulations instead of federal ones.

Pruitt’s statement triggered alarm among climate experts and activists who already fear that the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress will go further than merely ending federal leadership on climate action — and preemptively prevent cities and states from taking action on their own.

“The current federal regulations, while great, are not going to be aggressive enough,” said Andrew Linhardt, a car pollution expert with the nonprofit Sierra Club. Revoking California’s waiver “would really be a setback for the fight for a clean environment and for mitigating the worst of climate change.”

The plan to review California’s waiver “is hitting me real hard,” said RL Miller, an environmental activist in California. She is president of the Climate Hawks Vote Super PAC. “For some guy from Oklahoma to be telling us that suddenly states’ rights don’t count, because he’s pushing an agenda, was just appalling.”


Among other things, Pruitt’s lawsuits have targeted EPA regulations limiting mercury and greenhouse gas pollution from power plants — health and environmental issues that the Supreme Court has ruled the EPA is required to regulate.

“What we’ve heard all day is how much you support states’ rights when it comes to these issues,” Markey said. “But now, when it comes to the rights of California, of Massachusetts and other states to be able to reduce carbon pollution, you’re saying you’re going to review that.”

Politician Arrested for Pinching Woman’s Genitals ‘Said He No Longer Had to Be Politically Correct’

If you voted for Trump, this is what you encouraged.

What would you say if a man did this to you, or your wife, daughter, or mother?


Eliana Dockterman @edockterman
Jan. 16, 2017

Connecticut Republican politician Christopher von Keyserling was arrested and charged with sexual assault after he was caught on a security camera pinching the genitals of a woman with whom he got into a political disagreement.

Von Keyserling, the 71-year-old chair of the Representative Town Meeting in Greenwich, encountered the unnamed woman in the hallway of an unnamed town facility on Dec. 8, according to the Westport Weston. She told him it was “a new world” politically, to which he allegedly replied, “I love this new world, I no longer have to be politically correct,” according to the warrant.

She told him that if he was “proud of that I can’t help you,” after which he called her a lazy, bloodsucking union employee, the warrant said. He allegedly followed her into her office, saying he wanted to talk to her co-worker. Her co-worker came into the office, refused to talk with him, and left.

The first woman attempted to do the same, at which point von Keyserling “reached in from behind to place his hand between her legs and pinch her in the groin area,” according to the police arrest warrant. She threatened to hit him if he tried to pinch her again, and he replied, “It would be your word against mine and nobody will believe you,” according to the warrant.

Police say that the incident was caught on security camera and that the footage is consistent with the events the woman described.

The woman told police she was initially hesitant to file a criminal complaint because of the risk of retribution and the public attention it might bring, according to authorities. However, she decided to do so after she later found out that von Keyserling had allegedly behaved “in a similar way with other employees.”

Von Keyserling’s lawyer told Greenwich Time: “There was a playful gesture, in front of witnesses. It was too trivial to be considered anything of significance. To call it a sexual assault is not based in reality.”

Von Keyserling was charged with fourth-degree sexual assault. He posted $2,500 bond and was released to appear in court on Jan. 25.

The Domestic Conspiracy That Gave Trump The Election Is In Plain Sight


Jan. 17, 2017

Information presently public and available confirms that Erik Prince, Rudy Giuliani, and Donald Trump conspired to intimidate FBI Director James Comey into interfering in, and thus directly affecting, the 2016 presidential election. This conspiracy was made possible with the assistance of officers in the New York Police Department and agents within the New York field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. All of the major actors in the conspiracy have already confessed to its particulars either in word or in deed; moreover, all of the major actors have publicly exhibited consciousness of guilt after the fact. This assessment has already been the subject of articles in conservative news outlets such as The American Thinker, but has not yet received substantial investigation by major media.

While a full summary of the Prince-Giuliani-Trump conspiracy would require a longer discourse, the actions of these men, along with multiple still-anonymous actors, can be summarized in five paragraphs. It will be for journalists with more resources than this writer to follow up on these leads—and, moreover, to see how this domestic conspiracy dovetails with the Trump-Russia controversy, though this too is briefly addressed below.

In addition to the paragraphs here, this article incorporates its three predecessors (I, II, III).


WMO confirms 2016 as hottest year on record

Not surprising, but now official from the World Meteorological Organization


Jan. 18, 2017

The year 2016 has been confirmed as the hottest year on record, surpassing the exceptionally high temperatures of 2015, according to a consolidated analysis by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The globally averaged temperature in 2016 was about 1.1°C higher than the pre-industrial period. It was approximately 0.83° Celsius above the long term average (14°C) of the WMO 1961-1990 reference period, and about 0.07°C warmer than the previous record set in 2015.

WMO uses data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the UK’s Met Office Hadley Centre and the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit. WMO also draws on reanalysis data from the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts and the Copernicus Climate Change Service, which use a weather forecasting system to combine many sources of data to provide a more complete picture of global temperatures, including in Polar regions.

“2016 was an extreme year for the global climate and stands out as the hottest year on record,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “But temperatures only tell part of the story.”

« Long-term indicators of human-caused climate change reached new heights in 2016,” he said. « Carbon dioxide and methane concentrations surged to new records. Both contribute to climate change, » said Mr Taalas.

Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries and in the ocean, where it acidifies the water, for even longer. It is now above the symbolic and significant level of 400 parts per million concentration in the atmosphere.

« We have also broken sea ice minimum records in the Arctic and Antarctic, » said Mr Taalas. “Greenland glacier melt – one of the contributors to sea level rise _ started early and fast. Arctic sea ice was the lowest on record both at the start of the melt season in March and at the height of the normal refreezing period in October and November, » he said.

« The Arctic is warming twice as fast a the global average. The persistent loss of sea ice is driving weather, climate and ocean circulation patterns in other parts of the world. We also have to pay attention to the potential release of methane from melting permafrost, » said Mr Taalas.

A very powerful warming El Niño event fuelled high temperatures in the early months of 2016. But even after the end of El Niño, temperatures remained well above average.

All the 16 hottest years on record have been this century, apart from 1998 when there was a strong El Niño. [Of course, 1998 was only two years before this century.]

Throughout 2016, there were many extreme weather events which caused huge socio-economic disruption and losses. Record ocean heat contributed to widespread coral reef bleaching.


A number of definitions exist for the pre-industrial period, the most commonly used being 1850-99 and 1880-99. The value of 1.1 °C is valid (to the nearest 0.1 °C) whichever of these periods is chosen.
[And the world had already warmed before then due to human activity. So the more recent warming is even higher in respect to the natural climate cycles.]

The World Meteorological Organization is the United Nations System’s authoritative voice on Weather, Climate and Water






Monday, January 16, 2017

Global sea ice is at lowest level ever recorded


By Michael Le Page
Jan. 16, 2017

It’s a new low point. The area of the world’s oceans covered by floating sea ice is the smallest recorded since satellite monitoring began in the 1970s. That means it is also probably the lowest it has been for thousands of years.

The latest observations from the US National Snow & Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, show how the ice extent has fallen to a new low this year (bright red trace in the graph below).


In the Arctic, the low in sea ice coverage is a result of both global warming and unusual weather events probably influenced by global warming.

But in the Antarctic, the current low in seasonal sea ice could just be a result of natural variability.

The extent of Arctic sea ice should be growing rapidly during the northern hemisphere winter. But not only has the Arctic been warming rapidly, this winter repeated incursions of warm air have pushed temperatures even further above average.

It has been so warm that on occasions this winter the sea ice coverage has actually temporarily shrunk, as shown by dips in the blue line in the graph below.


In the Arctic, by contrast, there is a long-term decline in sea ice due to global warming. This warming seems to be weakening the winds that circle the pole, allowing warm air to intrude into the Arctic.

And when warm air intrudes, cold air spills south. This is why parts of Asia and Europe have experienced unusually cold weather at times this winter.

As a result of the simultaneous lows at both poles, the total area of sea ice on the planet has fallen to a record low. Reconstructions of past levels of sea ice in the Arctic suggest it is likely the lowest it has been for thousands of years, says meteorologist Eric Holthaus.

Jan. 21 marches around the world

These are part of the "Womens March", but all genders are welcome to the ones I know about.
See the link below for links to marches around the U.S. and around the world.


Sister Marches are solidarity events inspired by the Women's March on Washington, and organized by volunteers around the world. If you can't make it to Washington, D.C. on January 21, join or host a Sister March near you.




Q: I’m not a woman, am I invited?
A: Yes, the Women’s March on Washington (WMW) is for any person, regardless of gender or gender identity, who believes women’s rights are human rights.



Unity Principles
Click to download full PDF

We believe that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights. We must create a society in which women - including Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, Muslim women, lesbian queer and trans women - are free and able to care for and nurture their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments.


Women deserve to live full and healthy lives, free of all forms of violence against our bodies. We believe in accountability and justice in cases of police brutality and ending racial profiling and targeting of communities of color. It is our moral imperative to dismantle the gender and racial inequities within the criminal justice system.


We believe in Reproductive Freedom. We do not accept any federal, state or local rollbacks, cuts or restrictions on our ability to access quality reproductive healthcare services, birth control, HIV/AIDS care and prevention, or medically accurate sexuality education. This means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education.


We firmly declare that LGBTQIA Rights are Human Rights and that it is our obligation to uplift, expand and protect the rights of our gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans or gender non-conforming brothers, sisters and siblings. We must have the power to control our bodies and be free from gender norms, expectations and stereotypes.


We believe in an economy powered by transparency, accountability, security and equity. All women should be paid equitably, with access to affordable childcare, sick days, healthcare, paid family leave, and healthy work environments. All workers – including domestic and farm workers, undocumented and migrant workers - must have the right to organize and fight for a living minimum wage.


We believe Civil Rights are our birthright, including voting rights, freedom to worship without fear of intimidation or harassment, freedom of speech, and protections for all citizens regardless of race, gender, age or disability. We believe it is time for an all-inclusive Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.


We believe that all women’s issues are issues faced by women with disabilities and Deaf women. As mothers, sisters, daughters, and contributing members of this great nation, we seek to break barriers to access, inclusion, independence, and the full enjoyment of citizenship at home and around the world. We strive to be fully included in and contribute to all aspects of American life, economy, and culture.


Rooted in the promise of America’s call for huddled masses yearning to breathe free, we believe in immigrant and refugee rights regardless of status or country of origin. We believe migration is a human right and that no human being is illegal.


We believe that every person and every community in our nation has the right to clean water, clean air, and access to and enjoyment of public lands. We believe that our environment and our climate must be protected, and that our land and natural resources cannot be exploited for corporate gain or greed - especially at the risk of public safety and health.

Pregnancy-Related Deaths Nearly Doubled In Texas After Cuts To Women’s Health


08/18/2016 01:23 pm ET | Updated Aug 19, 2016

Texas experienced a sudden and dramatic spike in pregnancy-related deaths in 2011, the same year the state slashed funding for Planned Parenthood and women’s health programs, according to a study in the September issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

After a modest increase in maternal mortality in Texas between 2000 and 2010, the rate of pregnancy-related deaths nearly doubled in 2011 and 2012 ― something researchers described as “puzzling” and out of sync with data from the other 49 states. Seventy-two women in Texas died from complications of pregnancy and childbirth in 2010, and that number jumped to 148 in 2012.

While the study does not suggest a clear cause for Texas’ alarming data, the rise in pregnancy-related deaths coincided with lawmakers slashing family planning funds by 66 percent in the state budget in 2011. The cuts forced 82 family planning clinics to close, one-third of which were Planned Parenthood clinics, and left Texas’ women’s health program able to serve less than half as many women as it had previously served. Low-income women in particular had less access to affordable birth control and thus had more babies, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.