The Miller Review – Last week’s good, bad and extremely silly.

Department of Fake News, Corruption & Incompetence.

Well, actually, this is real. The art piece labeled “America”, which is also a fully functional, solid 18-karat-gold copy of a Kohler toilet, is currently “on exhibit” as a very personal interactive experience in a restroom in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. It was offered to our president instead of the Van Gogh he wanted. It could only improve his tweets!

Jake Tapper’s analysis is far easier to absorb than a long paragraph on the firing-not firing of Special Counsel Mueller.

Governments across Southeast Asia have a history of using laws and the judiciary to curb press freedoms – now, they have found a handy crutch to lean on as they intensify clampdowns: U.S. President Donald Trump’s “fake news” mantra.  Most worrying to media rights advocates is that several countries are promoting new legislation or expanding existing regulations to make publishing fake news an offense.

Meanwhile, in Davos, Trump was booed for bringing up “fake news”.  Audience members also booed World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab  when he introduced Trump by saying that “your strong leadership is open to misconceptions and biased interpretations.”

The Foreign Press Is having a hard, and hilarious time of translating “Shithole”, with a lot of interesting variants trying to match the tone of the insult. Apparently, they’ve never had to deal with this kind of language before. Sigh.

Taylor Weyeneth, a 24-year-old former Trump campaigner who was given a senior post in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy will step down at the end of the month, the Washington Post reported. Apparently he lied on his resume regarding his schooling and work history and now joins the legion of ex-Trump staffers.

Elections and Voting

Alabama state House votes to end special elections. Under current law, if a vacancy occurs in one of Alabama’s Senate seats, the governor appoints a temporary replacement and is required to hold a special election to fill the seat for the remainder of the term. Since that didn’t work out as expected, they want to change the law to allow an appointee to serve until the next general election. They claim “cost”, we claim something else again.

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The first flip of the season has happened with a red-to-blue swap in northwestern Wisconsin’s Senate District 10 going to Patty Schachtner. She defeated Republican Adam Jarchow 55-45 percent in a supposedly safe seat for the GOP.

Patty_Schachtner

A judge at Paul Manafort and Rick Gates’s hearing pushed their trial date to fall, right before the 2018 midterms. NICE!

He’s back! Obama With the midterms approaching, people close to him say Obama will shift into high gear: campaigning, focusing his endorsements on down-ballot candidates, and headlining fundraisers. He’ll activate his 15,000-member campaign alumni association for causes and candidates he supports.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the state’s congressional map was unconstitutionally gerrymandered. Better yet, the ruling should be final and unreviewable by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Pennsylvania 35th State House District:  Democrat Austin Davis won Tuesday in the special election to replace Marc Gergely. He pledged to focus on the same issues he’d campaigned on — improving education, transit and safety, and public safety.

DAvis

Pennsylvania Republican Patrick Meehan, who up until this week had been one of the House Ethics Committee members investigating sexual harassment charges, was revealed Jan. 20 to have paid a taxpayer-funded settlement to an accuser last year. His seat is now available.

Civil Liberties

The IRS is violating privacy lawsSince a budget squeeze seven years ago, it has increasingly been relying on data analytics to meet its growing responsibilities. Drawing on large datasets and social media, the agency touts its advanced analytics program as helping to recover millions of dollars lost to tax fraud and errors.  However, the use of this data is a direct violation of our privacy rights, breaching several federal statutes designed to prevent government intrusion. According to information obtained by the ACLU, the IRS has violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and legal precedent by obtaining electronic communications without a warrant.  The IRS agreed in a Senate hearing to cease reviewing emails but said nothing about texts and social media.    

Net Neutrality

Though several states have proposed legislation to preserve net neutrality, Montana is the first out with a great workaround to the FCC’s ruling. The governor of Montana took a signed an executive order requiring internet service providers to abide by net neutrality rules if they want to contract with the state government. In a press release, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock stated, “When the FCC repealed its net neutrality rules, it said consumers should choose. The State of Montana is one of the biggest consumers of internet services in our state. Today we’re making our choice clear: we want net neutrality.”  The rules will go into effect for any company hoping to receive a contract with the state after July 1. As the New York Times notes, the order will affect several major providers, including Charter, CenturyLink, AT&T, and Verizon.

Social Media

Twitter Inc, which is reviewing Russian interference during the 2016 U.S. elections, said on Friday it would notify some of its users whether they were exposed to content generated by a suspected Russian propaganda service.  The company said it would email 677,775 people in the United States who followed, retweeted or liked content from accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency (IRA) during the election.

The #SchumerShutdown Hashtag Is Getting A Big Boost From Russian Bots.  Republicans and the White House are getting a big boost in their efforts to blame Democrats for the mess ― from the Russians.  The hashtag that GOP leaders and the White House are using to accuse Democrats of causing the shutdown ― on Sunday night became the top trending hashtag being promoted by Russian bots and trolls on Twitter, according to the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a project led by former top national security officials from both parties.

Facebook Will Hire 10,000 New Employees To Combat Fake News, Echo Chambers, And Propaganda.  The Facebook team, according to Chakrabarti, is committed to ” to understanding these risks and ensuring the good far overshadows the bad.”  

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) are urging Facebook and Twitter to investigate potential Russian involvement in the current partisan push to release a Republican-authored memo (#ReleaseTheMemo) that reportedly alleges the FBI used unlawful surveillance tactics to target a former Trump campaign adviser. Democrats say that the classified memo—which was written by Republican staffers on the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)—contains an alarming number of inaccuracies and misleading information and was assembled to undermine the FBI, the Justice Department, and ultimately the ongoing Russia probes.

Immigration

Trump’s roundup of immigrant leaders has begun. While our president played golf  on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, hundreds rallied outside a church to demand freedom for Jean Montrevil and Ravi Ragbir, two men who had just been detained by ICE. Both men have been in the U.S. for almost 60 years between them, and both are prominent immigrant-rights organizers. They aren’t the only ones who’ve been targeted by ICE lately. The administration is rounding up leaders in the immigrant community and those who have sought sanctuary..

An ACLU win: “The Sheriff of Fairfax, Virginia announced on Monday that her office will terminate an agreement that previously allowed ICE to request that the Sheriff’s hold inmates past their release without any criminal grounds. This reversal of the county’s ICE policy was the direct result of People Power activists working alongside the ACLU of VA and the Sheriff’s department to protect immigrants and build community trust. We’re proud to add the most populous county in the state of Virginia as one of our many Freedom Cities!”

Racism Roundup from EJI

In true MAGA style, a Maine town manager launched a ‘pro-white’ segregation group called “New Albion”. Historically, New Albion was the name of all North America north of Mexico, from “sea to sea,” claimed by Sir Francis Drake for England in 1579. Filtered through the imagination of a white supremacist, this implies some sort of horrific pogrom in present day America. To the credit of the town of Jackman, he was dismissed and they sincerely hope you’ll forget all about his nonsense and come visit them again.

Openly contemptuous, US border patrol routinely sabotages water left for migrants. Based on data from Customs and Border Protection (CBP), 6,336 people died crossing the border from 1998 to 2014.

White supremacist Steve Miller is writing the State of the Union address.

And lest the advent of this speech triggers people to yearn for a simpler president from our past, SNL has provided us with a little shot of memory.

A white supremacist wants to kill CNN employees.

The University of Alabama expelled a student for posting offensive videos with racist language. Even her own mother won’t defend her. “I agree with the punishment,” Barbera, of Marlton, told NJ.com. “I fully support their decision.”

Charges were dropped against the only officer to face criminal charges related to the death of Sandra Bland. After being stopped for not signaling a lane change, she was brutally arrested and was unable to make a $5,000 dollar bond. Three days later, she was found dead in her jail cell. The jail claims suicide, but her family said she had just moved to Texas for a new job at Prairie View A&M. Bland was an outspoken civil rights advocate who frequently posted on social media about police brutality and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. If you haven’t seen this video, give her the respect of watching it all the way through. A ticket for the original charge would have cost less than $200.

Tucker Carlson’s guest, “actual thinker” and Canadian Mark Steyn defends white supremacists and claims that Hispanics in Arizona represent the end of American society. Tucker Carlson has taken over the normalization of white supremacy from disgraced Bill O’Reilly.

‘I just don’t like Muslim people’: Trump appointee Carl Higbie, chief of external affairs in the Corporation for National and Community Service, resigns after less than six month for making racist, sexist and anti-gay remarks.

According to information compiled by the Anti-Defamation League, white supremacists were responsible for most extremist killings in 2017. Their annual report came a day after Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen spoke about the threats to America to the Senate Judiciary Committee without referring to right-wing extremist violence.

Flint, one of Michigan’s biggest cities, still doesn’t have clean water. Check out the unbelievable saga of getting safe water to drink in a modern American city. Why is drinking water under the “Racism Roundup”? Click here.

This is what a former assistant police chief told a recruit about catching juveniles smoking pot.

Judicial nominee doubts existence of implicit bias in criminal justice system.

Woman says AutoZone fired her after encounter with racist shopper.

American Urban Radio Network Washington Bureau Chief and CNN political analyst April Ryan  tells CNN’s Brian Stelter that she, along with other reporters, has received death threats for her coverage of the White House.

Video of police officer throwing arrested teen to ground sparks outrage.

Former producer claims Trump said ‘despicable’ racist comments about Blacks, Jews in taped ‘Apprentice’ meetings.

Trump administration blocks Haitians from temporary work visas.

Highways were meant to connect American cities, but in some glaring cases, they also cut right through them – disproportionately destroying African-American neighborhoods and communities.

Environment

The Weather Channel is no stranger to talking climate change or putting climate deniers (RIP Breitbart) in their place. But on Thursday, the only thing on their homepage is how climate change affects every American. “We wanted to go beyond presenting the science of climate change, which we do often, and show clear, specific consequences,” Greg Gilderman, Weather.com’s editor-in-chief, told The Washington Post.  There are 50 long-form stories, some investigations, videos and photos, rolled into one project to “communicate the reality of climate change across the country,”

united states of change

President Trump in a new interview again pushed back on claims of global warming, stating that polar ice caps have hit “a record level,” according to reports. True, but probably not what he meant. For the winter of 2016 and 2017, arctic sea ice levels were at a record low and temperatures were at a record high, the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center reported earlier this month.

Patagonia’s light show blast Trump policies on the eve of the Outdoor Retailer Show with a variety of statements projected on the McNichols Building.

patagonia.five.light.projections.outdoor.retailer.denver

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke defended his surprise decision to exempt Florida waters from the Trump administration’s push for new offshore drilling, saying in an exclusive interview with CNN that the state’s coastline is unique. “The coastal currents are different, the layout of where the geology is,” Zinke said Sunday. Apparently, this is now “geology”…

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Medical Issues/Insurance/Medicaid

“Calling Medicaid ‘the cornerstone of the social safety net,’ health law advocates have filed a federal lawsuit aimed at blocking work requirements and other changes to Medicaid that Gov. Matt Bevin plans to enact in Kentucky, the first state to do so under new federal standards. Legal experts feel Kentucky class action lawsuit challenging Medicaid work requirements has strong prospects for success.

Why the Medicaid work requirements are bad for West Virginia.

In a study published in the journal JAMA Surgery on Wednesday,  a team of doctors and public health researchers found evidence that patients in Meidcaid expansion states receive earlier and less invasive treatment for five common ailments.

Idaho officials said they will begin allowing insurers to sell new plans that don’t meet requirements set by the Affordable Care Act, a move that will test the limits of states’ ability to carve out their own health-insurance rules under the Trump administration.

Widely differing reinsurance bills are moving forward in the House and Senate. Only the one in the Senate is bi-partisan.

The Senate confirmed Alex M. Azar II on Wednesday to be secretary of health and human services, clearing the way for President Trump’s second health secretary to begin controlling more than a trillion dollars a year in spending on medical insurance coverage for about one-third of all Americans.

“Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Wednesday that he is pushing to revisit the repeal of ObamaCare this year. Cruz told reporters that he thinks GOP leadership is interested ‘if we can get 50 votes.‘ Senator Cruz needs another hobby.

Fear keeps immigrants and their families from health providers and facilities. This is bad for all of us.

The Republican-led Congress has turned the work of the president’s opioid commission into a “charade” and a “sham,” a member of the panel told CNN.

Contraception is quietly under siege at the Department of Health and Human Services. Acting Deputy Assistant secretary for the Office of Population Affairs in the Department of Health and Human Services  Valerie Huber, has spent her career working against birth control programs and advocating for abstinence-only programs; she had no government experience before joining HHS last summer. And that’s just the beginning.

Health care spending is spiking — but people in the U.S. aren’t using more health care, according to a new analysis from the Health Care Cost Institute. So what’s speeding the pace of health spending? Here’s a look at some of the factors at play:

  • Prescription drugs are getting more expensive. Between 2012 and 2016, prescription drug spending grew 27 percent, despite fewer people using brand-name prescriptions and generic drug prices staying the same or dropping slightly. The authors say the spending bump is due to price hikes for prescription drugs.

  • Emergency room visits are pricier. The average price for an ER visit grew nearly 32 percent over the five-year study period.

  • Surgery is increasingly costly, which is driving up spending for both inpatient and outpatient care. The average price for a surgical admission rose nearly 30 percent between 2012 and 2016, while the average price for outpatient surgery rose more than 19 percent.

Labor

The Intercept interviewed former EPI President Larry Mishel on the labor movement’s plans to shift the balance of power back to workers in 2018 and 2020. Mishel said the “Better Deal” package of reforms unveiled by congressional Democrats in 2017 includes some “seriously bold” ideas, including a ban on the permanent replacement of striking workers.

The Washington Post cited EPI research in a story on the economic fallout for workers from the long-term decline in union membership. As EPI research shows, the overall decline in union membership has been accompanied by a steady increase in the share of income going to the top 10 percent. However, union membership has grown in 2017 by 262,000, with 3 out of 4 new members being younger than 35.

union stats

 

Good Reads Recommended by Planned Parenthood.

We Are Living Through the Moment When Women Unleash Decades of Pent-Up Anger

No One Is Coming to Save Us From Trump’s Racism

Nothing Protects Black Women From Dying in Pregnancy and Childbirth

Planned Parenthood President to White Women: Do Better; Black Women Can’t Keep Saving the Country

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