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GOP Goes Right on Obamacare Replacement

Who What Why - 13 hours 6 min ago

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Republicans Go Right for Obamacare Replacement (Dan)

Republicans swing right in an effort to sway ‘Freedom Caucus’ conservatives to support the Obamacare replacement legislation. But will they lose moderate votes? Furthermore, what role will Trump play in negotiations?

Oil Market’s Big Problem (Jeff C.)

Gasoline station operators have reported that their sales are down 1.5 to 2 percent this year. Traders are growing worried the demand for gasoline is not there to keep crude prices above $50 a barrel.

Russian Hackers Targeting Macron, Say Cybersecurity Experts (Dan)

The same Russian hacking group that allegedly targeted the Clinton camp, known as ‘Fancy Bear’, is targeting France’s Emmanuel Macron, who is opposing the Russia-friendly Marine Le Pen.

The post GOP Goes Right on Obamacare Replacement appeared first on WhoWhatWhy.

Nasdaq sets fresh intraday record as Wall Street awaits Trump tax announcement

MarketWatch Market Pulse - 13 hours 15 min ago

U.S. stocks opened cautiously higher on Wednesday, but enough to help the Nasdaq touch a new all-time high, as investors awaited an announcement from President Donald Trump's administration on a "massive" tax plan. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 26 points, or 0.1%, at 21,019 and the S&P 500 index traded up a point at 2,380, less than 0.1% higher. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite Index , touched a new intraday trading high of 6,037.22, and was most recently trading flat at 6,024. Trump has vowed to slash the corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%, and a plan is set to be announced at 1:30 p.m. Eastern. In corporate news, shares of Twitter Inc. soared more than 9% after the social media company beat first-quarter earnings expectations.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.

Mnuchin says business tax rate at 15 percent in Trump tax plan

Reuters US Politics - 13 hours 16 min ago
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the plan for "the biggest tax cut" in U.S. history due to be released later on Wednesday by the White House would cut the business tax rate to 15 percent, including for small businesses.

MPs slam transparency over drone death of British IS member

MiddleEasteye - 13 hours 16 min ago
Language Undefined

Committee says Reyaad Khan posed 'serious threat to UK' when killed in Syria, but criticises lack of government support for probe into his death

Cyber extortion demands surge as victims keep paying: Symantec

Top Reuters News - 13 hours 18 min ago
TORONTO (Reuters) - Hackers are demanding increasingly hefty ransoms to free computers paralyzed with viruses, as cyber criminals seek to maximize profits from large numbers of victims willing to pay up, according to cyber security firm Symantec Corp .

Russia says U.S. missile strike on Syria was a threat to its forces

Top Reuters News - 13 hours 18 min ago
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu complained on Wednesday that a U.S. missile strike on a Syrian air base earlier this month had posed a threat to Russian troops and was forcing Moscow to take extra measures to protect them.

Iraqi forces retake ancient city of Hatra from IS

MiddleEasteye - 13 hours 21 min ago
Language Undefined

Hatra includes a Unesco world heritage site that has been subjected to damage by the Islamic State group

Control is the Purpose of the Dole System

Future of Freedom Foundation - 13 hours 23 min ago

Let’s give Donald Trump some credit. With his termination of federal money to so-called sanctuary cities, which a federal judge just declared unconstitutional, at least Trump is showing us the real purpose of the dole society.

No, it has nothing to do with loving the “poor, needy, and disadvantaged,” as both liberals and conservatives have maintained ever since the advent of the American welfare state in the 1930s. It’s about control. Put people on the dole and you control them. Just like heroin. Once a person or a governmental unit goes on the dole, he or it will do whatever is necessary to remain on the dole, convinced that he or it would die without it.

Once someone goes on the dole, he falls under the control of the dole provider, much like a heroin addict falls under the control of his heroin dealer. Like the heroin addict, the dole recipient becomes passive, submissive, compliant, and obedient for fear that if he doesn’t do what the dole provider wants, the dole provider will terminate his dole, which, in the mind of the dole recipient, would be the same as killing him.

We see this phenomenon all across America, not just with the welfare-state dole but also with the warfare-state dole.

Recall the Vietnam War, the civil war in which the U.S. government embroiled the United States in the 1960s. Like the U.S. government’s wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East today, it was destined to be a forever war — one that the U.S. government would still be fighting today had it not been for the antiwar protesters and demonstrators, most of whom were in the teens and early twenties. It was those people who succeeded in bringing that illegal and unconstitutional intervention to an end.

Where are those protesters today? They are silent, passive, submissive, obedient, and compliant in the face of the forever wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the rest of the Middle East. Surely, most of them don’t buy into the notion that the “terrorists are coming to get us” any more than they bought into the notion that the “communists are coming to get us.”

So, why the difference? Why aren’t those people who succeeded in getting the United States out of Vietnam, after more than 58,000 needless deaths of American servicemen, protesting and demonstrating against the Pentagon’s and CIA’s forever wars today? Why are they instead so effusive about thanking the Pentagon and the CIA for their “service” to America and for protecting our rights and freedoms from people who pose no threat to our rights and freedoms? Why are they so reluctant to oppose the extraordinary, totalitarian powers that are now wielded by the U.S. national-security establishment, including the powers to arrest, kidnap, incarcerate, torture, or assassinate American citizens, all without due process of law and trial by jury? Why are they so passive in the face of massive federal spending and debt that threatens to bankrupt the nation?

It could be tiredness and old age but I think there is a better explanation. It’s because of the dole. Those 1960s antiwar protesters are now on Social Security and Medicare. Now on the dole, they are scared to death that the government will get angry at them and cut off their dole. In their minds, that’s equivalent to killing them. Most Social Security recipients simply cannot imagine that life is possible without the dole.

And they might well be right to be concerned. U.S. officials would have no compunctions about retaliating against seniors who object to their forever wars any more than they have reservations about retaliating against cities who object to their immigration policies.

The master politician Franklin Roosevelt knew exactly what he was doing when he got Social Security enacted into law in the 1930s, after Americans had lived without this socialist program for more than 100 years. He knew that once he got people on the dole, he had them right where he wanted them — under the control of the government.

Look at Norfolk, Virginia. It is one of the many U.S. cities on the warfare dole. It has the largest Navy base in the world as well as one of NATO’s two Strategic Command headquarters. According to Wikipedia, the Navy station “compromises over 62,000 active duty personnel, 75 ships, and 132 aircraft. The region also plays an important role in defense contracting.”

What are the chances that people in Norfolk would ever take the lead in protests and demonstrations against the Pentagon’s and CIA’s forever wars in Afghanistan and Iraq or against the warfare-state way of life itself? The chances are nil. People in Norfolk would be scared to death of losing their warfare-state dole. Like people in other cities on the warfare dole, they have convinced themselves that their dole is essential to “national security.”

More than 50 years ago, President Eisenhower pointedly referred to this phenomenon in his Farewell Address and described it as a grave threat to America’s liberties and democratic values. The situation has only gotten progressively worse with each passing decade.

That’s what the dole — both welfare and warfare — does to people. It destroys their sense of independence, self-reliance, self-esteem, and can-do. It converts them into passive, submissive, compliant, and obedient servants of the welfare-warfare state, no matter how much it is destroying their liberty and well-being as well as the liberty and well-being of their children and grandchildren and of their country.

The so-called sanctuary cities have won the first round against Donald Trump by securing a court injunction prohibiting him from terminating their dole. But make no mistake about it: If Trump succeeds in overturning the injunction on appeal, faced with a termination of their dole city officials in every sanctuary city in America will quickly fall into line rather than lose their dole.

The post Control is the Purpose of the Dole System appeared first on The Future of Freedom Foundation.

U.S. Steel suffers biggest stock plunge in its 26-year public history

MarketWatch Market Pulse - 13 hours 28 min ago

Shares of U.S. Steel Corp. plunged 25% in morning trade Wednesday, putting them on course to suffer the biggest one-day selloff since they went public in April 1991, after the steelmaker reported a surprise quarterly loss. The previous biggest one-day drop was 18% on Oct. 15, 2008. The stock, which was by far the biggest percentage decliner listed on the NYSE, was trading at the lowest level seen since Nov. 8, 2016. At one point, the stock had nearly doubled after the election, to a 2 1/2-year high close of $41.26 on Feb. 21, before all the post-election gains were erased. Volume topped the full-day average of 19.0 million shares within 15 minutes after the open. The company reported late Tuesday an adjusted loss per share of 83 cents, compared with the FactSet consensus for a profit of 35 cents a share. Revenue of $2.73 billion also missed expectations of $2.95 billion. The stock has now shed 29% year to date, while the S&P 500 has gained 6.7%.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.

For some Mosul men, escape leads straight to the interrogator

Top Reuters News - 13 hours 34 min ago
HAMMAM AL-ALIL CAMP, Iraq (Reuters) - The Iraqi intelligence officer kept barking the same question at the 46-year-old man who was looking nervously at his hands after having escaped Mosul: "Why do you still have a beard?"

Saudis hire world's biggest PR firm to push 'Muslim Nato'

MiddleEasteye - 13 hours 56 min ago
Language Undefined

Campaigners accuse Burson-Marsteller of complicity in 'whitewashing' human rights abuses over deal with Islamic Military Alliance

Trump Takes Aim at Libraries

Truth-Out - 14 hours 6 min ago

Donald Trump's "America First" budget proposal for 2018 puts working-class communities last, calling for the elimination of several federally supported, independent, cultural institutions, including the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

IMLS helps fund literacy and technology programs in 123,000 libraries and about 35,000 museums across the US -- all with a budget of just $230 million, which is about .05 percent of the entire federal budget.

IMLS is currently funded through a continuing resolution that expires on April 28, 2017, and additional legislation must be passed for funding to continue.

If Trump's budget passes, the cuts will have a devastating impact on those who utilize public libraries in rural areas and poor urban communities in particular.

IMLS funds libraries through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) Grants to States program. It allots a base amount of $680,000 to each state plus an additional amount based on population.

The money goes toward library programming directed at underserved patron populations -- teens, senior citizens, immigrants, adults learners for instance. There is also a focus on the maintenance and expansion of technology in libraries.

For many rural populations, the library is the only place to access the internet. In an official statement against Trump's America First budget, IMLS director Kathryn Matthews explained:

We've invested in rural and smaller communities by supporting basic infrastructure and by developing libraries as local community hubs for broadband connectivity and digital literacy training -- helping many residents gain job-related skills and, in many cases, find employment...our grants and programs support libraries and museums as essential contributors to improving Americans' quality of life.


For urban areas and poorer towns in states like Massachusetts, IMLS money goes toward projects that enhance access to information for working-class families who aren't necessarily connected to universities and the databases they may use.

Things like the Commonwealth Catalog, a system that supports interlibrary loan throughout the state, and the Digital Commonwealth, an organization that houses digitized material from libraries, museums and historical societies from around the state, provide access to faraway materials to anyone with a library card and internet access.

Furthermore, families that can't afford to place their kids in summer programs look forward to the Statewide Summer Library Program, which helps build reading skills and interest during summer break through prizes and activities at the library.

Despite the fact that IMLS provides the only federal funding for libraries, it's regularly threatened with cuts or elimination. The 2017 budget was actually slightly increased, a small relief from the deep and destructive cuts suffered in 2012 and 2013 under the Obama administration. Just in the last fiscal year, Sen. Paul Ryan proposed getting rid of IMLS entirely.

The way the money is distributed to state entities also undermines libraries' sustainability. State governments can choose to spread the money to localities through state programs or competitive grants. This is partially why public libraries often run on shoestring budgets. Government funding, which could be the most stable, is at best inconsistent.

A look at where Trump's budget plan proposes cuts and where it proposes increases underlines how the administration prioritized corporate profits over the resources workers need. It's the only way to explain why libraries are being forced to sacrifice with a minuscule budget while the Defense Department could see a 9 percent increase.


Even before these proposed budget cuts, librarians have been on the front lines of the fight against Trump's attacks.

The most visible and expansive mobilization has been against the administration's ban on travelers from Muslim-majority countries, in which school and public librarians posted signs that read "All are welcome" or "Libraries are for everyone" on their front doors or information desks.

Public librarian Rebecca McCorkindale created these images which spread like wild fire internationally on library social media.

"Libraries are the heart of a community, for anyone and everyone that lives there, regardless of their background," explained McCorkindale, who is assistant library director at the Gretna, Nebraska, public library. "And so we strongly believe that libraries are not neutral. We stand up for human rights."

This is a growing sentiment among librarians. And of course, news about the potential cut in federal funding for libraries has again activated library professionals who are trying all the more to organize librarians.

The hashtag #LibrariesResist has become a way for librarians to share resources for patrons facing discrimination -- from immigrants to trans youth -- and to connect people with activist organizing.

While much of the calls to action around the cuts to IMLS have been appeals to contact legislators, the fact that librarians see it as part of their actual job to resist Trump's attacks on the most vulnerable in this society is encouraging.

The resistance to Trump in broader society is being reflected in the libraries, and this can have a real impact on library worker's ability to demand funding for these necessary services, beyond the fiscal budget vote.

The Trump administration has something to fear in the potential alliance of librarians, library workers and the communities they serve.

Building on the Tax Marches

Truth-Out - 14 hours 7 min ago

As the deadline to mail checks to the IRS approached, organizers in New York were still protesting, and this time not only about President Donald Trump's tax returns. Activists with the grassroots organization New York Communities for Change and other progressive groups held a rally on April 18 in front of Goldman Sachs's headquarters in New York City to confront the world's most powerful bank for dodging taxes and taking resources away from working people.

In the eight years between 2008 and 2015, Goldman avoided paying $5.5 billion in taxes by using various loopholes, billions that could have been used for public housing, healthcare, education, and many other vital programs and services. That's around $21.60 per second in tax avoidance. At that rate, Goldman will have dodged about $4,000 in taxes by the time you finish reading this, about half the federal income taxes paid by the average American family.

While Goldman's tax avoidance wizards worked their magic in the years following the crisis, it wasn't because the cupboards were bare. In fact profits rose, and its net revenue in 2015 was $33.8 billion.

The fact is, most Americans don't mind paying taxes. What ticks people off is when rich people don't pay their fair share. This year, longstanding tax avoidance by the most powerful individuals and corporations got people off their chairs and into the streets in protest.

Saturday's tax rallies across the country helped refocus America's outrage at Trump's refusal to make his tax returns public as every President since Richard Nixon has done. The rally at Goldman Sachs was a reminder that the demand for transparency is only the tip of the iceberg. For the protesters at Goldman Sachs chanting "Stop Looting America!", the fight for tax justice is every bit as important.

Despite its misconduct and role in the 2008 financial crisisGoldman Sachs received over $10 billion in bailout money from American taxpayers. Adding insult to injury, Goldman Sachs does not exactly have a clean record when it comes to legal compliance.

Protesters descended upon Goldman Sachs demanding not only that they pay up, but also stop robbing wealth from communities, which they have done by continuously investing in companies that move jobs overseas (they have moved their own jobs, too), playing a major role in the foreclosure crisis, creating the first "social impact" bond that would make the company millions off of the private prison industry, and privatizing water systems across the United States.

Protesters' concerns with Goldman didn't end there. They lambasted Trump for filling his cabinet and senior adviser positions with Goldman alumni (six to date), aptly nicknaming his administration "Government Sachs."

These include Trump's treasury secretary, long-time Wall Street insider Steve Mnuchin, who aggressively foreclosed on thousands of people during the financial crisis and made millions in the process, and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, former CEO of Goldman Sachs who received more than $100 million in bonuses and options from Goldman Sachs as a parting gift before assuming a key role in Trump's administration.

With the two of them as likely architects of Trump's tax plan, you can be sure Goldman Sachs will get a fantastic return on that "investment."

Finally, having surrounded himself with Goldman Sachs alums to advise him on economic policy, Trump nominated Wall Street bailout lawyer Jay Clayton to be Wall Street's top cop as Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Big banks and Wall Street billionaires have been dodging taxes since long before Trump was President, and Goldman Sachs is hardly alone among financial industry tax dodgers. But Trump's tax reform plan -- for all the tough talk on the campaign trail -- would blow existing loopholes wide open. And no one is better situated to help shape and push for this plan than Goldman Sachs. Here's an overview of how Trump's plan would be a giveaway to Wall Street:

  • Trump's plan would slash the corporate tax rate from 35 to 15 percent, and House Republicans are considering a 20 percent rate. That would mean that big banks and corporations would pay a lower rate than working people, meaning billions of dollars lost in revenue needed for vital programs.

  • Banks that have been stashing huge piles of profits offshore would get a huge tax cut. Fortune 500 companies owe but have not paid about $750 billion in taxes on $2.6 trillion in profits they have stashed offshore, and would be able to bring them back at a tax rate of 10 percent.

  • Hedge fund owners could get as much as a two-thirds cut on their individual tax rates. This would be a $1.5 trillion giveaway in 10 years, according to the Tax Policy Center, which would mostly go to Wall Street billionaires and the richest 1 percent -- the same people Trump once said were "getting away with murder."

  • Heirs to Wall Street fortunes would enjoy a massive cut in estate taxes, an effective estate tax rate of about 16.6 percent, which would funnel about $81 billion into the pockets of Wall Street titans' heirs.

Benjamin Franklin once said that "in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." Unless, of course, you're a Wall Street bank. Indeed, "death and taxes" is a fitting description for what the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress are cynically trying to serve working people, while aspiring for immunity for the 1 percent.

Goldman Sachs is emblematic of the greed and recklessness that blew up our economy in 2008, and of a system that not only coddles billionaires and big banks, but allows them to set the rules of the game, at the expense of millions of people.

While working people face stagnant wages even as productivity increases, the Trump administration and their billionaire buddies on Wall Street and in Congress continue to contrive ways to squeeze workers in order to fund corporate welfare.

Citizens are not taking this sitting down. Not only are they rejecting this preposterously unfair agenda, they are going a step further: demanding the cheaters and looters pay up -- demanding that Wall Street pay its fair share in taxes. Complementing this month's actions, the Take On Wall Street coalition is rallying around a series of reforms supported by citizens from across the political spectrum that would help ensure Wall Street pays its fair share, and would generate almost $1 trillion over 10 years. When it comes to patriotism, it's time Trump puts his money where his mouth is and support proposals for the 1 percent to pay its fair share.

Despite Trump's tweeted dismissal, this month's marches demonstrated there is real concern out there about his tax returns. It'd be foolish for him to ignore the fact that this concern is not about an isolated case, but rather stems from a deeper outrage over his plans to let banks like Goldman Sachs and billionaires like himself continue to rig the tax code for their benefit.  

Mnuchin confirms Trump to propose 15% corporate tax rate

MarketWatch Market Pulse - 14 hours 33 min ago

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin confirmed on Wednesday that the White House tax plan will include a 15% corporate tax rate. That is down from the current 35%. Mnuchin also indicated the administration has shelved the so-called border adjustment tax for now, saying it doesn't work "in its current form." He said there will be more details on the plan later Wednesday, and that it would be the biggest tax cut in history.

Market Pulse Stories are Rapid-fire, short news bursts on stocks and markets as they move. Visit MarketWatch.com for more information on this news.

Rod Dreher's Monastic Vision

RealClearPolitics - 14 hours 40 min ago
Josh Rothman, The New Yorker
Rod Dreher was forty-four when his little sister died. At the time, he was living in Philadelphia with his wife and children. His sister, Ruthie, lived in their Louisiana home town, outside St. Francisville (pop. 1,712). Dreher’s family had been there for generations, but he had never fit in. As a teen-ager, when his father and sister went hunting he stayed in his room and listened to the Talking Heads; he read “A Moveable Feast” and dreamed of Paris. He left as soon as he could, becoming a television critic for the Washington Times and then a film critic for the New York...

Trump Has Been Spectacularly Lucky in His Enemies

RealClearPolitics - 14 hours 41 min ago
Michael Goodwin, New York Post
Unless the world ends before Saturday, most assessments of President Trump’s first 100 days will include a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly. The emphasis will reveal more about those doing the grading than Trump himself.