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Originally Published: 9/2/2017

Hurricane Harvey:  What we’ve witnessed in the Houston area is exactly what climate scientists have been predicting for years. In fact, it’s a 1,000-year event, “unprecedented in scale.” (Washington Post) Sea level rise, sea surface temperatures, atmospheric moisture, all of which contributed to the severity of this storm, have been predicted. (Guardian) Harvey is said to be the most extreme rain event in history, but you can be sure it won’t be the last. (Washington Post) On top of the unparalleled loss of property, ExxonMobil refineries have been damaged, “releasing hazardous pollutants” (Washington Post) and a chemical plant experienced 2 explosions, releasing toxic emissions. (Guardian) [BTW: The company that owns the chemical plant successfully lobbied Texas Republicans to eliminate its safety rules. (International Business Times)] Despite these and other environmental threats unleashed by Harvey which Houston will experience for decades to come, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Secretary, Scott Pruitt, criticized the media for tying Harvey and other severe weather events to climate change. (Media Matters) What has the government been up to? In addition to getting rid of standards for new infrastructure in flood-prone areas (TWW, Flood Standards, 8/26/17), for the past month congress critters have been fighting over a revamping of the National Flood Insurance Program, which must be renewed by September 30th - the end of the Federal Fiscal Year (FFY). (McClatchy) Trump’s budget proposal cuts hundreds of millions of dollars from disaster relief programs (Time) and the GOP is considering cutting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) by $1 billion in order to help fund Trump’s border wall. (Time) What this will all mean for Harvey victims is unknown. Also hampering help is the lack of FEMA officials. Trump just recently bragged about reducing the size of government by not filling crucial positions at FEMA (along with the Department of Homeland Security, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Weather Service.) (Think Progress) And a new Texas law, meant to reduce frivolous insurance claims, took effect yesterday. It reduces the penalties that insurance companies must pay for late payments if a policyholder files suit. (Texas Tribune)

 

Moscow Deal:  While Trump was running for president, he was “pursuing a plan to develop a massive Trump Tower in Moscow.” The discussions were being held with a Russian-born real estate developer, Felix Sater, who urged Trump to come to Moscow and said he could get Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, to say “great things” about Trump. [Note: Sater is the guy who did a stint in prison for stabbing a man in the face with the stem of a margarita glass. (TWW, Russian Connection, 3/4/17) He’s also the guy who delivered the plan to lift Russia’s sanctions to Michael Flynn. (TWW, Exxon and Russia, 2/25/17)] Sater predicted in an email that he and the Trump organization leaders “would soon be celebrating” the biggest residential real estate project in real estate history and Trump’s election as president. Sater wrote to Trump Organization Executive Vice President Michael Cohen “something to the effect of, ‘Can you believe 2 guys from Brooklyn are going to elect a president?’” (Washington Post) And Michael Cohen, a Trump attorney and executive vice-president of the Trump Organization, sent an email to Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s top press aide, requesting assistance with the Moscow Trump Tower. Cohen wrote: “Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it. I will get all of Putins [sic] team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.” (Washington Post)

 

Voting Commission:  U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said the Election Integrity Commission (TWW, Voting, 5/13/17; Operation Crosscheck, 7/8/17) released “only an agenda and proposed bylaws before its first meeting at the White House” last month. She ruled that Trump’s commission reneged “on a promise to fully disclose public documents” before the July 19th meeting but at the meeting they sat “with thick binders that included documents the public had not seen, including a specially prepared report and a 381-page ‘database’ purporting to show 1,100 cases of voter fraud both from the Heritage Foundation, and also received a typed list of possible topics to address from the panel vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris W. Kobach.” She ordered the commission “to meet new transparency requirements” and “elicited” an apology from Trump administration lawyers. She called the commission’s “after-the-fact” argument “incredible.” (Washington Post)

 

Iran:  The White House is pressuring U.S. intelligence officials “to produce a justification to declare Iran in violation” of the 2015 nuclear agreement. (Guardian)

 

North Korea:  It fired 2 missiles in 4 days over Japan. The Japanese government sent a text alerting citizens to the launch and advising them to take protective cover. (NY Times)

 

Russia:  Trump ordered 3 Russian diplomatic facilities in the U.S. closed following the expulsion of American diplomats from Russia. (TWW, Russia, 8/5/17) The consulate in San Francisco and annexes in New York and Washington are to be closed. (NY Times)

 

Southern Asia:  If you think Hurricane Harvey is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today you’d be wrong. Though a disaster for many - with an estimated 44 killed and 32,000 in shelters (Guardian) - it’s not the worst. In southern Asia there are more than 2,200 people killed and some 40 million lives turned upside down. Northern India, southern Nepal, northern Bangladesh, and southern Pakistan are hurting. (Guardian)

 

Arizona:  U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton canceled Joe Arpaio’s sentencing hearing, but she didn’t throw out his conviction based on Trump’s pardon. (TWW, Arizona, 8/26/17) “Instead she ordered Arpaio and the U.S. Department of Justice, which is prosecuting the case, to file briefs on why she should or shouldn’t grant Arpaio’s request” to vacate his conviction. She scheduled oral arguments for October 4th. (AZ Central)

 

California:  In San Diego there’s an outbreak of Hepatitis A, believed to be the deadliest outbreak in the U.S. in decades. 264 people, mostly homeless, have been hospitalized since last November. 14 have died, 9 since July. (Guardian)

 

Georgia:  A Cobb County police lieutenant was put on administrative duty after being heard on a video during a traffic stop saying, “We only kill black people.” (Guardian)

 

Illinois:  Governor Bruce Rauner (R) signed the Trust Act which will limit local law enforcement agencies from engaging in federal immigration enforcement efforts to detain suspected undocumented immigrants. (Think Progress) And the Illinois attorney general filed suit against Chicago “seeking a court-enforced consent decree to overhaul officer training and remedy discriminatory practices.” (NY Times)

 

Indiana:  It’s removing voters from its polling list without telling them, thanks to a new law that violates the National Voter Registration Act (the Motor Voter Act). In 2014 Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R) adopted Crosscheck (TWW, Operation Crosscheck, 7/8/17) to search for voters who may be registered to vote in more than one state. Under the original rules, when a name came up that appeared to be double-registered, that person had to be notified and warned that if they didn’t fix it they could be removed. But a new law “permits voters to be automatically removed from registration rolls without giving any notice or allowing for a waiting period for those purged to respond, and it could all be a mistake.” (Daily Beast)

 

Texas:  U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio blocked Texas from enforcing its ban on sanctuary cities, “questioning the constitutionality of a law that has pitted Republican state leaders against several Democratic-leaning cities.” The ruling was temporary and blocked the law from taking effect on Friday, but the suit goes forward. (NY Times)

 

Spending Bill:  There’s a spending bill going through the House and, as usual, it’s garnering hundreds of amendments. One promoted by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R, FL) would set a time limit of 6 months for Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller to complete his investigation. (Politico)

 

Tax Revision:  Trump launched his campaign to overhaul the tax system, starting with corporate taxes. He wants to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20%, which will result in a revenue loss of $3 trillion to $7 trillion over the next decade. (Guardian) According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), corporations do not pay 35%, their effective rate is much lower due to loopholes. In fact, it’s only between 13% and 19%, with many corporations paying nothing and some even getting money from us. (TWW, Corporate Tax Rate, 3/18/17) And previously EPI had found that cutting the corporate rate does not create jobs or boost incomes for the vast majority of Americans. (TWW, Corporate Taxes, 5/20/17) In fact, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said that for every $1 billion in tax savings they could create 7,000 well-paying jobs. However, AT&T, which had an effective tax rate of 8% between 2008 and 2015 with extraordinary profits, reduced its workforce by 80,000. But it spent $34 billion buying its stock back (TWW, Stock Buy-Backs, 5/30/15). Stock buy-backs inflate the cost of stock. CEOs then promptly sell their stocks for a hefty profit. Stephenson cashed in $124 million in stock options and grants. (NY Times

 

2016 Election:  Cyber experts, as well as President Obama and other government officials, knew that Russian operatives might try to tamper with the electronic voting systems. They did nothing. “In the summer of 2016, a cluster of volunteers on a federally supervised cybersecurity team crafting 2018 election guidelines felt compelled to do something sooner. . . They scrambled to draw up ways for state and local official to patch the most obvious cyber vulnerabilities before Election Day 2016.” They drafted a 5-page list of recommendations to fix systems, “but the list was stopped in its tracks.” Here we are, a year later, and intelligence agencies are warning that Russian operatives have their eyes on 2018 “and beyond.” But our more than 7,000 election jurisdictions nationwide “still do not have access to those guidelines for shielding the voting process.” (McClatchy)

 

Police Militarization:  Trump has removed restrictions on the 1033 program (TWW, Militarization of Police, 10/18/14) which were placed by Obama. (TWW, Urban Militarization, 8/15/15) This is the program by which the military sells surplus equipment to local police enforcement agencies. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement at the National Fraternal Order of Police conference. (CBS)

 

ICE Records:  Immigration and Customs Enforcement has asked the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) to approve its timetable for retaining and destroying records related to its detention operations. ICE specifically wants to routinely start destroying 11 kinds of records, “including those related to sexual assaults, solitary confinement, and even deaths of people in its custody.” Other records they want to destroy: “Regular detention monitoring reports, logs about the people detained in ICE facilities, and communications from the public reporting detention abuses.” (ACLU)

 

Net Neutrality:  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and its chair, Ajit Pai, has shut down its comment line for repealing Net Neutrality. (Guardian)

 

Equal Pay Rule:  Trump has stopped the implementation of the equal pay initiative put in place by Obama. The provision would have required employers to report aggregate information on how much they pay workers - broken down by gender, race, and ethnicity. Interestingly, Ivanka Trump, who speaks frequently about the importance of equal pay for women, said she’s just fine with this. (Guardian)

 

Nuclear Overhaul:  Trump is pushing ahead with his plan to overhaul our nuclear arsenal. The Air Force has issued major new contracts for $1.8 billion for initial development of a “highly stealthy nuclear cruise missile,” and nearly $700 million to begin replacing the 40-year-old Minuteman missiles now in U.S. silos. This is part of Obama’s plan which is estimated to ultimately cost more than $1 trillion. Critics claim this will set off a new arms race “and billions of dollars squandered.” (NY Times)

 

ACA:  The Trump administration is “gutting” funds that help Americans sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, “cutting grants to grassroots groups that assist with enrollment by 40% and slashing an advertising budget from $100 million to $10 million.” Many believe this is an effort to undermine the program. (Washington Post)

 

Dicamba:  This “miracle” weed killer was supposed to save farms. Instead, it’s killing them. It doesn’t just kill weeds, it’s killing crops. “The problem, farmers and weed scientists say, is that dicamba has drifted from the fields where it was sprayed, damaging millions of acres of unprotected soybeans and other crops in what some are calling a man-made disaster.” It’s becoming a “deepening crisis in American agriculture.” (Washington Post)

 

Environmental Regulations:  For the past 9 years, California has been releasing its Green Innovation Index. “The results this year show a continuing trend: For 2-1/2 decades, California’s GDP and population have continued to rise, while per capita carbon dioxide emissions have stayed flat.” And California isn’t done yet. It has 2 goals: to reduce emission to 1990 levels by 2020 and 40% below that a decade later. (Wired)

 

Unemployment:  The unemployment rate crept up to 4.4% in August as job growth slowed, with only 156,000 jobs being created. (Reuters)

 

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