Originally Published: 11/25/2017
Net Neutrality: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unveiled its plans to do away with net neutrality. Currently, net neutrality rules state that all Internet content, whether from big or small companies, is treated equally by Internet providers. You Tube has a great little video explaining what will happen if net neutrality is abolished. According to the NY Times, the big winners are the telecom giants like AT&T and Comcast. The losers could be Internet sites that will have to bow to telecom firms to get their content in front of consumers. Small businesses are particularly concerned. (NY Times) But consumers are the real losers, and they know it. According to a survey by Consumer Reports, only 16% of respondents are in favor of doing away with net neutrality. With the abolition of net neutrality you might have a change in the speed at which your data transmits - a service that you pay for. And you might have to pay for some services - like Netflix. Be prepared to pay your ISP more money just to get it - in addition to the fee you pay to Netflix. (CBS) It’s expected to pass next month at the FCC meeting. Last spring and early summer the FCC took public comments. However, reports are that many of those comments are fake, generated by bots. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been investigating what he calls “a massive scheme” to corrupt the FCC. Schneiderman has asked FCC chair Ajit Pai for information but “the FCC has been unwilling to provide information that is critical to the investigation.” (The Hill) And, it looks like Comcast’s meeting with Pai was fruitful. (TWW, Net Neutrality, 11/11/17) The FCC plan now includes a block on any local laws or regulations that “effectively impose rules or requirements that [the FCC has] repealed or decided to refrain from imposing in this order or that would impose more stringent requirements for any aspect of broadband service that we address in this order.” (The Verge) More preemption.
Ocean Club: Trump’s Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower in Panama City is a 70-story skyscraper. It was his first international hotel venture and it opened in 2011. It is a mix of condominiums, hotel rooms, and a casino. It has earned him about $13.9 million in management and royalty fees in the last 3 years. Amazingly, it is almost deserted. The restaurants are nearly deserted; the condominiums and hotel rooms empty. Many of the condos were bought by people who don’t live there but allegedly bought them to launder money, primarily Russian gangster money, drug cartel money, and people-smuggling money. According to a joint report from Reuters-NBC News along with a report by Global Witness, the Tower has ties to international organized crime. Reportedly Donald gave the venture to his daughter Ivanka as a way of getting her real estate experience. Global Witness wrote that Trump may not have intended to facilitate criminal activity, but he “seems to have done little to nothing to prevent this. What is clear is that proceeds from Columbian cartels’ narcotics trafficking were laundered through the Trump Ocean Club and that Donald Trump was one of the beneficiaries.”
Michael Flynn: The NY Times reported that Flynn “notified the president’s legal team in recent days that they could no longer discuss the special counsel’s investigation.” The report opines that this is an indication that Flynn “is cooperating with prosecutors or negotiating such a deal.” Flynn’s lawyers had been sharing information with Trump’s lawyers, so now that information is no longer flowing.
State Department: There appears to be a revolt going on in the State Department. A group has taken “the unusual step” of accusing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of “violating a federal law designed to stop foreign militaries from enlisting child soldiers.” Reuters got a confidential memo that said that Tillerson “breached the Child Soldiers Prevention Act when he decided in June to exclude Iraq, Myanmar, and Afghanistan from a U.S. list of offenders in the use of child soldiers. This was despite the department publicly acknowledging that children were being conscripted in those countries.”
Mick Mulvaney: Trump named his Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director as the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), “moving to take control of the agency hours after its departing leader had taken steps to install his own choice for acting chief.” Richard Cordray, who resigned last week (TWW, CFPB, 11/18/17), abruptly announced on Friday that he would be leaving at the end of the day, a week earlier than he had anticipated, and named his chief of staff, Leandra English, as the agency’s deputy director, setting her up for acting director. “The move was seen as an effort to delay Mr. Trump from appointing his own director, whose confirmation could take months.” Mulvaney, “who once characterized the consumer protection bureau as a ‘sad, sick joke,’ would be running the agency.” Mulvaney will also be keeping his job as head of the OMB. But under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, the deputy director will serve as the acting director “in the absence of a permanent leader.” This is clearly the GOP’s move to destroy the CFPB. (NY Times)
Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel failed to form a new government. “At a time when the European Union is facing a host of pressing problems, from Brexit negotiations with Britain, to the rise of right-wing populism, to separatism in Spain’s Catalonia region, the possibility of political instability in a normally reliable Germany sent tremors through the Continent.” (NY Times)
North Korea: Trump has returned it to the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. Dubya had removed it from the list as “an opportunity to salvage a fragile nuclear deal in which North Korea would agree to halt its nuclear program.” (NY Times) And the Treasury Department imposed more sanctions on them “to curb military programs.” (CNBC)
Zimbabwe: President Mugabe was fired by the ruling party as its leader, but he refused to give up his power. The party, Zanu-PF, appointed the vice president in his place. (Guardian) On Tuesday he finally resigned after they began impeachment proceedings against him. (NY Times) Emmerson Mnangagwa has been sworn in as the new president. (TelesurTV)
Tax Cut Plan: Adam Davidson, writing at The New Yorker, reminded us that there is no debate. “The middle class will, in the long run, pay more in taxes than under current law, and the rich will pay less.” And the Washington Post pointed out that the GOP tax plan attacks higher education. “Ending a tax deduction for interest paid on student loans. Raising taxes for more than 100,000 graduate students who receive tuition waivers. Imposing a levy on endowments at certain private colleges and universities. These actions are anathema to higher education leaders across the country.”
Sanctuary Cities: U.S. District Judge William Orrick in San Francisco issued an injunction to permanently block Trump’s executive order to deny funding to cities that refused to cooperate with federal immigration officials. Orrick said the order is unconstitutional. (Washington Post)
Deportations: It looks like White House chief of Staff John Kelly and White House Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert are getting their way. (TWW, Deportations, 11/11/17) The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it is ending protections for 59,000 Haitians and has given them until July 2019 to leave. (NY Times)
Transgender Troops: U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis stopped Trump’s proposed transgender military ban, “finding that active-duty service members are ‘already suffering harmful consequences’ because of the president’s policy.” This ruling goes further that the earlier ruling (TWW, Transgender Troops, 11/4/17) by also preventing Trump’s administration “from denying funding for sex-reassignment surgeries after the order takes effect.” (Washington Post)
Debt Punishment: Unpaid student loans are causing people to lose their jobs. In 19 states they can seize your state-issued professional licenses if you default on your student loans. In South Dakota, they suspend your driver’s license. “As debt levels rise, creditors are taking increasingly tough actions to chase people who fall behind on student loans. Going after professional licenses stands out as especially punitive. Firefighters, nurses, teachers, lawyers, massage therapists, barbers, psychologists, and real estate brokers have all had their credentials suspended or revoked.” Check out the map and see if your state is this punitive. (NY Times)
Keystone XL: Despite last week’s spill (TWW, Keystone Oil Spill, 11/18/17), the Nebraska Public Service Commission, in a 3 to 2 decision along party lines, approved the $8 billion pipeline. This was the last hoop TransCanada had to jump through. However, they rejected the preferred route and approved an alternative route that will take the pipeline farther east. The pipeline will carry 830,000 barrels a day, but it will not cross any part of the state’s ecologically delicate Sandhills region. (Washington Post)
Earthquakes: Scientists are warning there could be an increase in earthquakes next year. They believe that “variations in the speed of the Earth’s rotation could trigger intense seismic activity, particularly in heavily populated tropical regions.” (Guardian)
Workers Rights: As I’ve pointed out many times, cities, counties, and other local governments have been enacting policies that raise standards for working people - like increased minimum wage, fair scheduling, labor agreements, and paid leave. But state legislatures have been enacting preemption laws, which void the local ordinances. 26 states have preemption laws that target these key worker rights. The Economic Policy Institute has a great map to let you see what your state is doing.
AT&T/Time Warner Merger: The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division is suing to block the merger. The Washington Post noted that this is unusual “because it challenges a deal that would combine 2 different kinds of companies - a telecom with a media and entertainment. . . If successful, however, the government’s case would send a strong signal across the business world that Washington is no longer looking as kindly on such mergers.” James Hohmann, writing The Daily 202, opined that there are 7 reasons to be suspicious of this. One of those is that it is inconsistent with with all the other things the Trump administration is doing to “boost big business.” He noted that Makan Delrahim, head of the DOJ Antitrust Division, originally expressed no concern about this merger. Now he’s suing. Hohmann speculates that there was political pressure for Delrahim to change his mind. And there’s more. Very interesting.