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Originally Published: 8/11/2018

Space Force:  VP Mike Pence laid out a plan to create another branch of the military - this one dedicated to space. Yeah. I’m not kidding. Pence warned that “potential adversaries” are making advances in space and we need to “preserve the military’s dominance.” The new command would pull space experts from across the armed services “and there would be a separate acquisitions office, dedicated to buying satellites and developing new technology to help the military win wars in space.” (Washington Post) Wars in space? They’re already planning for them? Listen to what Stephen Colbert had to say about it. (You Tube)


Trump Tower Meeting:  After more than a year of denying he knew anything about his son, Donald Jr.’s, meeting with a Russian lawyer (and others), Trump finally admitted the meeting was “to get information on an opponent.” (TWW, Russian Connection, 7/15/17) Remember, it is illegal for campaigns to accept help from foreign governments or foreign nationals. (NBC)


Wilbur Ross:  Another crooked Trumpite. Our Commerce Secretary (and mega-millionaire) has a long history of profiteering. Forbes published a deep investigation which includes the testimony of 21 people who have worked with Ross. It found that Ross could “rank among the biggest grifters in American history.” All of the theft allegations together come to more than $120 million. Timothy O’Brien at Bloomberg wrote that Ross’ list of ethical conflicts “would make even Scott Pruitt blush.”


Media Shutdown:  A new public opinion poll conducted by Ipsos showed that 43% of Republicans want to give Trump the authority to close down “news outlets engaged in bad behavior.” 12% of Democrats and 21% of Independents also believed Trump should have this authority. 23% agreed with the statement that Trump should shut down specific outlets, including CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times


Trade Wars:  China has decided to impose an additional $16 billion in tariffs on U.S. products, “including motorcycles, steam turbines, and railway cars.” (Washington Post)


Iran:  Trump has decided to re-impose the economic sanctions against Iran that were lifted under the 2015 nuclear accord, from which Trump unilaterally decided to withdraw. (TWW, Iran, 5/12/18) “The Trump administration is betting that backing out of it will force Iran to shut down its nuclear enrichment efforts, curb its weapons program, and end its support of brutal governments or uprisings in the Middle East.” (NY Times)


Russia:  Trump announced that he’ll be imposing new sanctions against Russia “in response to the attempted assassination in March of a former Russian spy living in England and his daughter.” The new sanctions will bar American companies from obtaining export licenses to sell anything “with a potential national security purpose” to Russia. This includes things like gas turbine engines, electronics, integrated circuits, and testing and calibration equipment. (NY Times)


Turkey:  Trump has ordered a doubling of steel and aluminum tariffs against Turkey “piling economic pressure on the NATO ally after its currency went into a tail-spin.” (Al Jazeera) The Independent, citing press secretary Sarah Sanders’ statement, noted that Trump’s action is due to “Ankara’s detention of an American pastor.”


Arizona:  The state supreme court “cleared the way” for a new development of almost 7,000 homes near the San Pedro River. The court sided with state water regulators against conservationists who say the development will threaten “one of the last free-flowing rivers in the Southwest.” The 4 to 3 decision stated that state regulators aren’t required to consider the federal government’s “reserved” water rights in the area when it determined the availability of water supplies. (Arizona Republic)


Florida:  A toxic algal bloom, knows as a red tide, is killing Florida’s wildlife and making some beaches noxious. A red tide is not unusual, “but this one is still going strong after roughly 9 months.” It’s the longest bloom since 2006 when blooms that originated in 2004 finally abated after 17 months. Almost 300 sea turtles have been found dead since January. (NY Times)


Georgia:  A lawsuit was filed against the state for voter and polling problems. One district had 276 registered voters, but 670 cast ballots. Later the number of registered voters was changed to 3,704. Georgia is one of 4 states that use voting machines with no paper record. Cybersecurity experts have warned “that there were security flaws on the state election website leading up to the 2016 contest that permitted the download and manipulation of voter information.” (McClatchy)


Massachusetts:  A report from Northeastern University claims that many black and Latino students “are being prevented from attending some of the top public schools in Boston.” The report says that “a computerized system the city uses to assign students to schools is only making segregation among the city’s schools worse.” The study found that more than 80% of kindergarten students in affluent and historically white neighborhoods attend high-quality public schools with higher test scores compared to only 5% in an historically black neighborhoods. (NECN)


Missouri:  In the elections this week a couple of interesting things happened. An underdog reformer unseated the prosecutor who handled the Ferguson police shooting of black teenager Michael Brown. (Mother Jones) And voters rejected instituting the so-called “right-to-work” law “by a decisive margin.” (Economic Policy Institute)


New York:  New York City Council overwhelmingly passed legislation that will halt new vehicle licenses for ride-hail services, “dealing a significant setback to Uber in its largest market in the United States.” The number of for-hire vehicles will be capped for a year “while the city studies the booming industry. New York will also be able to set a minimum pay rate for drivers. (NY Times)


Deportations:  U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington stopped a deportation while it was in process and “threatened to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt” when he learned that officials had started “to remove a woman and her daughter while a court hearing appealing their deportations was underway.” Sullivan said, “This is pretty outrageous. That someone seeking justice in U.S. court is spirited away while her attorneys are arguing for justice for her? . . . This is not acceptable.” (Washington Post)


Reuniting Families:  Trump’s people have still not reunited 559 children with their parents “more than 2 weeks after a court-imposed deadline requiring the Trump administration to reunite all of the separated families.” (Democracy Now!)


Rep. Collins:  Rep. Chris Collins (R, NY), one of President Donald Trump’s earliest supporters,” was arrested and indicted on charges of insider trading “concerning a drug trial at an Australian biotechnology company,” Innate Immunotherapeutics, where he served on the board of directors.” Collins son, Cameron, along with the father of Cameron’s fiancée, Stephen Zarsky, were also charged with securities fraud, wire fraud, and other crimes. (Reuters) Collins has sponsored several bills that would have benefitted Innate. (Daily Beast) I guess it’s no surprise that Collins was against Trump - or anyone else - having to release their tax returns. (CNN)


VA Trio:  Bruce Moskowitz, a Palm Beach doctor “who helps wealthy people obtain high-service ‘concierge’ medical care,” is one of 3 in an informal council “that is exerting sweeping influence on the [Veterans Administration] from Mar-a-Lago, [Trump’s] private club in Palm Beach, Florida. The troika is led by Ike Perlmutter, chair of Marvel Entertainment, who is another longtime buddy of Trump.” Rounding out the council is lawyer Marc Sherman. “None of them has ever served in the U.S. military or government.” Yet, with Trump’s blessing, they are running the Veterans Administration. (ProPublica)


Voter Integrity Commission:  Kris Kobach’s now-defunct commission (TWW, Voting Commission, 1/6/18) is still in the news. Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap was one of the 11 members of the commission. He and several other Democrats on the panel, reviewed more than 8,000 documents from the group’s work, “which he acquired only after a legal fight despite his participation on the panel.” Dunlap said the documents “do not contain evidence of widespread voter fraud” and that some documents indicate “that the commission was predicting it would find evidence of fraud, evincing ‘a troubling bias.’” (Washington Post)


Trump’s Wall:  A new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) raises serious issues about Trump’s wall that could lead to increased costs. To date, cost estimates have been all over the place, including $18 billion for 722 miles of barriers in 17 priority areas identified by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and $70 billion estimated by Senate Democrats. (NY Times) The GAO found that DHS’s analysis didn’t fully analyze the projected costs or properly follow the acquisition process. “DHS plans to spend billions of dollars developing and deploying new barriers along the southwest border. However, by proceeding without key information on cost, acquisition baselines, and the contributions of previous barrier and technology deployments, DHS faces an increased risk that the Border Wall System Program will cost more than projected, take longer than planned, or not fully perform as expected.”


2016 Vote:  Pew Research released a survey of the 2016 electorate. In addition to asking people how they voted, the survey team verified that they did indeed vote, providing a picture not only of the electorate but also of those who didn’t vote. The data makes it very clear that those who didn’t vote are as responsible for the outcome of the election as those who did. About 30% of eligible voters did not vote, “a higher percentage than the portion of the country who voted for either Trump” or Hillary Clinton. Almost half of the nonvoters were nonwhite and two-thirds were under the age of 50. More than half earned less than $30,000 a year. More than half of those who did vote were over age 50. This survey is chock full of fascinating information. (Washington Post)


For-Profit Colleges:  Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is ending the Obama-era regulation that forced for-profit colleges to prove that the students they enroll are able to attain decent-paying jobs, “the most dramatic in a series of moves that will free the scandal-scarred, for-profit sector from safeguards.” (NY Times


Senior Spending:  The Consumer Bankruptcy Project just completed a study about senior citizens and bankruptcy. (Social Science Research Network) Vanishing pensions, soaring medical expenses, and inadequate savings are leading people over the age of 65 to file for bankruptcy at the rate of 3 times what it was in 1991. Driving the surge is a 3-decade shift of financial risk from government and employers to individuals who are bearing an ever greater responsibility for their own financial well-being as the social safety net shrinks. Waiting longer to qualify for full Social Security benefits, replacing defined benefit pension plans with 401(k)s, and requiring more out-of-pocket spending for health care are all adding to the declining incomes. The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) did a fantastic job of looking at healthcare spending by Medicare beneficiaries. Check out the graphs. This one illustrates that half of traditional Medicare beneficiaries with incomes of $10,000 or less spent at least 26% of their total income in out-of-pocket costs in 2013. This is “nearly 4 times the share among those with income greater than $50,000.”


Asbestos:  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved new uses for asbestos. According to a report released by the EPA, it will “no longer consider the effect or presence of substances in the air, ground, or water in its risk assessments.” (TWW, Toxic Chemicals, 5/19/18) Asbestos was banned in most countries in the 1970s since it was conclusively tied to lung cancer and mesothelioma. The U.S. restricted its use but didn’t completely ban it. (Architects Newspaper) Interestingly, a Russian asbestos producer placed a seal with Trump’s face on their product with a note, “Approved by Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States.” (Snopes)


Auto Emissions:  Trump’s announcement that he’s weakening standards for fuel efficiency for cars and light trucks (TWW, Auto Emissions, 8/4/18) “could be his most consequential climate-policy rollback yet, increasing greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by an amount greater than many midsize countries put out in a year.” If the plan is finalized as proposed, our cars and trucks will emit an extra 321 million to 931 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere between now and 2035. “To put that in context, the extra pollution in 2035 alone would be more than the current annual emissions from countries like Austria, Bangladesh, or Greece.” (NY Times)


Chlorpyrifos:  A panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered the EPA to bar the use of this pesticide within 60 days. It has been tied to developmental disabilities and other health problems in children. “The product is used in more than 50 fruit, nut, cereal, and vegetable crops including apples, almonds, oranges, and broccoli, with more than 640,000 acres treated in California alone in 2016, the most recent year data is available.” In March 2017 then-EPA administrator Scott Pruitt rejected a petition by environmental and public health groups to ban it. (TWW, Chlorpyrifos, 6/10/17; Pesticide, 4/1/17) “He did so even though the agency’s own staff scientists had recommended that chlorpyrifos be removed from the market, based on health studies that had suggested it was harming children, particularly among farmworker families.” (TWW, Pesticides, 4/30/16) (NY Times)


Sinclair & Tribune:  Tribune has pulled out of its merger with Sinclair Broadcast Group. (TWW, Sinclair Broadcast, 7/21/18) It also announced a $1 billion lawsuit against Sinclair for breach of contract over its failed negotiations with federal regulators over the deal. (Washington Post)


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