Solarbird (solarbird) wrote,

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good morning, it's 20 april 2017

Okay, I'm running late - as always, but more than usual - and so the most important thing I can talk about is that we are starting to see the dam break. There has been over the last few days of sampling a significant breakdown in the strongest levels of support for the Trump administration, specifically in both GOP in general and Trump voters in general.

Now, it's not a complete breakdown - what we're seeing is a significant move out of "strongly approve" and into "somewhat approve." But it's out of the margin of error and a clear trend. It's the start of reconsideration.

Nothing is disastrous for them yet, there's not much fall through lower - say, into somewhat disapprove - but it's meaningful. This matters.

And now, the news.

Russia and corruption:
Exclusive: Putin-linked think tank drew up plan to sway 2016 U.S. election - documents
Paul Manafort Meets with a Chinese Billionaire to Talk U.S. Infrastructure
The White House’s game on Russia has now been fully exposed
The Continuing Fallout from Trump and Nunes’s Fake Scandal

Environmental attacks:
EPA plans to offer buyouts as part of Trump push to shrink workforce
Battle over landmark law already raging out of public eye [This means the Endangered Species Act]
A Timeline of the War on Science

All-Male Panel Failed to Pass Maryland Law Barring Rapists’ Parental Rights
Fox News Found the Perfect Woman-Hater to Replace Bill O'Reilly

Naziism, nativism, neo-fascism:
Lawsuit Accuses Alt-Right Leader of ‘Terror Campaign’ Against a Jewish Woman ["Alt-Right" meaning Nazi, it's literally the Daily Stormer crew, a website literally named after the Nazi paper of the 1930s, and yet, they will not use the word "Nazi" here.]
First protected DREAMer is deported under Trump

General horribleness:
Betsy DeVos Is Wasting No Time Screwing Over Students Who Borrow Money for College

After travel ban, AG Ferguson’s next fight: deceptive student-loan practices
Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz Will Not Seek Re-Election

Good luck out there.

----- 1 -----
EPA plans to offer buyouts as part of Trump push to shrink workforce
By Brady Dennis April 19, 2017 The Washington Post

The Environmental Protection Agency said this week that it would begin
the process of shrinking its 15,000-employee workforce through buyouts,
in the wake of President Trump’s executive order last month aimed at
streamlining agencies throughout the federal government.

In a letter to regional administrators and other agency officials, EPA
acting deputy administrator Mike Flynn said the White House had asked
federal agencies to begin taking “immediate actions” aimed at reducing
their workforce.

“In light of this guidance, we will begin the steps necessary to
initiate an early out/buy out … program,” Flynn said, adding that the
goal is to complete the program by year’s end.

He also noted that while a governmentwide hiring freeze had been
lifted, hiring at the EPA would remain at a standstill. “Given our
resource situation, we will continue a freeze on external hiring,”
Flynn said. “Very limited exceptions to this external hiring freeze may
be permitted on a case-by-case basis.”

The memo, dated Tuesday, contains little additional detail about the
EPA’s plans to shrink its number of employees, and it is probably the
first of many similar plans that will be submitted by various agencies.

But the EPA, in particular, has been a central target of the Trump
administration. The president has promised in the past to reduce the
agency to “tidbits.” His proposed budget would slash the agency’s
funding by 31 percent, cut about 3,200 workers, obliterate funding for
climate change research and Superfund cleanups, and scrap more than 50
programs. Among them: efforts aimed at improving energy efficiency,
funding infrastructure projects in Native American communities and
cleaning up the Great Lakes.

----- 2 -----
Betsy DeVos Is Wasting No Time Screwing Over Students Who Borrow Money for College
By Jordan Weissmann | Slate | 18 April 2017

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been sending some chilling signals lately about how she plans to deal with America’s $1.3 trillion student debt burden. On at least two separate ocassions now, her department has scrapped Obama-era reforms that were designed to protect borrowers from being gouged or misled by the companies responsible for collecting their loans. All told, DeVos seems less interested in protecting former students than in protecting the predators that have fleeced them for profit.

The trouble signs started flashing in March, when the Department of Education gave a group of student debt collectors permission to once again start slapping heavy fees on delinquent borrowers who were trying to catch up on loan payments. The practice had effectively been banned during the Obama administration. In a pleasantly unexpected turn, all of the organizations affected by the move announced that they would not bring back the penalties. But the incident was still disturbing, both because it demonstrated DeVos’ willingness to side with businesses over borrowers and because it may have involved a astounding conflict of interest.

The controversy centered on a slightly obscure group of nonprofits known as guarantee agencies, which are responsible for collecting and rehabbing defaulted loans that were made as part of the government’s old, bank-based student lending scheme (though the program was discontinued in 2010, there are still hundreds of billions of dollars of loans still outstanding from it). Up until 2015, when the Obama administration determined the practice was illegal, these organizations were notorious for charging high fees to borrowers who had defaulted on their debts but promised to pay up on them within 60 days. These penalties—equal to 16 percent of a borrower’s total loan balance—could be punishing. In one notable case, a Kansas woman sued the country’s largest guarantee agency, United Student Funds, after it charged her $4,500 in fees just to bring her loan current. But following the Obama administration’s clampdown, United Student Funds filed its own lawsuit claiming the penalty fees should have been permitted under the law. That case lingered on through this year.

----- 3 -----
Battle over landmark law already raging out of public eye
Corbin Hiar, E&E News reporter
Greenwire: Monday, April 17, 2017

With most of Washington focused on fights over government funding, Obamacare and Russian meddling, a few congressional aides and outside advocates are quietly preparing for what could be an epic battle over the Endangered Species Act.

The contentious conservation law was protected by President Obama's veto from Republican efforts to ease restrictions on farmers, energy companies and developers.

But with Republicans now controlling Capitol Hill and the White House for the first time since 2004, the endangered species law — which hasn't been significantly updated since 1988 — appears vulnerable.

----- 4 -----
Lawsuit Accuses Alt-Right Leader of ‘Terror Campaign’ Against a Jewish Woman
By MATT STEVENS | The New York Times | APRIL 19, 2017

[Clearly the headline originally contained the correct word: NAZI. HE IS A NAZI. THE WEBSITE HE RUNS IS NAMED AFTER THE 1930s NAZI NEWSPAPER. HE IS A FUCKING NAZI. jfc, NYtimes, what's it take?]

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the publisher of a popular alt-right website, claiming that he orchestrated a “terror campaign” against a Jewish woman in Montana.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the woman, Tanya Gersh, accuses the publisher of The Daily Stormer, Andrew Anglin, of unleashing a “troll storm” by publishing an article in December that listed Ms. Gersh’s contact information and exhorted readers to “take action” against her.

In the weeks and months that followed, the lawsuit contends, Mr. Anglin continued to publish pieces about Ms. Gersh. Along with her family, she received more than 700 harassing messages, including death threats, and a message on Twitter to her son suggesting that he pursue a free Xbox located inside an oven, the suit says.

Speaking with reporters by telephone on Tuesday, Ms. Gersh said she is no longer working and attends trauma therapy twice a week. As a result, Richard Cohen, the law center’s president, said the group, along with its Montana-based co-counsel, intends to seek a “very, very substantive” award for damages, which will send a message that the “kind of hate” Mr. Anglin coordinated “has to stop.”

“Our case is one about harassment and assault,” he said. “These actions have put Tanya in fear for her life, and that’s what they were intended to do.”

Mr. Anglin did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

----- 5 -----
Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz Will Not Seek Re-Election
The Utah Republican, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, will step down at the end of this congress.
Posted on April 19, 2017, 14:30 GMT
Alexis Levinson | BuzzFeed News

Rep. Jason Chaffetz will not seek re-election in 2018, two sources who have been informed of his decision told BuzzFeed on Wednesday morning.

Chaffetz later confirmed in a statement on Facebook that he will "will not be a candidate for any office in 2018."

"Since late 2003 I have been fully engaged with politics as a campaign manager, a chief of staff, a candidate and as a Member of Congress. I have long advocated public service should be for a limited time and not a lifetime or full career. Many of you have heard me advocate, 'Get in, serve, and get out.' After more than 1,500 nights away from my home, it is time. I may run again for public office, but not in 2018," he said.

Chaffetz said he was confident he "would continue to be re-elected by large margins," and there were "no ulterior motives" behind his decision. But Chaffetz has said that he's interested in taking a "serious look" running for governor in 2020.

----- 6 -----
First protected DREAMer is deported under Trump
Alan Gomez and David Agren, USA TODAY Published 4:45 p.m. ET April 18, 2017

Federal agents ignored President Trump's pledge to protect from deportation undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children by sending a young man back to his native Mexico, the first such documented case, a USA TODAY examination of the new administration's immigration policies shows.

After spending an evening with his girlfriend in Calexico, Calif., on Feb. 17, Juan Manuel Montes, 23, who has lived in the U.S. since age 9, grabbed a bite and was waiting for a ride when a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer approached and started asking questions.

Montes was twice granted deportation protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created by President Barack Obama and left intact by President Trump.

Montes had left his wallet in a friend's car, so he couldn't produce his ID or proof of his DACA status and was told by agents he couldn't retrieve them. Within three hours, he was back in Mexico, becoming the first undocumented immigrant with active DACA status deported by the Trump administration's stepped-up deportation policy.

----- 7 -----
Exclusive: Putin-linked think tank drew up plan to sway 2016 U.S. election - documents
By Ned Parker, Jonathan Landay and John Walcott | 19 April 2017 | Reuters

A Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system, three current and four former U.S. officials told Reuters.

They described two confidential documents from the think tank as providing the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election. U.S. intelligence officials acquired the documents, which were prepared by the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies [], after the election.

The institute is run by retired senior Russian foreign intelligence officials appointed by Putin’s office.

The first Russian institute document was a strategy paper written last June that circulated at the highest levels of the Russian government but was not addressed to any specific individuals.

It recommended the Kremlin launch a propaganda campaign on social media and Russian state-backed global news outlets to encourage U.S. voters to elect a president who would take a softer line toward Russia than the administration of then-President Barack Obama, the seven officials said.

A second institute document, drafted in October and distributed in the same way, warned that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was likely to win the election. For that reason, it argued, it was better for Russia to end its pro-Trump propaganda and instead intensify its messaging about voter fraud to undermine the U.S. electoral system’s legitimacy and damage Clinton’s reputation in an effort to undermine her presidency, the seven officials said.

----- 8 -----
Paul Manafort Meets with a Chinese Billionaire to Talk U.S. Infrastructure
Scott Cendrowski | Apr 17, 2017 | FORTUNE

President Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort met Chinese construction billionaire Yan Jiehe last week in Shanghai to discuss how the builder could join in Trump's $1 trillion infrastructure spending plan in the U.S., the Pacific Construction Group founder said. The meeting was first reported by the Financial Times.

Last Tuesday was the third time Yan, the founder of Pacific Construction Group, met with Manafort, he separately told Fortune. They had previously met twice in Beijing. Also attending the same meeting were executives from Spain-based ACS Group, one of the world's largest construction companies.

Manafort's spokesperson Jason Maloni told the FT that infrastructure deals weren't discussed. “The Pacific Construction Group was an impromptu meeting added to Mr. Manafort’s schedule at their request because the Chinese are interested in U.S. infrastructure,” the paper quoted Maloni as saying. He added that no current or future infrastructure projects in the U.S. were discussed.

But according to Pacific Construction, Manafort was there to help Yan on potentially brokering deals in the U.S. market, one that could involve a joint venture shepherded by Manafort.

----- 9 -----
The White House’s game on Russia has now been fully exposed
By Sarah Posner April 19, 2017 | The Washington Post

Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence
Committee, said today that the Committee’s investigation of Russian
election interference and possible Trump campaign collusion with it
is “back on track” after its controversial chairman, California
Republican Devin Nunes, recused himself from the probe. Schiff’s
remarks are a hopeful sign that the Committee will finally be able to
constructively take on its oversight role.

But there are now new reasons to worry that, if anything, Republicans
are even more determined to make sure it doesn’t turn up anything at
all. That’s troubling, because Republicans may be successful at
subverting the possibility of getting to the bottom of the scandal —
which they are now clearly trying to do, by creating a distraction
aimed at diverting public attention away from story and instead towards
conspiracy theories involving the Obama administration.

Ryan Lizza has a new report in the New Yorker that reveals fresh
details about the GOP game plan. The aim is to cast the Russia
investigation as another Benghazi — by turning former National Security
Advisor Susan Rice into the villain of the story, and fixing the focus
of the hearings on her.

That bringing Rice into the investigation is still being contemplated
is further evidence of the bad faith of the White House’s approach to
this whole tale. All of Trump’s efforts to smear his predecessor,
including accusing former President Obama of ordering surveillance of
Trump Tower, and claiming that Rice had committed a crime, have been
proven false — something Trump and his allies refuse to even

Trump instigated this maelstrom as a result of his March 4 tweet in
which he falsely claimed that former president Obama had his Trump
Tower “wires tapped.” But rather than retract his baseless tweet, Trump
and his allies latched onto it, spinning implausible theories in an
effort to drum up even a sliver of evidence for it after the fact. And
it’s even worse than what has until know been publicly known: according
to Lizza’s reporting, the White House “put out an all-points bulletin”
to “find something that justifies the President’s crazy tweet about
surveillance at Trump Tower.”

What followed was a sequence of events in which Nunes appeared to
collaborate with the White House to review cherry-picked classified
intelligence and leak it to the media to craft a false narrative that
the Obama administration had somehow surveilled the Trump team. After
that claim was confirmed to be false by intelligence officials, the
White House moved on to the Rice deflection: arguing that Rice, as
Obama’s National Security Advisor, had reviewed the intercepts of phone
calls between Russian government officials and requested that the
identities of the Americans subject to what is known as “incidental
collection” be “unmasked.”

----- 10 -----
The Continuing Fallout from Trump and Nunes’s Fake Scandal
By Ryan Lizza | The New Yorker | April 18, 2017

Recently, several members and staffers on the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s role in the Presidential election, visited the National Security Agency, in Fort Meade, Maryland. Inside the enormous black glass headquarters of America’s largest spy agency, the congressmen and their aides were shown a binder of two to three dozen pages of highly classified intercepts, mostly transcripts of conversations between foreign government officials that took place during the Presidential transition. These intercepts were not related to the heart of the committee’s Russia investigation. In fact, only one of the documents had anything to do with Russia, according to an official who reviewed them.

What the intercepts all had in common is that the people being spied on made references to Donald Trump or to Trump officials. That wasn’t even clear, though, from reading the transcripts. The names of any Americans were concealed, or “masked,” the intelligence community’s term for redacting references to Americans who are not the legal targets of surveillance when such intelligence reports are distributed to policy makers.

The binder of secret documents is at the center of the bizarre scandal created by what may be the most reckless lie President Trump has ever told. On March 4th, he tweeted, “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” The White House made several efforts to justify Trump’s claim, including using Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, as a conduit for the documents, which allegedly offered some substantiation. A former Nunes staffer now working for the White House dug up the transcripts and shared them with Nunes. As Bloomberg View reported, earlier this month, Susan Rice, Obama’s national-security adviser, had used a process that allowed her to request that the masked names be revealed to her. Rice had to log her unmasking requests on a White House computer, which is how Trump’s aides knew about them. Nunes and the White House presented this as a major scandal. “I think the Susan Rice thing is a massive story,” Trump told the Times, adding, while offering no evidence, that Rice may have committed a crime.

It is now clear that the scandal was not Rice’s normal review of the intelligence reports but the coördinated effort between the Trump Administration and Nunes to sift through classified information and computer logs that recorded Rice’s unmasking requests, and then leak a highly misleading characterization of those documents, all in an apparent effort to turn Rice, a longtime target of Republicans, into the face of alleged spying against Trump. It was a series of lies to manufacture a fake scandal. Last week, CNN was the first to report that both Democrats and Republicans who reviewed the Nunes material at the N.S.A. said that the documents provided “no evidence that Obama Administration officials did anything unusual or illegal.”


Nunes is being investigated by the House Ethics Committee because, in talking about the documents, he may have leaked classified information. But this is like getting Al Capone for tax evasion. The bigger scandal is the coördinated effort to use the American intelligence services to manufacture an excuse for Trump’s original tweet.

----- 11 -----
All-Male Panel Failed to Pass Maryland Law Barring Rapists’ Parental Rights
By Kate Samuelson, Time Magazine
April 18, 2017

An all-male panel in Maryland has failed to pass the Rape Survivor Family Protection Act, a piece of legislation that would have allowed women who have children from rape to block rapists’ parental rights.

Maryland delegate Kathleen Dumais introduced the legislation to protect women. The panel reportedly ran out of time on the last day of the state’s General Assembly and let the legislation fall by the wayside. The Assembly isn’t set to reconvene until Jan. 10, 2018.

“If [a woman] chooses to raise the child herself, it could mean her rapist inserting himself into her life for the next 18 years,” NARAL said in a statement, according to the Daily Beast. “The perpetrator may also hinder efforts to place the child up for adoption. In some extreme cases, rapists have only agreed to allow an adoption to go forward if the victim promised not to testify against him at Trial.”

Democratic Senator Cheryl Kagan, who was present for the General Assembly’s session, told CBS Baltimore that despite the respect she has for her colleagues, “not having women on the committee was tone-deaf.”

----- 12 -----
Fox News Found the Perfect Woman-Hater to Replace Bill O'Reilly
Rafi Schwartz | Fusion | 19 April 2017

The Fox News primetime news slot left vacant by the sudden firing of alleged sexual predator Bill O’Reilly has been filled by none other than longtime conservative pundit and perpetual douche Tucker Carlson.

News of Carlson’s promotion was first reported by NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik, who tweeted,“A new generation takes over the most valuable real estate in cable news.” (Carlson is 49.)

----- 13 -----
After travel ban, AG Ferguson’s next fight: deceptive student-loan practices
By Katherine Long | The Seattle Times | Originally published April 19, 2017

He vaulted into the public’s eye in January when he challenged President Donald Trump’s travel ban, but Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson says student debt is the issue that’s taken center stage in his office these days.

In January, Ferguson and the Illinois attorney general both filed lawsuits against Navient, the nation’s largest servicer of student loans, alleging the company used deceptive, unfair and predatory lending practices in loaning billions of dollars to students between 2000 and 2009.

This legislative session, Ferguson’s office successfully pushed a new bill, expected to be signed into law, that will require colleges and universities to help students keep track of how much they owe in student loans.

His office says it has recovered more than $1 million in the last year in cases that involve student-loan debt adjusters preying on borrowers. About 1,600 students have received, or will receive, a full refund of the fees they paid to the debt adjusters, and 15 debt adjusters who broke the state law are no longer able to conduct business in Washington.


Meanwhile, the Trump administration is taking steps toward changing the rules that govern the student-loan business. Earlier this month, Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos undercut student-loan protections that were put in place during the Obama administration. Devos said she was rescinding the rules to “demonstrate sound fiscal stewardship of public dollars” and to limit the cost to taxpayers.

Ferguson called the regulations “common-sense protections that save borrowers money. Why the new administration wants to roll those back is beyond me.”

He said he couldn’t say whether there’s anything the state can do to push back on DeVos’s decision.

“We’re obviously watching it very closely,” he said. “I’m deeply concerned.”

----- 14 -----
Exxon Seeks U.S. Waiver to Resume Russia Oil Venture
Exxon Mobil applied to Treasury for exemption to resume venture with Rosneft forged in 2012 by Rex Tillerson
By Jay Solomon and Bradley Olson
Updated April 19, 2017 3:53 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—Exxon Mobil Corp. has applied to the Treasury Department for a waiver from U.S. sanctions on Russia in a bid to resume its joint venture with state oil giant PAO Rosneft, according to people familiar with the matter.

Exxon has been seeking U.S. permission to drill with Rosneft in several areas banned by sanctions and applied in recent months for a waiver to proceed in the Black See, according to these people.

----- 15 -----
A Timeline of the War on Science
by Jonathan Foley and Brynn McNally

The War on Science is in full swing. But we’re going to chronicle it, and look for the bigger patterns.

Feel free to share this resource. Just link to this original page.

We will keep this updated on a regular basis.

Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth. Please comment there.

Tags: fascism watch, politics
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