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roundup333As of July 7, California will officially list glyphosate -- key ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup -- as a known cause of cancer. (Photo: Mike Mozart)

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A June 27 Reuters article bears good news for the health of Californians and bad news for the toxic profits of agribusiness giant Monsanto:

Glyphosate, an herbicide and the active ingredient in Monsanto Co's  popular Roundup weed killer, will be added to California's list of chemicals known to cause cancer effective July 7, the state's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) said on Monday....

The listing is the latest legal setback for the seeds and chemicals company, which has faced increasing litigation over glyphosate since the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer said that it is "probably carcinogenic" in a controversial ruling in 2015.

Listing glyphosate as a known carcinogen under California's Proposition 65 would require companies selling the chemical in the state to add warning labels to packaging. Warnings would also be required if glyphosate is being sprayed at levels deemed unsafe by regulators.

Monsanto has been challenging findings that glyphosate is a carcinogen since Roundup was first introduced. Generally, the agricultural and chemical giant has prevailed. The European Union's chemical review committee has just recommended that Roundup continue to be licensed in Europe without any warnings. However, California's system of propositions, in which ballot initiatives are voted on by the public, laid the foundation for the pending warning labels on Roundup. Proposition 65, which passed in 1986 by an overwhelming margin, requires consumer notification of cancer-causing substances. Since that proposition's passage, enough scientific research has confirmed that glyphosate is linked to specific types of cancer to warrant the requirement for warnings on Roundup. In addition, cautionary labels will be required for the sale of glyphosate itself.


foodlabeloldThe Trump administration is delaying a requirement to update the Nutrition Facts on packaged food, denying the consumer more complete information. (Photo: FoodFacts)

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As the appalling GOP public policy attacks on all but the wealthiest Americans continue, many of the ways in which executive branch agencies are working to make the nation less healthy are getting lost in the static. Consider an issue such as food labeling: Republicans are taking active steps to reduce the amount of information provided to consumers -- information that allows us to make healthier choices.

As discussed in a DCReport article earlier this year:

Another agency under Trump has put profits before consumer health. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has extended by a year compliance of a rule that would require food retailers to provide nutritional information on menus.

Originally conceived as part of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, the Food Labeling: Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Establishments Rule became part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 signed by President Barack Obama. The deadline for compliance was set at May 5, 2017. But the FDA caved to lobbyists for supermarkets and big pizza chains -- including Domino's, Papa John's, Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, Walmart and Kroger Co. -- and extended the compliance date for the rule with the option to further review it.

The rule requires calorie counts of standard food items to be placed on menus and additional nutritional information be available in writing for consumers who ask for it. The rule affects chain restaurants with more than 20 locations, supermarkets, convenience stores and other food sellers.

In a nation beset by health problems related to large-scale consumption of fast food, this is hardly good news.


voting22Electronic voting machines are vulnerable to specialized hackers, not just Russians. (Photo: justgrimes)

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Journalists and activists have been sounding the alarm about electronic voting machines and their proprietary software for years. The vulnerability of these machines to hacking has not been front and center for some time -- primarily due to the failure of the corporate media and legislative bodies to take it seriously. That changed, to some extent, with the charges about Russian hacking from US intelligence agencies. However, the current emphasis is on the Russians allegedly attempting to influence the 2016 election, not on the flawed electronic voting machines that make hacking possible.

For example, CNN reported on hearings yesterday in the US Capitol:

Both sides of the Capitol on Wednesday heard from experts about the extent of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, with officials for the first time revealing how many states' election-related systems were targeted by Russian hackers.

But though the government disclosed that 21 states were potentially impacted by the targeting, lawmakers were left frustrated that the public still doesn't have a full picture of what exactly the Russians did during the election and that it's not fully clear what the US will do to protect itself going forward.

On the House side, the intelligence committee heard from former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. On the Senate side, the intelligence committee heard from an array of federal and state officials regarding election infrastructure.


fccbadgeThe Federal Communications Commission under Trump is once again facilitating media consolidation. (Image: Wikipedia)

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One of the giant media consolidators, the Sinclair Broadcast Group, is on the verge of acquiring the Tribune Media Company. This is not good news.

The website B&C: Broadcasting and Cable points out that when the merger is complete, "Sinclair will reach 72 percent of the country, giving the group a near-national footprint, as well as a presence in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Sinclair also would get Tribune’s national cable channel WGN America, and multicast networks including Antenna TV." In total, Sinclair will be acquiring Tribune Media's 42 television stations.

The acquisition of Tribune Media for $3.9 billion includes the flagship WGN radio station, which broadcasts from Chicago. The Tribune's print properties, including The Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times are not part of the buyout because they are part of Tribune Publishing, which became a separate company a few years back.


civilrightsmlkThe Trump administration is moving backwards on civil rights. (Photo: Sivlia Calderon)

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The Trump administration is wasting no time in reducing the enforcement of civil rights laws. According to a June 15 article in ProPublica,

For decades, the Department of Justice has used court-enforced agreements to protect civil rights, successfully desegregating school systems, reforming police departments, ensuring access for the disabled and defending the religious.

Now, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the DOJ appears to be turning away from this storied tool, called consent decrees. Top officials in the DOJ civil rights division have issued verbal instructions through the ranks to seek settlements without consent decrees — which would result in no continuing court oversight.

The move is just one part of a move by the Trump administration to limit federal civil rights enforcement. Other departments have scaled back the power of their internal divisions that monitor such abuses.

Critics of the new Department of Justice policy say it will have serious implications, according to the ProPublica piece.


Georgia U.S. stateGeorgia state flag. (Image: Wikipedia)

In last week's Georgia's 8th Congerssional District debate, would-be Congresswoman Karen Handel took a momentary break from attacking her opponent, Jon Ossoff, to attack a reporter: me. Handel claimed, "a reporter supposedly representing some very liberal Democratic organization almost literally accosted me." 

In fact, is was a trio of galoots working for Handel who accosted me.

But who accosted whom is less important than Handel's promoting the dangerous new trend of attacking the press, sometimes physically, when questions are uncomfortable or challenging.

It all began with my investigation for Rolling Stone Magazine, printed just before the Presidential election, in which Georgia, and the 6th Congressional District, played a notable--and ugly--role.

I had discovered that Handel's successor as Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, had employed a sophisticated, under-the-radar trick that could simply wipe away minority voter registrations by the thousands. The trick is called, “Interstate Crosscheck.”

Crosscheck's operation is based on the claim, repeated as faith by President Donald Trump, that there are “millions” of voters registered in two states who vote twice in the same election.

While not one Georgian has been convicted of this crime -- voting twice is a felony – Secretary of State Kemp has been working through a target list of an astonishing 660,708 Georgians.


parisaccord34Many US cities and states will abide by the Paris accord goals. (Photo: Klovovi)

 The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) resoundingly rejected President Trump's withdrawal from the Paris accord, according to a statement on its website:

The United States Conference of Mayors strongly opposes President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and has vowed that the nation’s mayors will continue their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to alleviate the impacts of global warming.

“The U.S. Conference of Mayors is a strong proponent of the need to address climate change and we support the Paris agreement, which positions the world’s nations, including the United States, to be energy independent, self-reliant, and resilient,” said Phoenix (AZ) Mayor Greg Stanton, Chair of USCM’s Environment Committee. “A thriving economy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are compatible by focusing on new technology, investing in renewable fuel sources, and increasing our energy efficiency....”

“Dozens of our country’s cities have already united to implement measures that combat climate change, so the President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement is not representative of our nation’s leaders and their communities,” said Columbia (SC) Mayor Steve Benjamin, USCM Second Vice President. “As Mayors, we commit to protecting the planet that we will leave to the next generations, finding innovative solutions for renewable energy and working so that our communities are kept free of hazardous emissions.”

The USCM represents 1,408 cities with populations of 30,000 residents or more.


trumphoteldcThe Trump old post office hotel in DC used by foreign government officials, surrounded by protesters. (Mike Maguire)

Given Donald Trump's expansive business empire -- much of it hidden away in the details of his unreleased tax filings -- being president is enhancing his "brand" and the value of his name, which he often licenses to outside investors. Furthermore, he has said that he is not running his business while he is president, but he is reaping profits from the Trump Organization because he still owns the same share of the business as he always has. As a result, when foreign powers patronize his businesses or invest in Trump properties or naming rights, he is -- in legal theory -- violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution.

Paul Pillar clarifies the emoluments clause in a recent edition of the Lobe Log:

The emoluments clause is part of a broader prohibition in the Constitution (in Article I, Section 9) that bars the granting of any title of nobility and the acceptance “of any present, Office, Emolument, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” Emolument may be an eighteenth-century word that is not in many active vocabularies in the twenty-first century, but the concern about the effects of flattery and favor are at least as relevant today as they were when the Constitution was written. In fact, with the current president, the concern is more relevant than ever.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times on June 12, legal action by state officials challenging Trump's flouting of the emoluments clause is now being undertaken.


naomikleinbookcover 1Now is the time to double up efforts to achieve ideals of justice. (Photo: Haymarket Books)

The title of Naomi Klein's book released today -- and available from Truthout by clicking here -- is No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. Although Klein spends the first part of her book detailing the appalling rise of Trump as an outgrowth of neoliberalism and branding trends over the past few decades, she also offers strategies for "reverse shock." This turns her theory of "the shock doctrine"-- the use of crises to advance ultra-capitalist economics and government -- on its head. What she suggests is that a shock-response strategy can also offer the opportunity for positive radical change.

As Klein exhorts in the conclusion to No Is Not Enough,

With this elevation of the basest figures to the most exalted of positions, the culture of maximum extraction, of endless grabbing and disposing, has reached some kind of breaking point. Clearly, it is the culture itself that must be confronted now, and not only policy by policy, but at the root.

Indeed, radical is defined as "of or going to the root." Klein argues that there is potentially a window of opportunity to break through "the shock doctrine" and adopt transformative progressive policies as neoliberal excesses teeter and perhaps collapse.


acha300Are the Republicans about to self-destruct on health care insurance? (Photo: CommScope)

Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration have boxed themselves into a corner on health care. Whatever they do, they will be blamed for inevitable increases in costs of health care, growing instability of health care markets, and escalating public backlash over their policies or lack thereof.

President Trump and congressional Republicans are not on the same page. Trump has found health care to be more complicated than he ever imagined, revealing his ignorance of the issues, but keeps pressuring Congress to pass a repeal and replace the ACA on an urgent basis, with little awareness of what that might entail. As he tries to assure us that the GOP’s resulting “plan” will bring access to care to everyone, at lower cost, and be “amazing,” Republicans in the Senate are coming to grips with what to do with the narrowly passed House bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which after receiving it, they vowed to start again from scratch.

Republicans have four basic choices at this point, none of them good.

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