Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Stephen Hawking: Automation and AI Is Going To Decimate Middle Class Jobs

In a column in The Guardian, the world-famous physicist wrote that "the automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining." He adds his voice to a growing chorus of experts concerned about the effects that technology will have on workforce in the coming years and decades. The fear is that while artificial intelligence will bring radical increases in efficiency in industry, for ordinary people this will translate into unemployment and uncertainty, as their human jobs are replaced by machines. Automation will, "in turn will accelerate the already widening economic inequality around the world," Hawking wrote. "The internet and the platforms that it makes possible allow very small groups of individuals to make enormous profits while employing very few people. This is inevitable, it is progress, but it is also socially destructive." He frames this economic anxiety as a reason for the rise in right-wing, populist politics in the West: "We are living in a world of widening, not diminishing, financial inequality, in which many people can see not just their standard of living, but their ability to earn a living at all, disappearing. It is no wonder then that they are searching for a new deal, which Trump and Brexit might have appeared to represent." Combined with other issues -- overpopulation, climate change, disease -- we are, Hawking warns ominously, at "the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity." Humanity must come together if we are to overcome these challenges, he says.

rest at

Worst company Wells Fargo seeking to suppress lawsuits via arbitration making class action impossible

After paying out $185 million in penalties for perpetrating a massive fraud on millions of customers, Wells Fargo executives sat in front of Senate hearings blaming all kinds of people below the pay grade of executive. Meanwhile, Wells Fargo workers began coming out of the woodwork to remind the federal government to look into how many complaints had been lodged against Wells Fargo internally—surrounding the very fraudulent practices and environment that they were now claiming ignorance of. Wells Fargo tried everything they could to see if CEO John Stumpf would be able to hold his job, but once executive after executive were given chances to resign with huge packages, it finally came to a head with Stumpf stepping down as the CEO. Throughout those hearings Wells Fargo beat the drum that they would make things right with the customers for whom scam accounts had been opened.

The bank has sought to kill lawsuits that its customers have filed over the creation of as many as two million sham accounts by moving the cases into private arbitration — a secretive legal process that often favors corporations.

Wells Fargo is pushing for arbitrations because it separates consumers, making class actions impossible. It also allows Wells Fargo to keep the dirty laundry details of their fraud private and not available to public scrutiny. Considering that Wells Fargo was complicit in millions of cases of identity theft, it's very frustrating for many customers to see them weaseling about.

"Wells Fargo's customers never intended to sign away their right to fight back against fraud and deceit," said Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, who introduced a bill last week that would prevent Wells from forcing arbitration in the sham account cases.

Yet even as the bank reels in the court of public opinion, Wells Fargo has been winning its legal battles to kill off lawsuits. Judges have ruled that Wells Fargo customers must go to arbitration over the fraudulent accounts.

One of the problems with arbitration cases is that they make arbitrators money, and that money comes from the corporations that bring these arbitrators cases and therefore, a steady flow of contracted jobs. You also have to remember that Wells Fargo opened over two million fraudulent accounts. Many of those legal claims from customers amount to $100 or less. Getting an individual lawyer to help you in an arbitration case for less than $100 is near impossible. Multiply that by thousands of class-action plaintiffs and Wells Fargo might be paying out lots of their ill-gotten money. Going to arbitration has worked before for Wells Fargo. After trying to litigate class-action lawsuits against them back in 2009 for their excessive overdraft predatory behaviors, Wells Fargo continued to try to fight to move the cases into arbitration. This was a decision in 2012, after years of Wells Fargo attempting to pretend they hadn't agreed to litigation.

rest at

McConnell wants Democratic 'cooperation' on repealing Obamacare. Get f*cked, buddy

Mitch McConnell must think he's got some serious balls. Check out this bullshit:

McConnell told reporters that repealing Obamacare would be "the first item up in the new year," and the Kentucky Republican that he would like to "get Democratic cooperation" during the difficult process of replacing "a very, very controversial law."

Yeah, he'd like some "Democratic cooperation"? What kind of a sick joke does he think he's playing? That's like a torturer asking a prisoner for "cooperation."

But Democrats are nobody's prisoner. In fact, we're the party that won more votes—a lot more votes—for both the presidency and the Senate than McConnell's own party did. And now he thinks we're going to help him undo our signature achievement that's bettered the lives of millions?

Chuck Schumer is having none of this crap:

"Bring it on," the New York Democrat said. "They don't know what to do. They're like the dog that caught the bus."

rest at

Michigan drug tested welfare recipients in yearlong pilot program, zero recipients tested positive

After a year of questioning and drug testing welfare recipients, Michigan's yearlong pilot program is coming to a close. From Detroit News:

Michigan did not catch a single welfare recipient using illegal drugs during a one-year pilot program designed to screen and test suspected substance abusers, provide them with treatment or kick them off government cash assistance if they refused.

In a Tuesday report to legislators, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said it conducted suspicion-based screenings for 14 of 443 Family Independence Program applicants or recipients between October 2015 and Sept. 30, 2016 in Allegan, Clinton and Marquette counties.

Detroit News notes one person was flagged as suspicious, but went off the welfare rolls for "unrelated reasons."

Alas, that doesn't mean the program is ending for good. The legislature is still considering expansion and at least one state senator wants to double-down and dig deeper into the lives of recipients:

At the time of approval, sponsoring Sen. Joe Hune said the law would ensure that "only the neediest and law-abiding citizens" receive taxpayer-funded assistance, but he is blaming lackluster results from the pilot program on poor implementation by the state health department.

"This was supposed to be suspicion-based drug testing," said Hune, R-Hamburg. "Instead, the uncooperative bureaucrats at the health department simply had the welfare recipients fill out a questionnaire — are you on drugs, yes or no? — and that's how you get a result like that."

rest at

Ohio GOP Votes to Unconstitutionally End Legal Abortion at Six Weeks

Until Tuesday, Ohio Republicans had advanced "heartbeat bills" in the house, but not the state senate, over fears that the law would be struck down in federal court.

UPDATE, December 7, 9:21 a.m.: The Republican-held Ohio House on Tuesday passed the unconstitutional six-week abortion ban, mostly along party lines. The measure now goes to the desk of Gov. John Kasich (R).

Ohio Republicans are advancing a law to outlaw abortion care as early as six weeks of pregnancy, a ban that federal courts have declared unconstitutional.

The so-called heartbeat bill, which would ban abortion care after a fetal heartbeat is detected, is considered one of the nation's most extreme anti-choice measures. North Dakota's GOP-majority legislature enacted a six-week ban in 2013 that was struck down in federal court.

The Ohio Senate passed the legislation on Tuesday along party lines, despite an outcry from Democrats, as reported. Ohio Republicans control both legislative chambers and the governor's office.

rest at

Texas Government Pamphlet Rife With Debunked Anti-Choice Myths

The state of Texas on Monday published an online pamphlet filled with medically dubious claims about abortion care, including discredited information linking abortion to cancer and a section exaggerating the medical dangers associated with the procedure. 

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) quietly published the final version of the pamphlet, "A Woman's Right to Know," which doctors are required to provide to all pregnant people seeking abortion care.

After a draft of the pamphlet was published in June, reproductive rights advocates called for changes to the medically inaccurate information.

State lawmakers passed the Texas Woman's Right to Know Act in 2003, requiring abortion providers to inform pregnant people of the medical risks associated with abortion care, as well as the probable gestational age of the fetus and the medical risks of carrying a pregnancy to term.

Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said in a press release that the state is "playing politics with people's health care."

"This pamphlet is riddled with errors and promotes misinformation designed to stigmatize abortion and dissuade women from making their own decisions about their health care," Busby said. "The state health agency should not be in the business of providing propaganda and interfering in the doctor-patient relationship."

The pamphlet includes a number of medical inaccuracies common in anti-choice literature.

"In consideration of the potential for fetal pain," the pamphlet states, "Texas law currently limits abortion to under 20 weeks." But the theory that a fetus is capable of experiencing pain at 20 weeks, which is based on a few selected studies, has been medically disproven. The medical consensus is that a fetus is unable to perceive pain before the third trimester.

In a section of the pamphlet titled "Breast Cancer Risk," the state claims that "doctors and scientists are actively studying the complex biology of breast cancer to understand whether abortion may affect the risk of breast cancer."

The link between abortion and cancer, however, has been repeatedly debunked by scientific research.

"Scientific research studies have not found a cause-and-effect relationship between abortion and breast cancer," according to the American Cancer Society. And a report by the National Cancer Institute explains that "having an abortion or miscarriage does not increase a woman's subsequent risk of developing breast cancer."

Texas' pamphlet emphasizes the medical risk of abortion care, even though government reports show that abortion is a highly regulated and overwhelmingly safe procedure.

The pamphlet states that there are "0.73 legal abortion-related deaths per 100,000 reported legal abortions in the United States from 2008-2011," according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The most recent reporting by the CDC found that abortion mortality has decreased, and the "national legal induced abortion case-fatality rate for 2008–2012 was 0.65 legal induced abortion-related deaths per 100,000 reported legal abortions."

Meanwhile, statistics reveal that it continues to be far safer to have an abortion than to carry a pregnancy to term in Texas. Between 2008 to 2013, there were 691 maternal deaths in Texas, compared to one death due to abortion complications from 2008 to 2014. Researched published this year found that Texas' maternal mortality rate doubled between 2010 and 2012.

More than 34 percent of the information found in the previous version of the state's "A Woman's Right to Know" pamphlet, published in 2013, was medically inaccurate, according to a study by a Rutgers University research team.

Republican-held legislatures around the country have passed laws mandating that states provide written materials to pregnant people seeking abortion services. These so-called informed consent laws often require that the material include inaccurate or misleading information pushed by organizations that oppose legal abortion care.

The updated pamphlet adds a warning for pregnant people who might feel pressure to have an abortion, stating that "if you are feeling pressure (also called coercion) from someone to have an abortion," there are a number of options, including calling 911 for emergency help.

This addition has drawn criticism from law enforcement officials arguing that emergency calls are for life-threatening situations. Charley Wilkison, executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, told the Houston Chronicle that such calls would strain departments' limited resources.  

"Texas police are short-staffed all over the state in big urban departments and in small rural places and everything in between, so unless someone's holding you down trying to force you to have an abortion, then you're going to be placed on a priority two or three," Wilkison said.

Emily Horne, a lobbyist for the anti-choice group Texas Right to Life, told the Houston Chronicle that her organization had pushed DSHS to include the language.

"[Women who] are possibly in an abusive situation or heading back into an abusive situation, they're under threat for abuse if they don't have this abortion, and so that is the idea to get her immediate help to get her out of that situation," Horne said. "Overall, I'm excited to get the language in there at all."

rest at

Republicans to use filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process to repeal obama care and reform the tax code

Daniel Hemel (Chicago) & David Herzig (Valparaiso), The Art of the (Budget) Deal, Yale J. on Reg.: Notice & Comment (Dec. 2, 2016):

Republicans on Capitol Hill are reportedly planning to use the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process to repeal the Affordable Care Act and overhaul the tax code. Against that background, Sam Wice says that "the most powerful person in America" in 2017 will be Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, the nonpartisan official who will "determine" how much of their agenda Republicans can pass through reconciliation. This, of course, is an exaggeration: like it or not, the most powerful person in America in 2017 will be Donald J. Trump, who will wield all the power of the imperial presidency. But Wice's post helpfully directs our attention to the budget reconciliation process, the rules of which quite likely will determine whether the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill can repeal the ACA and reform the tax laws.

Yet while one should not underestimate the importance of reconciliation, one should also not overestimate the power of the Parliamentarian in the reconciliation process. As a formal matter, the Parliamentarian's role is advisory; and as a practical matter, the Parliamentarian has little say over significant aspects of reconciliation. Other actors—most notably, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wy.)—wield at least as much influence as the Parliamentarian. Most importantly, Enzi—not MacDonough—will determine whether the provisions in any reconciliation bill violate various rules against deficit-increasing legislation being passed via reconciliation. And unlike the Parliamentarian, the Budget Committee Chairman is very hard to fire. ...

President Trump wants to eliminate the Affordable Care Act's 3.8% net investment income tax, wants to repeal the estate and gift taxes, and wants to allow U.S. corporations to bring home foreign profits while paying a holiday repatriation tax at a reduced 10% rate. All of those provisions—even if enacted as temporary measures in a reconciliation bill—would have long-run revenue effects: investors would realize gains before the 3.8% tax returns; high net worth individuals would make large gifts to their children now before the estate and gift taxes come back, and corporations would repatriate earnings during the holiday instead of potentially paying a higher tax later on. And so to offset the out-year effects of those temporary provisions, the Republicans are going to need some revenue-raisers. Will gimmicks like the Roth IRA trick work this time? Will Congress rely on dynamic scoring to estimate the out-year budgetary impacts of the Trump tax plan? In the Senate, these aren't questions for Elizabeth MacDonough. They're questions for Mike Enzi.

There is much more to be said about reconciliation than this—the two of us are working on an article tentatively titled "The Law of Reconciliation" that explores the nuances of the congressional budget process in greater detail. Watch this space for more on the subject. And in the meantime, keep your eyes on the senior Senator from Wyoming. He won't be the most powerful man in town (that man will live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and sometimes at 721 Fifth Avenue, and sometimes at 1100 South Ocean Boulevard). But when it comes to budget reconciliation, Mike Enzi may be the man holding the trump card.

rest at

Congressional Science Committee tweets link to Breitbart climate denial by self-confessed bullshit artist


James Delingpole is an invective-hurling anti-climate science columnist who has candidly admitted that he doesn't bother to read scientific papers, calling himself a "an interpreter of interpretations."

Yesterday, the US House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology tweeted a link to one of Delingpole's polemics published on the white nationalist website Breitbart, in which Delingpole paraphrased a Daily Mail writer with a similar history of mischaracterizing climate science.

The article in question took the position that by cherry-picking temperature readings -- measuring overland readings and ignoring oceanic measurements -- you could prove that the planet was getting cooler.

Rose's Daily Mail story used satellite measurements of atmospheric temperatures over land only to argue that a temperature drop since the middle of the year "proves" that the warmest-year records set by 2014, 2015, and (soon) 2016 have nothing to do with global warming. Instead, Rose claims it was all due to the El Niño conditions in the Pacific—a claim that is very clearly false since the long-term warming is much larger than the year-to-year variation caused by El Niño and La Niña. Even Rose's chosen dataset shows the long-term warming trend.

After a particularly strong El Niño in 1997 and 1998 drove the global average surface temperature to a major record, those who reject the conclusions of climate science spent years claiming that global warming stopped in 1998. When the long-term warming trend started surpassing the old 1998 record again, the popular excuse was "Well, that's just because this is a warm El Niño year!" After 2015 absolutely crushed the record, some climate scientists joked about how long it would take for someone to claim that now global warming had stopped in 2015. If you had "less than 1 year" in an office pool, congratulations.

US House Science Committee tweets Breitbart climate misinformation [Scott K Johnson/Ars Technica]

rest at

Donald Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, Ally of Fossil Fuel Industry, to Lead E.P.A.

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald J. Trump has selected Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general and a close ally of the fossil fuel industry, to run the Environmental Protection Agency, a transition official said, signaling Mr. Trump's determination to dismantle President Obama's efforts to counter climate change.

Mr. Pruitt, a Republican, has been a key architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama's climate change policies, actions that fit with the president-elect's comments during the campaign. Mr. Trump has criticized the established science of human-caused global warming as a hoax, vowed to "cancel" the Paris accord committing nearly every nation to taking action to fight climate change, and attacked Mr. Obama's signature global warming policy, the Clean Power Plan, as a "war on coal."

Mr. Pruitt, 48, who has emerged as a hero to conservative activists, is also one of a number of Republican attorneys general who have formed an alliance with some of the nation's top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda, a 2014 investigation by The New York Times revealed.

At the heart of Mr. Obama's efforts to tackle climate change are a collection of E.P.A. regulations aimed at forcing power plants to significantly reduce their emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide pollution. It will not be possible for Mr. Trump to unilaterally cancel the rules, which were released under the 1970 Clean Air Act. But it would be possible for a legally experienced E.P.A. chief to substantially weaken, delay or slowly dismantle them.

As Oklahoma's top law enforcement official, Mr. Pruitt has fought environmental regulations — particularly the climate change rules. Although Mr. Obama's rules were not completed until 2015, Mr. Pruitt was one of a handful of attorneys general, along with Greg Abbott of Texas, who began planning as early as 2014 for a coordinated legal effort to fight them. That resulted in a 28-state lawsuit against the administration's rules. A decision on the case is pending in a federal court, but it is widely expected to advance to the Supreme Court.

As Mr. Pruitt has sought to use legal tools to fight environmental regulations on the oil and gas companies that are a major part of his state's economy, he has also worked with those companies. For example, the 2014 investigation by The Times found that energy lobbyists drafted letters for Mr. Pruitt to send, on state stationery, to the E.P.A., the Interior Department, the Office of Management and Budget and even President Obama, outlining the economic hardship of the environmental rules.

Industries that Mr. Pruitt regulates have also joined him as plaintiffs in court challenges, a departure from the usual role of the state attorney general, who traditionally sues companies to force compliance with state law.

The close ties have paid off for Mr. Pruitt politically: Harold G. Hamm, the chief executive of Continental Energy, a North Dakota oil and gas firm that also works in Oklahoma, was a co-chairman of Mr. Pruitt's 2013 re-election campaign.

rest at

Trump's Air Force One tweet appears to be retaliation against Boeing for hurting his feelings

For the record, our president-elect is completely unfit for office. Today he tweeted a demand that the eventual replacements for the current Air Force One, the president's two dedicated aircraft, be canceled.

Several things are wrong with this. First, he's (once again) lying. Costs aren't $4 billion. The planes aren't even being built yet. What exists right now are contracts for $169 million to design the replacements, because the current planes reach the end of their expected 30 year lifespan next year. Even going according to schedule, the new planes won't be ready for five years after that.

But why did Donald Trump suddenly take to Twitter to denounce Boeing for an "out of control" "$4 billion" contract for a replacement Air Force One? TPM notes that it quite possibly could be a tantrum-fueled attempt to damage the company after Trump read earlier in the morning that someone at Boeing criticized him.

[A] Google search (which is obviously an imperfect measure) suggests that the Tribune story was the only published mention of the [Boeing] speech in the last 24 hours prior to Trump's tweet. It seems at least plausible that the Tribune story was the first or one of the first reports of the speech Trump or his team saw.

What appears to have happened is that earlier this morning, the Chicago Tribune published a story reporting that a Boeing executive had some skeptical things to say about Donald Trump. We already know that Trump obsessively scans the news for critical mentions of himself. (We also know that he reacts to news he sees with immediate tweeted policy proposals, as when he Twitter-mused about stripping citizenship from Americans who might burn a flag as an apparent response to a Fox & Friends segment on flag burning that had aired just beforehand. The man is a child.)

In any event, a mere twenty minutes or so after the Tribune story about a Boeing executive criticizing him was published, Trump suddenly found a strong opinion over one particular Boeing contract, declared it "out of control," and demanded it be canceled.

The result was a new out-of-nowhere presidential demand, and a sudden nosedive for Boeing's stock.

Some justifiably cynical reporters were quick to wonder whether Trump himself is a stakeholder in Boeing and perhaps is playing the market behind the scenes on this one. Spokesman Jason Miller denied it, declaring that Trump had sold his stocks last June, but it's distinctly possible that this is a flat lie. There's no evidence of it in his financial filings, and he's lied about this precise thing before.

rest at

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

New Jersey Will No Longer Collect Loans From Families of Dead Students

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Monday signed into law a bill requiring the state's student loan agency to forgive the loans of borrowers who die or become permanently disabled.

Last July, an investigation from ProPublica and The New York Times found that New Jersey's student loan agency aggressively sought repayment of loans with already onerous terms, even after some of the recipients had died. The efforts had traumatized grieving families, and forced some into financial ruin.

The state loan agency, known formally as the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, is responsible for roughly $1.9 billion in outstanding loans. Christie, who appointed the agency's top official and has the power to veto any action taken by the agency's board, would not respond when presented with ProPublica's findings last summer.

The investigation by ProPublica and the Times, however, did prompt a legislative hearing, and Monday's action by Christie is the culmination of efforts by state lawmakers to reform the loan agency's operations.

"A parent's worst nightmare is losing a child, and if that unfortunate event should occur, the last thing a parent should have to face is someone calling to collect money for student loans," said State Sen. James Beach in an emailed release. "This law will put an end to that practice and help establish new policies to put in place."

The new law brings the state's program closer in line with federal student loans, which are forgiven when students die or become permanently disabled.

A projection from New Jersey's nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services estimated that under the new loan forgiveness law, about 70 loans a year would be discharged as a result of death or disability and would cost the state about $1.5 million annually.

"To expect a student's family or other survivors to pay their college loan debt in the event of their death is cruel and unacceptable," said New Jersey Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker in an emailed release following the signing of the bill.

rest at

Monday, December 5, 2016

How Journalists Need to Go Beyond Fact Checking Trump

All the way back in March, Dartmouth political science professor Brendan Nyhan wrote a prescient tweetstorm about how journalists and others should call out Donald Trump's routine violation of modern norms of democratic discourse. ProPublica's Eric Umansky sat down with Nyhan, who is also a contributor to the New York Times' Upshot, to talk about what journalists should treat as newsworthy now that Trump is about to enter office.

rest at

Koch Cash Was Instrumental in Key Senate Races and May Have Buoyed Trump

After indicating they would spend $889 million to secure the White House and Congress in January, by July the Kochs were singing a different tune. They publicly refused to back Donald Trump and pledged to "focus on the Senate."

The bet paid off for the billionaire industrialists. They backed 19 US Senate candidates, and only two lost. And, in the process, their efforts to get voters out for GOP Senate candidates in swing states helped Trump in those states.

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has found that the Kochs spent at least $39.42 million aiding 19 candidates for Senate during the 2016 election -- based on an analysis of campaign finance disclosures for candidates and Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings from Koch-backed groups including Koch Industries, Inc., Political Action Committee (KochPAC), Freedom Partners, Americans for Prosperity, Libre Initiative, Concerned Veterans for America and Aegis Strategic. This amount does not include millions spent by the Kochs to influence the elections that are not disclosed as electioneering, such as so-called "issue" ads and ground game efforts.

Top Dollar US Senate Races

Here are six candidates for US Senate that the Koch network invested the most money in 2016:

Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-PA)

Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-PA) received over $10 million in support from the Kochs in what has been called the most expensive US Senate race in the history of United States.

Almost every vehicle available was utilized by the Koch team to ensure that Toomey defeated Kathleen McGinty and he did. According to Bloomberg, Americans for Prosperity's Pennsylvania Director Beth Anne Mumford said that they "made 2 million phone calls and knocked on 135,000 doors to get out voters."

Toomey won Pennsylvania, and the unofficial tally put the Keystone State in the Trump column -- although efforts to secure a recount in all counties are currently underway, led by Green candidate Jill Stein and supported by Hillary Clinton.

Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV)

The Kochs provided Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) with $8.58 million in support by utilizing the whole network to take a Senate seat long held by the retiring Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).B But they failed, and Heck lost the state, along with Trump.

Freedom Partners Action Fund spent the bulk of the money on ads attacking his opponent and Senator-elect Catherine Masto (D-NV). Ironically, one of the ads claimed that Masto plays to special interests because she received $60,000 in trips and gifts.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) received $7.57 million in support from the Kochs on his way to defeat former Governor Ted Strickland.

The majority of Koch cash was spent by the Freedom Partners Action Fund which ran a series of ads attacking Gov. Strickland's tax and spending policies as Governor.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)

Incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) received $5.19 million in support from the Koch network in his win over former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI). Half of the money was spent on Freedom Partners Action Fund ads attacking Feingold and supporting Johnson. One misleading ad suggested Feingold was responsible for veterans dying at the Tomah VA Medical Center and was pulled from three TV stations.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Koch favorite Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) received $3.73 million in support from the billionaire brothers, despite a late entry into the race following his failed bid for President. Trump also carried Florida, although a recount petition may soon be filed to determine if the electoral votes in that state should be cast for Trump or Clinton, since there is only about 1% separating them in the unofficial tallies.

The Kochs used every facet of their network to help him to defeat Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL). Notably, Libre Initiative aired its first "expressed advocacy" spot in English and Spanish in support of Rubio in early September.

Rep. Todd Young (R-IN)

Rep. Todd Young (R-IN) received $2.44 million from the Koch brothers in his victory over former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN). Trump with his Hoosier VP, Mike Pence, carried the state easily.

Unlike the other Senate races above, the Koch brothers only utilized Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and Freedom Partners Action Fund in the state, according to our research. In August, AFP launched a "Don't Bayh It" tour of seven cities to "educate" voters of his "harmful" policies.

Notably absent from this list of Koch-backed candidates is incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) who lost in a highly contested race with Gov. Maggie Hassan (D-NH). Sen. Ayotte had received support from Americans for Prosperity in 2015, as The Intercept reported, but after she came out in favor of President Obama's Clean Power Plan, the Kochs dropped their support. Ayotte lost her race to Hassan by just 1,023 votes out of nearly 740,000 votes cast.

347 Koch Candidates in Total in 2016

rest at

Judge Doubles Down on Order Requiring Michigan Officials to Deliver Clean Water in Flint

A federal judge told state officials in Michigan on Friday that they must comply with an order to deliver bottled water to residences in Flint, Michigan, even as the officials challenged the delivery order in an appeals court. The ruling is the latest in a dispute between state officials, including Treasurer Nick Khouri, and advocacy groups over how to provide clean water to Flint residents as the city works to replace corroding pipes.

Flint has struggled with a public health crisis since 2014, when its water supply became contaminated with lead after the city began sourcing from the polluted Flint River on orders from emergency managers appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder's office. Residents of the low-income, majority-Black city were exposed to dangerous levels of lead and other contaminants for months on end as state regulators and health officials pointed fingers and downplayed concerns.

In response to a lawsuit filed by local activists and national advocates, US District Court Judge David Lawson in Detroit ruled last month that distribution centers set up by state officials to hand out bottled water and tap filters were not doing enough for residents. He ordered officials to deliver bottled water directly to homes or verify that residents have a working tap filter. Residents can opt out of delivery.

On November 17, Khouri and members of the Flint Receivership Transition Advisory Board asked Lawson to put a stay on the delivery order while they appeal to a higher court, arguing that they were already doing enough to provide clean water to residents, and home delivery is "unreasonable" and too expensive.

Lawson rejected the defendants' motion to suspend the order, and state officials are reportedly working on a plan to comply as they prepare to challenge the order in an appeals court, according to reports.

"Flint residents continue to suffer irreparable harm from a lack of reliable access to safe drinking water," Lawson wrote in his most recent ruling. "This is more than a mere inconvenience; hunting for water has become a dominant activity in some residents' lives, causing anxiety, stress and financial hardship."

Dimple Chaudhary, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said Lawson's ruling affirmed that the people of Flint have a right to safe drinking water, just like everyone else.

"The court correctly recognized that the government created this crisis, and it's the government's responsibility to ensure that all people in Flint have access to safe drinking water," Chaudhary said.

Some good news for the troubled city: Last week researchers said water in 57 percent of the homes they tested did not have a detectable level of lead, but they urged residents to continue using water filters until the city's pipes are replaced.

Water pipes in Flint began to corrode and release lead because water from the Flint River was never treated with anti-corrosion chemicals. Despite their promising findings, the researchers said residents should continue using tap filters until old lead pipes are replaced with news ones. Federal aid for the project has been delayed by disputes over appropriations in Congress.

rest at

Bring manufacturing home? Let's start with Ivanka Trump's $100 million made-in-Asia apparel line


Want to bring manufacturing back home? Let's start with Ivanka Trump's clothing line:

Ivanka Trump's $100 million apparel line is sewn in Asian countries under a licensing agreement with G-III Apparel Group Inc., which has expanded from making coats in New York's Garment District to become a manufacturer of global scope. That method of moving $140 sheath dresses and $80 sweaters means political embarrassment for her father, who has threatened a trade war against China, the world's second-largest economy. But she can make a profit in few other ways.

Why Asia? You know why:

The Trump clothes are sourced primarily from China and Vietnam because that's where fabrics are made and the labor is cheap and skilled. The brand generates an estimated $100 million in sales -- a small part of G-III's annual take of more than $2 billion, said John Kernan, an analyst for Cowen & Co.

Cheap labor, more profit. Isn't that why Carrier was moving their manufacturing to Mexico? Isn't that why Donald Trump has scolded companies like Apple? For manufacturing overseas? Why shouldn't the Trump family put their money where their mouths are and start by finding a way to make their own goods right here in the U.S.A? Because it's all about that profit and that bottom line. And as Bloomberg notes, it probably would not end well for Ivanka Trump's clothing line:

Even if Ivanka Trump could persuade G-III to move all or part of its manufacturing to the U.S., it would dramatically increase the cost of her goods, Cohen said. And that could be a death knell.

"If you ask a person if they prefer to buy made in America, they'll always say yes, but when it comes to shopping they don't act that way," Gribben said. "They want a bargain, they want a value, they want something that looks great. They never look at the label."

Meanwhile, as a Trump transition team member, Ivanka Trump currently sits in on meetings with the very same people who will be negotiating trade deals down the line. Ones that could ultimately benefit her and the Trump family down the road. Swell.

rest at