• Trump-supporting conservative radio station in Tucson sold to Spanish-format “La MAS Mexicana”

  • Former Grand Wizard of the KKK David Duke targets Tucson woman running for Arizona House

    Grand Wizard of the KKK, David Duke, just about lost his mind after meeting the embodiment of his worst nightmare: a young Master's Degree-Educated Mexican-American Jewish woman!

  • June 2018 TUSD Desegregation update from Latin@ Plaintiff representative

    Sylvia Campoy will be a guest on Wake Up Tucson, 1030-KVOI, this Wednesday, June 20th, at 8am to discuss the issues she addresses and the speak-out event on Thursday mentioned in this article.

  • Obama Travels To Africa For The First Time Since Leaving Office

    Read more of this story here from Newsy Headlines by Newsy Headlines.


    Watch Video

    Over the weekend, Former President Barack Obama made his first visit to Africa since leaving the White House.

    His first stop was Kenya. While there, he met with both President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga. The latter tweeted that Obama praised the two Kenyan leaders for pledging to work together following a disputed 2017 presidential election.

    Obama also traveled to his father's birthplace and helped his half-sister launch a sports and training center.

    Obama's next stop is South Africa, where he's scheduled to speak at an event honoring the late Nelson Mandela on Tuesday. He'll later host a town hall with 200 emerging young leaders in connection with his Obama Foundation before he returns to the U.S.

  • In New York, Intolerance Has Become Routine

    Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Rahima Nasa / ProPublica.

    It is just a snapshot, but it makes for a plenty ugly picture all the same: The New York City Commission on Human Rights surveyed more than 3,000 Muslim, Jewish and Sikh residents of the city late in 2017 and found striking rates of racially and or religiously motivated assault, harassment and workplace discrimination.

    Some 38 percent of those surveyed said they had been verbally harassed or taunted because of their race or faith. Nearly 10 percent said they had been the victim of an actual physical assault. A similar percentage of those surveyed said they had seen their property vandalized or otherwise defaced.

    Lurking in those broad numbers are some more specific outrages: 18 percent of Sikhs surveyed said they had been denied service by a local business; roughly 6 percent of those surveyed who said they wore religious garments reported having had someone try and tear those garments off them.

    The commission, which enforces the city’s anti-discrimination statute governing employment, housing and public accommodation, said last month’s “first of its kind” report was meant to “rigorously document” experiences of bias harassment, discrimination and acts of hate. They survey was conducted in the late fall of 2017, and asked respondents to report incidents dating back to mid-2016, the height of a volatile election season.

    Some 17 percent of those surveyed reported some form of discrimination at work — from being told they could not observe their faith to being told they could not wear religious clothing. Roughly 3 percent reported being fired because of their race, ethnicity or religion.

    The findings are consistent with national and local trends. The FBI and the New York City Police Department have seen increases in reports of hate crimes in the last several years. A recent report from the California attorney general’s office showed that hate crimes in the state have increased by about 17 percent in the last year and have been on the rise for the last three years.

    Yet the commission’s survey underscored a stubborn fact about bias-driven harassment and crimes: People by and large opt not to report them. Fewer than one in three people who said in the survey that they had been verbally harassed or physically assaulted said they reported it to anybody — whether that be the police, a local advocacy group or religious leaders in their communities. And while Sikhs reported distinctively high rates of abuse — Sikhs under 35 were nearly twice as likely to experience verbal harassment as others surveyed, for instance — they were the least likely to report these experiences.

    Ramatu Ahmed, executive director of the Bronx-based African Life Center, a community organization that assists immigrants with social services, noted that the low rates of reporting incidents reflects a general apprehension about contacting police, a reluctance often shaped by people’s interactions with police in their home countries.

    “Back in my culture, you don’t do much with the police,” said Ahmed, who is an immigrant from Ghana. “You do everything to not associate yourself with the police and a lot of people bring that mentality when they come here.”

    The commission offered some breakdowns of those it surveyed — 50 percent were Muslim; 31 percent were Jewish; 6 percent were as young as 16 or 17 and 10 percent were over 65 — but also said that in its public report no numbers or percentages were cited unless they had been deemed statistically significant.

    The population perhaps most at risk? Black Muslim women in the Bronx, where one in five reported being physically assaulted in the months in question.

    Carmelyn P. Malalis, the city human right commissioner, said one of the things that struck her in the survey was how many of those reporting abuse “have accepted these indignities as part of their everyday lives.”

    “Sadly, the high rates of bias and discrimination revealed in this survey were not surprising given the recent wave of xenophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric surrounding changes in federal immigration policies and bias-motivated attacks and harassment against these communities,” said Malalis.

    ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

     

  • Republicans Bow to Industry Pressure, Shut Down Vital Healthcare Resource

    Read more of this story here from DCReport.org by David Crook.

    Big Pharma Beneficiaries Delete Storehouse of Medical Guidelines

    America’s federal database of medical treatment guidelines—a resource for doctors, hospitals, and patients for more than two decades—will be dead on Tuesday (July 17). The National Guideline Clearinghouse website at Guidelines.gov was shut down by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, it said, because “Federal funding through AHRQ will no longer be available to support the NGC.”

    Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), chair of the House Appropriations Committee until the beginning of last year, had targeted the agency for elimination even after doctors warned him not to kill Guidelines.gov. As TYT reported on Sunday, Rogers doubled the number of health-industry companies in which he invested last year.

    The White House also pitched killing the research agency. Under new Appropriations Chairman Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), the agency was spared last year, but the Guidelines.gov budget was slashed from $2.1 million to $1.2 million.

    The national guidelines have been a target for Republicans since the 1990s, when back surgeons teed off on guidelines favoring nonsurgical alternatives for treating back pain. And big healthcare companies have billions of dollars at stake in which guidelines consumers use. An estimated 200,000 visitors turned to Guidelines.gov each month. For decades, the federal guidelines have had something of a monopoly. As of Tuesday, that will no longer be the case.

    And the healthcare industry has shown a willingness to shade medical guidelines to its benefit.

    In the early 2000s, one of Eli Lilly’s most high-profile drugs, Xigris, was supposed to make the company billions of dollars by treating sepsis, blood poisoning that kills thousands of Americans every year. Xigris was approved by the Food and Drug Administration even though the internal vote was evenly split. But the profits failed to materialize.

    In 2006, three doctors who worked at the National Institutes of Health wrote an article in the New England Journal of Medicine revealing details about what Eli Lilly did next.

    The company spent $1.8 million to fund a task force on Values, Ethics, and Rationing in Critical Care. The task force guidelines implied it was immoral for doctors to balk at the high price of Xigris—about $8,000 for the four-day treatment—and favored Xigris over older treatments which had not been subjected to clinical trials.

    Eli Lilly stood by its actions.

    It’s not clear which of the Xigris guidelines made it into the national clearinghouse. Online indices of the clearinghouse indicate show guidelines for Drotrecogin alfa, the generic name for Xigris, appear to have been part of the national clearinghouse. But even before Guidelines.gov went dark, those guidelines were reported as withdrawn.

    As of Sunday, the archive no longer appeared to be active.

    The research agency has not publicly explained how it settled on Guidelines.gov for elimination—when the agency itself received a slight funding increase last year.

    The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is within the Department of Health and Human Services, which also includes the Food and Drug Administration. Health and Juman Services Secretary Alex Azar was at the department during the Xigris incident, first as the department’s general counsel and then as deputy secretary. From 2012 to 2017 he served as president of the U.S. division of Eli Lilly.

    Frelinghuysen’s federal filings show that at the end of last year he owned between $500,000 and $1,000,000 in Eli Lilly stock, with at least another $100,000 worth held by a trust fund.

    Jonathan Larsen is managing editor of TYT Investigates.

    Featured Image: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Trump, and Vice President Pence in the White House Jan. 29, 2018. (White House photo/Joyce Boghosian)

  • Publicity over a memory test Trump took could skew its results

    Read more of this story here from Latest Headlines | Science News by Leah Rosenbaum.

    Many media outlets reporting on President Trump’s cognitive assessment test could make it harder for doctors to use the exam to spot dementia.
  • Researchers Develop A Way To Test For Early Alzheimer’s Disease

    Read more of this story here from Newsy Headlines by Newsy Headlines.


    Watch Video

    One of the difficulties of studying the brains of early Alzheimer's patients is the only way doctors could detect deterioration of the organ was in autopsy. But Yale researchers have developed a test to detect memory loss among patients in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

    "The importance of synaptic loss in living people, of all the pathologies of Alzheimer's disease, it's the one that is most correlated with function," said Christopher van Dyck, professor of psychiatry, neurology and neuroscience at Yale University.

    In 2016, those researchers developed a radioactive tracer that can be seen in a PET scan. It binds to a key protein found in most synapses across the brain. They speculated that it could be used to follow the progression in the brain of things like depression and Alzheimer's disease by measuring changes in synapses in real time.

    SEE MORE: A New Device May Slow The Debilitating Effects Of Alzheimer's

    In this new round of research, scientists wanted to put that theory to the test by measuring the synaptic density in older adults with varying levels of cognitive ability. They found patients with early-onset Alzheimer's had 41 percent less protein in the hippocampus than patients with normal cognition.

    Researchers think the ability to measure synapses in a living patient could allow clinicians to spot the start of neurological problems and intervene. They're even already working on another study that measures if drug treatments can restore depleted synapses. 

    "Now we don’t have to wait for death. Now we can image these things in the live human being, being able to asses what is going on in each and everybody's brain," said Richard E. Carson, professor of radiology, biomedical imaging and biomedical engineering at Yale.

  • Climb Down From the Summit of Hostile Propaganda

    Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Norman Solomon.

    Throughout the day before the summit in Helsinki, the lead story on the New York Times home page stayed the same: “Just by Meeting With Trump, Putin Comes Out Ahead.” The Sunday headline was in harmony with the tone of U.S. news coverage overall. As for media commentary, the Washington Post was in the dominant groove as it editorialized that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is “an implacably hostile foreign adversary.”

    Contempt for diplomacy with Russia is now extreme. Mainline U.S. journalists and top Democrats often bait President Trump in zero-sum terms. No doubt Hillary Clinton thought she was sending out an applause line in her tweet Sunday night: “Question for President Trump as he meets Putin: Do you know which team you play for?”

    A bellicose stance toward Russia has become so routine and widespread that we might not give it a second thought — and that makes it all the more hazardous. After President George W. Bush declared “You’re either with us or against us,” many Americans gradually realized what was wrong with a Manichean view of the world. Such an outlook is even more dangerous today.

    Since early 2017, the U.S. mass media have laid it on thick with the rough political equivalent of a painting technique known as chiaroscuro — “the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition,” in the words of Wikipedia. The Russiagate frenzy is largely about punching up contrasts between the United States (angelic and victimized) and Russia (sinister and victimizer).

    Countless stories with selective facts are being told that way. But other selectively fact-based stories could also be told to portray the United States as a sinister victimizer and Russia as an angelic victim. Those governments and their conformist media outlets are relentless in telling it either way. As the great journalist I.F. Stone observed long ago, “All governments lie, and nothing they say should be believed.” In other words: don’t trust, verify.

    Often the biggest lies involve what remains unsaid. For instance, U.S. media rarely mention such key matters as the promise-breaking huge expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders since the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the brazen U.S. intervention in Russia’s pivotal 1996 presidential election, or the U.S. government’s 2002 withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, or the more than 800 U.S. military bases overseas — in contrast to Russia’s nine.

    For human survival on this planet, an overarching truth appears in an open letter published last week by The Nation magazine: “No political advantage, real or imagined, could possibly compensate for the consequences if even a fraction of U.S. and Russian arsenals were to be utilized in a thermonuclear exchange. The tacit pretense that the worsening of U.S.-Russian relations does not worsen the odds of survival for the next generations is profoundly false.”

    The initial 26 signers of the open letter — “Common Ground: For Secure Elections and True National Security” — included Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, writer and feminist organizer Gloria Steinem, former UN ambassador Gov. Bill Richardson, political analyst Noam Chomsky, former covert CIA operations officer Valerie Plame, activist leader Rev. Dr. William Barber II, filmmaker Michael Moore, former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen, former U.S. ambassador to the USSR Jack F. Matlock Jr., Pulitzer Prize-winning writers Alice Walker and Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, former senator Adlai Stevenson III, and former longtime House Armed Services Committee member Patricia Schroeder. (I was also one of the initial signers.)

    Since its release five days ago, the open letter has gained support from a petition already signed by 30,000 people. The petition campaign aims to amplify the call for protecting the digital infrastructure of the electoral process that is now “vulnerable to would-be hackers based anywhere” — and for taking “concrete steps… to ease tensions between the nuclear superpowers.”

    We need a major shift in the U.S. approach toward Russia. Clearly the needed shift won’t be initiated by the Republican or Democratic leaders in Congress; it must come from Americans who make their voices heard. The lives — and even existence — of future generations are at stake in the relationship between Washington and Moscow.

    Many of the petition’s grassroots signers have posted comments along with their names. Here are a few of my favorites:

    *  From Nevada: “We all share the same planet! We better learn how to do it safely or face the consequences of blowing ourselves up!”

    *  From New Mexico: “The earth will not survive a nuclear war. The weapons we have today are able to cause much more destruction than those of previous eras. We must find a way to common ground.”

    *  From Massachusetts: “It is imperative that we take steps to protect the sanctity of our elections and to prevent nuclear war anywhere on the earth.”

    *  From Kentucky: “Secure elections are a fundamental part of a democratic system. But this could become meaningless in the event of thermonuclear war.”

    *  From California: “There is only madness and hubris in talk of belligerence toward others, especially when we have such dangerous weapons and human error has almost led to our annihilation already more than once in the past half-century.”

    Yet a wide array of media outlets, notably the “Russiagate”-obsessed network MSNBC, keeps egging on progressives to climb toward peaks of anti-Russian jingoism. The line of march is often in virtual lockstep with GOP hyper-hawks like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. The incessant drumbeat is in sync with what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism.

    Meanwhile, as Dr. King said, “We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation.”

  • The Evolution Of Video Games

    Read more of this story here from Newsy Headlines by Newsy Headlines.


    Watch Video

    "The Day Ahead" is taking a look at the history of video games and their influence on society. They might feel like a staple in modern life, but just a few decades ago video games were as new and fascinating as virtual reality is now. 

  • National (In)Security in the United States of Inequality

    Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Rajan Menon / TomDispatch.

    So effectively has the Beltway establishment captured the concept of national security that, for most of us, it automatically conjures up images of terrorist groups, cyber warriors, or “rogue states.”  To ward off such foes, the United States maintains a historically unprecedented constellation of military bases abroad and, since 9/11, has waged wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere that have gobbled up nearly $4.8 trillion.  The 2018 Pentagon budget already totals $647 billion — four times what China, second in global military spending, shells out and more than the next 12 countries combined, seven of them American allies.   For good measure, Donald Trump has added an additional $200 billion to projected defense expenditures through 2019.

    Yet to hear the hawks tell it, the United States has never been less secure.  So much for bang for the buck.

    For millions of Americans, however, the greatest threat to their day-to-day security isn’t terrorism or North Korea, Iran, Russia, or China.  It’s internal — and economic.  That’s particularly true for the 12.7% of Americans (43.1 million of them) classified as poor by the government’s criteria: an income below $12,140 for a one-person household, $16,460 for a family of two, and so on… until you get to the princely sum of $42,380 for a family of eight.

    Savings aren’t much help either: a third of Americans have no savings at all and another third have less than $1,000 in the bank.  Little wonder that families struggling to cover the cost of food alone increased from 11% (36 million) in 2007 to 14% (48 million) in 2014.

    The Working Poor

    Unemployment can certainly contribute to being poor, but millions of Americans endure poverty when they have full-time jobs or even hold down more than one job.  The latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that there are 8.6 million “working poor,” defined by the government as people who live below the poverty line despite being employed at least 27 weeks a year.  Their economic insecurity doesn’t register in our society, partly because working and being poor don’t seem to go together in the minds of many Americans — and unemployment has fallen reasonably steadily.  After approaching 10% in 2009, it’s now at only 4%.

    Help from the government?  Bill Clinton’s 1996 welfare “reform” programconcocted in partnership with congressional Republicans, imposed time limits on government assistance, while tightening eligibility criteria for it. So, as Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer show in their disturbing book, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, many who desperately need help don’t even bother to apply.  And things will only get worse in the age of Trump.  His 2019 budget includes deep cuts in a raft of anti-poverty programs.

    Anyone seeking a visceral sense of the hardships such Americans endure should read Barbara Ehrenreich’s 2001 book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.  It’s a gripping account of what she learned when, posing as a “homemaker” with no special skills, she worked for two years in various low-wage jobs, relying solely on her earnings to support herself.  The book brims with stories about people who had jobs but, out of necessity, slept in rent-by-the-week fleabag motels, flophouses, or even in their cars, subsisting on vending machine snacks for lunch, hot dogs and instant noodles for dinner, and forgoing basic dental care or health checkups.  Those who managed to get permanent housing would choose poor, low-rent neighborhoods close to work because they often couldn’t afford a car.  To maintain even such a barebones lifestyle, many worked more than one job.

    Though politicians prattle on about how times have changed for the better, Ehrenreich’s book still provides a remarkably accurate picture of America’s working poor.  Over the past decade the proportion of people who exhausted their monthly paychecks just to pay for life’s essentials actually increased from 31% to 38%.  In 2013, 71% of the families that had children and used food pantries run by Feeding America, the largest private organization helping the hungry, included at least one person who had worked during the previous year.  And in America’s big cities, chiefly because of a widening gap between rent and wages, thousands of working poor remain homeless, sleeping in shelters, on the streets, or in their vehicles, sometimes along with their families.  In New York City, no outlier when it comes to homelessness among the working poor, in a third of the families with children that use homeless shelters at least one adult held a job.

    The Wages of Poverty

    The working poor cluster in certain occupations.  They are salespeople in retail stores, servers or preparers of fast food, custodial staff, hotel workers, and caregivers for children or the elderly.  Many make less than $10 an hour and lack any leverage, union or otherwise, to press for raises.  In fact, the percentage of unionized workers in such jobs remains in the single digits — and in retail and food preparation, it’s under 4.5%.  That’s hardly surprising, given that private sector union membership has fallen by 50% since 1983 to only 6.7% of the workforce.

    Low-wage employers like it that way and — Walmart being the poster child for this — work diligently to make it ever harder for employees to join unions.  As a result, they rarely find themselves under any real pressure to increase wages, which, adjusted for inflation, have stood still or even decreased since the late 1970s. When employment is “at-will,” workers may be fired or the terms of their work amended on the whim of a company and without the slightest explanation. Walmart announced this year that it would hike its hourly wage to $11 and that’s welcome news.  But this had nothing to do with collective bargaining; it was a response to the drop in the unemployment rate, cash flows from the Trump tax cut for corporations (which saved Walmart as much as $2 billion), an increase in minimum wages in a number of states, and pay increases by an arch competitor, Target.  It was also accompanied by the shutdown of 63 of Walmart’s Sam’s Club stores, which meant layoffs for 10,000 workers.  In short, the balance of power almost always favors the employer, seldom the employee.

    As a result, though the United States has a per-capita income of $59,500 and is among the wealthiest countries in the world, 12.7% of Americans (that’s 43.1 million people), officially are impoverished. And that’sgenerally considered a significant undercount.  The Census Bureau establishes the poverty rate by figuring out an annual no-frills family food budget, multiplying it by three, adjusting it for household size, and pegging it to the Consumer Price Index.  That, many economists believe, is a woefully inadequate way of estimating poverty.  Food prices haven’t risen dramatically over the past 20 years, but the cost of other necessities like medical care (especially if you lack insurance) and housing have: 10.5% and 11.8% respectively between 2013 and 2017 compared to an only 5.5% increase for food.

    Include housing and medical expenses in the equation and you get the Supplementary Poverty Measure (SPM), published by the Census Bureau since 2011.  It reveals that a larger number of Americans are poor: 14% or 45 million in 2016.

    Dismal Data

    For a fuller picture of American (in)security, however, it’s necessary todelve deeper into the relevant data, starting with hourly wages, which are the way more than 58% of adult workers are paid.  The good news: only 1.8 million, or 2.3% of them, subsist at or below minimum wage.  The not-so-good news: one-third of all workers earn less than $12 an hour and 42%earn less than $15.  That’s $24,960 and $31,200 a year. Imagine raising a family on such incomes, figuring in the cost of food, rent, childcare, car payments (since a car is often a necessity simply to get to a job in a country with inadequate public transportation), and medical costs.

    The problem facing the working poor isn’t just low wages, but the widening gap between wages and rising prices.The government has increased the hourly federal minimum wage more than 20 times since it was set at 25 cents under the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act.  Between 2007 and 2009 it rose to $7.25, but over the past decade that sum lost nearly 10% of its purchasing power to inflation, which means that, in 2018, someone would have to work 41 additional days to make the equivalent of the 2009 minimum wage.

    Workers in the lowest 20% have lost the most ground, their inflation-adjusted wages falling by nearly 1% between 1979 and 2016, compared to a 24.7% increase for the top 20%.  This can’t be explained by lackluster productivity since, between 1985 and 2015, it outstrippedpay raises, often substantially, in every economic sector except mining.

    Yes, states can mandate higher minimum wages and 29 have, but 21 have not, leaving many low-wage workers struggling to cover the costs of two essentials in particular: health care and housing.

    Even when it comes to jobs that offer health insurance, employers have been shifting ever more of its cost onto their workers through higher deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses, as well as by requiring them to cover more of the premiums.  The percentage of workers who paid at least 10% of their earnings to cover such costs — not counting premiums — doubledbetween 2003 and 2014.

    This helps explain why, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 11% of workers in the bottom 10% of wage earners even enrolled in workplace healthcare plans in 2016 (compared to 72% in the top 10%). As a restaurant server who makes $2.13 an hour before tips — and whose husband earns $9 an hour at Walmart — put it, after paying the rent, “it’s either put food in the house or buy insurance.”

    The Affordable Care Act, or ACA (aka Obamacare), provided subsidies to help people with low incomes cover the cost of insurance premiums, but workers with employer-supplied healthcare, no matter how low their wages, weren’t covered by it.  Now, of course, President Trump, congressional Republicans, and a Supreme Court in which right-wing justices are going to be even more influential will be intent on poleaxing the ACA.

    It’s housing, though, that takes the biggest bite out of the paychecks of low-wage workers.  The majority of them are renters.  Ownership remains for many a pipe dream.  According to a Harvard study, between 2001 and 2016, renters who made $30,000-$50,000 a year and paid more than a third of their earnings to landlords (the threshold for qualifying as “rent burdened”) increased from 37% to 50%.  For those making only $15,000, that figure rose to 83%.

    In other words, in an ever more unequal America, the number of low-income workers struggling to pay their rent has surged.  As the Harvard analysis shows, this is, in part, because the number of affluent renters (with incomes of $100,000 or more) has leapt and, in city after city, they’re driving the demand for, and building of, new rental units.  As a result, the high-end share of new rental construction soared from a third to nearly two-thirds of all units between 2001 and 2016.  Not surprisingly, new low-income rental units dropped from two-fifths to one-fifth of the total and, as the pressure on renters rose, so did rents for even those modest dwellings. On top of that, in places like New York City, where demand from the wealthy shapes the housing market, landlords have found ways — some within the law, others not — to get rid of low-income tenants.

    Public housing and housing vouchers are supposed to make housing affordable to low-income households, but the supply of public housing hasn’t remotely matched demand. Consequently, waiting lists are long and people in need languish for years before getting a shot — if they ever do.  Only a quarter of those who qualify for such assistance receive it.  As for those vouchers, getting them is hard to begin with because of the massive mismatchbetween available funding for the program and the demand for the help it provides.  And then come the other challenges: finding landlords willing to accept vouchers or rentals that are reasonably close to work and not in neighborhoods euphemistically labelled “distressed.”

    The bottom line: more than 75% of “at-risk” renters (those for whom the cost of rent exceeds 30% or more of their earnings) do not receive assistance from the government.  The real “risk” for them is becoming homeless, which means relying on shelters or family and friends willing to take them in.

    President Trump’s proposed budget cuts will make life even harder for low-income workers seeking affordable housing.  His 2019 budget proposal slashes $6.8 billion (14.2%) from the resources of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) by, among other things, scrapping housing vouchers and assistance to low-income families struggling to pay heating bills.  The president also seeks to slash funds for the upkeep of public housing by nearly 50%.  In addition, the deficits that his rich-come-first tax “reform” bill is virtually guaranteed to produce will undoubtedly set the stage for yet more cuts in the future.  In other words, in what’s becoming the United States of Inequality, the very phrases “low-income workers” and “affordable housing” have ceased to go together.

    None of this seems to have troubled HUD Secretary Ben Carson who happily ordered a $31,000 dining room set for his office suite at the taxpayers’ expense, even as he visited new public housing units to make sure that they weren’t too comfortable (lest the poor settle in for long stays).  Carson has declared that it’s time to stop believing the problems of this society can be fixed merely by having the government throw extra money at them — unless, apparently, the dining room accoutrements of superbureaucrats aren’t up to snuff.

    Money Talks

    The levels of poverty and economic inequality that prevail in America are not intrinsic to either capitalism or globalization. Most other wealthy market economies in the 36-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have done far better than the United States in reducing them without sacrificing innovation or creating government-run economies.

    Take the poverty gap, which the OECD defines as the difference between a country’s official poverty line and the average income of those who fall below it.  The United States has the second largest poverty gap among wealthy countries; only Italy does worse.

    Child poverty?  In the World Economic Forum’s ranking of 41 countries — from best to worst — the U.S. placed 35th.  Child poverty has declined in the United States since 2010, but a Columbia University report estimates that 19% of American kids (13.7 million) nevertheless lived in families with incomes below the official poverty line in 2016.  If you add in the number of kids in low-income households, that number increases to 41%.

    As for infant mortality, according to the government’s own Centers for Disease Control, the U.S., with 6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births, has the absolute worst record among wealthy countries. (Finland and Japan do best with 2.3.)

    And when it comes to the distribution of wealth, among the OECD countries only Turkey, Chile, and Mexico do worse than the U.S.

    It’s time to rethink the American national security state with its annual trillion-dollar budget.  For tens of millions of Americans, the source of deep workaday insecurity isn’t the standard roster of foreign enemies, but an ever-more entrenched system of inequality, still growing, that stacks the political deck against the least well-off Americans.  They lack the bucks to hire big-time lobbyists.  They can’t write lavish checks to candidates running for public office or fund PACs.  They have no way of manipulating the myriad influence-generating networks that the elite uses to shape taxation and spending policies.  They are up against a system in which money truly does talk — and that’s the voice they don’t have.  Welcome to the United States of Inequality.

Obama Travels To Africa For The First Time Since Leaving Office

Read more of this story here from Newsy Headlines by Newsy Headlines.


Watch Video

Over the weekend, Former President Barack Obama made his first visit to Africa since leaving the White House.

His first stop was Kenya. While there, he met with both President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga. The latter tweeted that Obama praised the two Kenyan leaders for pledging to work together following a disputed 2017 presidential election.

Obama also traveled to his father's birthplace and helped his half-sister launch a sports and training center.

Obama's next stop is South Africa, where he's scheduled to speak at an event honoring the late Nelson Mandela on Tuesday. He'll later host a town hall with 200 emerging young leaders in connection with his Obama Foundation before he returns to the U.S.

Read more

Trump-supporting conservative radio station in Tucson sold to Spanish-format “La MAS Mexicana”

For many years in Tucson, you could tune in to hear your daily hate on “Good News Communication,” 1030AM-KVOI. If you wanted to hear multiple shows in the morning or afternoon that supported this last decade of hate in Arizona, from SB1070 to HB2281, which banned Mexican American Studies (MAS) in TUSD, to Trump’s support of America’s most hateful Sheriff Arpaio, you knew where to turn on the radio dial.

Now the morning show named WakeUp Tucson! may become ¡Despierta Tucson! as Bustos “La MAS Mexicana” Media buys out the Trump-supporting Christian Conservative radio station that was part of the racist and unconstitutional assault on MAS and Latino students in Tucson Unified. read more

Read more

Obama Travels To Africa For The First Time Since Leaving Office

Read more of this story here from Newsy Headlines by Newsy Headlines.


Watch Video

Over the weekend, Former President Barack Obama made his first visit to Africa since leaving the White House.

His first stop was Kenya. While there, he met with both President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga. The latter tweeted that Obama praised the two Kenyan leaders for pledging to work together following a disputed 2017 presidential election.

Obama also traveled to his father's birthplace and helped his half-sister launch a sports and training center.

Obama's next stop is South Africa, where he's scheduled to speak at an event honoring the late Nelson Mandela on Tuesday. He'll later host a town hall with 200 emerging young leaders in connection with his Obama Foundation before he returns to the U.S.

Read more

In New York, Intolerance Has Become Routine

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Rahima Nasa / ProPublica.

It is just a snapshot, but it makes for a plenty ugly picture all the same: The New York City Commission on Human Rights surveyed more than 3,000 Muslim, Jewish and Sikh residents of the city late in 2017 and found striking rates of racially and or religiously motivated assault, harassment and workplace discrimination.

Some 38 percent of those surveyed said they had been verbally harassed or taunted because of their race or faith. Nearly 10 percent said they had been the victim of an actual physical assault. A similar percentage of those surveyed said they had seen their property vandalized or otherwise defaced.

Lurking in those broad numbers are some more specific outrages: 18 percent of Sikhs surveyed said they had been denied service by a local business; roughly 6 percent of those surveyed who said they wore religious garments reported having had someone try and tear those garments off them.

The commission, which enforces the city’s anti-discrimination statute governing employment, housing and public accommodation, said last month’s “first of its kind” report was meant to “rigorously document” experiences of bias harassment, discrimination and acts of hate. They survey was conducted in the late fall of 2017, and asked respondents to report incidents dating back to mid-2016, the height of a volatile election season.

Some 17 percent of those surveyed reported some form of discrimination at work — from being told they could not observe their faith to being told they could not wear religious clothing. Roughly 3 percent reported being fired because of their race, ethnicity or religion.

The findings are consistent with national and local trends. The FBI and the New York City Police Department have seen increases in reports of hate crimes in the last several years. A recent report from the California attorney general’s office showed that hate crimes in the state have increased by about 17 percent in the last year and have been on the rise for the last three years.

Yet the commission’s survey underscored a stubborn fact about bias-driven harassment and crimes: People by and large opt not to report them. Fewer than one in three people who said in the survey that they had been verbally harassed or physically assaulted said they reported it to anybody — whether that be the police, a local advocacy group or religious leaders in their communities. And while Sikhs reported distinctively high rates of abuse — Sikhs under 35 were nearly twice as likely to experience verbal harassment as others surveyed, for instance — they were the least likely to report these experiences.

Ramatu Ahmed, executive director of the Bronx-based African Life Center, a community organization that assists immigrants with social services, noted that the low rates of reporting incidents reflects a general apprehension about contacting police, a reluctance often shaped by people’s interactions with police in their home countries.

“Back in my culture, you don’t do much with the police,” said Ahmed, who is an immigrant from Ghana. “You do everything to not associate yourself with the police and a lot of people bring that mentality when they come here.”

The commission offered some breakdowns of those it surveyed — 50 percent were Muslim; 31 percent were Jewish; 6 percent were as young as 16 or 17 and 10 percent were over 65 — but also said that in its public report no numbers or percentages were cited unless they had been deemed statistically significant.

The population perhaps most at risk? Black Muslim women in the Bronx, where one in five reported being physically assaulted in the months in question.

Carmelyn P. Malalis, the city human right commissioner, said one of the things that struck her in the survey was how many of those reporting abuse “have accepted these indignities as part of their everyday lives.”

“Sadly, the high rates of bias and discrimination revealed in this survey were not surprising given the recent wave of xenophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric surrounding changes in federal immigration policies and bias-motivated attacks and harassment against these communities,” said Malalis.

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

 

Read more

Republicans Bow to Industry Pressure, Shut Down Vital Healthcare Resource

Read more of this story here from DCReport.org by David Crook.

Big Pharma Beneficiaries Delete Storehouse of Medical Guidelines

America’s federal database of medical treatment guidelines—a resource for doctors, hospitals, and patients for more than two decades—will be dead on Tuesday (July 17). The National Guideline Clearinghouse website at Guidelines.gov was shut down by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, it said, because “Federal funding through AHRQ will no longer be available to support the NGC.”

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), chair of the House Appropriations Committee until the beginning of last year, had targeted the agency for elimination even after doctors warned him not to kill Guidelines.gov. As TYT reported on Sunday, Rogers doubled the number of health-industry companies in which he invested last year.

The White House also pitched killing the research agency. Under new Appropriations Chairman Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), the agency was spared last year, but the Guidelines.gov budget was slashed from $2.1 million to $1.2 million.

The national guidelines have been a target for Republicans since the 1990s, when back surgeons teed off on guidelines favoring nonsurgical alternatives for treating back pain. And big healthcare companies have billions of dollars at stake in which guidelines consumers use. An estimated 200,000 visitors turned to Guidelines.gov each month. For decades, the federal guidelines have had something of a monopoly. As of Tuesday, that will no longer be the case.

And the healthcare industry has shown a willingness to shade medical guidelines to its benefit.

In the early 2000s, one of Eli Lilly’s most high-profile drugs, Xigris, was supposed to make the company billions of dollars by treating sepsis, blood poisoning that kills thousands of Americans every year. Xigris was approved by the Food and Drug Administration even though the internal vote was evenly split. But the profits failed to materialize.

In 2006, three doctors who worked at the National Institutes of Health wrote an article in the New England Journal of Medicine revealing details about what Eli Lilly did next.

The company spent $1.8 million to fund a task force on Values, Ethics, and Rationing in Critical Care. The task force guidelines implied it was immoral for doctors to balk at the high price of Xigris—about $8,000 for the four-day treatment—and favored Xigris over older treatments which had not been subjected to clinical trials.

Eli Lilly stood by its actions.

It’s not clear which of the Xigris guidelines made it into the national clearinghouse. Online indices of the clearinghouse indicate show guidelines for Drotrecogin alfa, the generic name for Xigris, appear to have been part of the national clearinghouse. But even before Guidelines.gov went dark, those guidelines were reported as withdrawn.

As of Sunday, the archive no longer appeared to be active.

The research agency has not publicly explained how it settled on Guidelines.gov for elimination—when the agency itself received a slight funding increase last year.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is within the Department of Health and Human Services, which also includes the Food and Drug Administration. Health and Juman Services Secretary Alex Azar was at the department during the Xigris incident, first as the department’s general counsel and then as deputy secretary. From 2012 to 2017 he served as president of the U.S. division of Eli Lilly.

Frelinghuysen’s federal filings show that at the end of last year he owned between $500,000 and $1,000,000 in Eli Lilly stock, with at least another $100,000 worth held by a trust fund.

Jonathan Larsen is managing editor of TYT Investigates.

Featured Image: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Trump, and Vice President Pence in the White House Jan. 29, 2018. (White House photo/Joyce Boghosian)

Read more

Researchers Develop A Way To Test For Early Alzheimer’s Disease

Read more of this story here from Newsy Headlines by Newsy Headlines.


Watch Video

One of the difficulties of studying the brains of early Alzheimer's patients is the only way doctors could detect deterioration of the organ was in autopsy. But Yale researchers have developed a test to detect memory loss among patients in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

"The importance of synaptic loss in living people, of all the pathologies of Alzheimer's disease, it's the one that is most correlated with function," said Christopher van Dyck, professor of psychiatry, neurology and neuroscience at Yale University.

In 2016, those researchers developed a radioactive tracer that can be seen in a PET scan. It binds to a key protein found in most synapses across the brain. They speculated that it could be used to follow the progression in the brain of things like depression and Alzheimer's disease by measuring changes in synapses in real time.

SEE MORE: A New Device May Slow The Debilitating Effects Of Alzheimer's

In this new round of research, scientists wanted to put that theory to the test by measuring the synaptic density in older adults with varying levels of cognitive ability. They found patients with early-onset Alzheimer's had 41 percent less protein in the hippocampus than patients with normal cognition.

Researchers think the ability to measure synapses in a living patient could allow clinicians to spot the start of neurological problems and intervene. They're even already working on another study that measures if drug treatments can restore depleted synapses. 

"Now we don’t have to wait for death. Now we can image these things in the live human being, being able to asses what is going on in each and everybody's brain," said Richard E. Carson, professor of radiology, biomedical imaging and biomedical engineering at Yale.

Read more

Climb Down From the Summit of Hostile Propaganda

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Norman Solomon.

Throughout the day before the summit in Helsinki, the lead story on the New York Times home page stayed the same: “Just by Meeting With Trump, Putin Comes Out Ahead.” The Sunday headline was in harmony with the tone of U.S. news coverage overall. As for media commentary, the Washington Post was in the dominant groove as it editorialized that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is “an implacably hostile foreign adversary.”

Contempt for diplomacy with Russia is now extreme. Mainline U.S. journalists and top Democrats often bait President Trump in zero-sum terms. No doubt Hillary Clinton thought she was sending out an applause line in her tweet Sunday night: “Question for President Trump as he meets Putin: Do you know which team you play for?”

A bellicose stance toward Russia has become so routine and widespread that we might not give it a second thought — and that makes it all the more hazardous. After President George W. Bush declared “You’re either with us or against us,” many Americans gradually realized what was wrong with a Manichean view of the world. Such an outlook is even more dangerous today.

Since early 2017, the U.S. mass media have laid it on thick with the rough political equivalent of a painting technique known as chiaroscuro — “the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition,” in the words of Wikipedia. The Russiagate frenzy is largely about punching up contrasts between the United States (angelic and victimized) and Russia (sinister and victimizer).

Countless stories with selective facts are being told that way. But other selectively fact-based stories could also be told to portray the United States as a sinister victimizer and Russia as an angelic victim. Those governments and their conformist media outlets are relentless in telling it either way. As the great journalist I.F. Stone observed long ago, “All governments lie, and nothing they say should be believed.” In other words: don’t trust, verify.

Often the biggest lies involve what remains unsaid. For instance, U.S. media rarely mention such key matters as the promise-breaking huge expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders since the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the brazen U.S. intervention in Russia’s pivotal 1996 presidential election, or the U.S. government’s 2002 withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, or the more than 800 U.S. military bases overseas — in contrast to Russia’s nine.

For human survival on this planet, an overarching truth appears in an open letter published last week by The Nation magazine: “No political advantage, real or imagined, could possibly compensate for the consequences if even a fraction of U.S. and Russian arsenals were to be utilized in a thermonuclear exchange. The tacit pretense that the worsening of U.S.-Russian relations does not worsen the odds of survival for the next generations is profoundly false.”

The initial 26 signers of the open letter — “Common Ground: For Secure Elections and True National Security” — included Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, writer and feminist organizer Gloria Steinem, former UN ambassador Gov. Bill Richardson, political analyst Noam Chomsky, former covert CIA operations officer Valerie Plame, activist leader Rev. Dr. William Barber II, filmmaker Michael Moore, former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen, former U.S. ambassador to the USSR Jack F. Matlock Jr., Pulitzer Prize-winning writers Alice Walker and Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, former senator Adlai Stevenson III, and former longtime House Armed Services Committee member Patricia Schroeder. (I was also one of the initial signers.)

Since its release five days ago, the open letter has gained support from a petition already signed by 30,000 people. The petition campaign aims to amplify the call for protecting the digital infrastructure of the electoral process that is now “vulnerable to would-be hackers based anywhere” — and for taking “concrete steps… to ease tensions between the nuclear superpowers.”

We need a major shift in the U.S. approach toward Russia. Clearly the needed shift won’t be initiated by the Republican or Democratic leaders in Congress; it must come from Americans who make their voices heard. The lives — and even existence — of future generations are at stake in the relationship between Washington and Moscow.

Many of the petition’s grassroots signers have posted comments along with their names. Here are a few of my favorites:

*  From Nevada: “We all share the same planet! We better learn how to do it safely or face the consequences of blowing ourselves up!”

*  From New Mexico: “The earth will not survive a nuclear war. The weapons we have today are able to cause much more destruction than those of previous eras. We must find a way to common ground.”

*  From Massachusetts: “It is imperative that we take steps to protect the sanctity of our elections and to prevent nuclear war anywhere on the earth.”

*  From Kentucky: “Secure elections are a fundamental part of a democratic system. But this could become meaningless in the event of thermonuclear war.”

*  From California: “There is only madness and hubris in talk of belligerence toward others, especially when we have such dangerous weapons and human error has almost led to our annihilation already more than once in the past half-century.”

Yet a wide array of media outlets, notably the “Russiagate”-obsessed network MSNBC, keeps egging on progressives to climb toward peaks of anti-Russian jingoism. The line of march is often in virtual lockstep with GOP hyper-hawks like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. The incessant drumbeat is in sync with what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism.

Meanwhile, as Dr. King said, “We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation.”

Read more

National (In)Security in the United States of Inequality

Read more of this story here from Truthdig RSS by Rajan Menon / TomDispatch.

So effectively has the Beltway establishment captured the concept of national security that, for most of us, it automatically conjures up images of terrorist groups, cyber warriors, or “rogue states.”  To ward off such foes, the United States maintains a historically unprecedented constellation of military bases abroad and, since 9/11, has waged wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere that have gobbled up nearly $4.8 trillion.  The 2018 Pentagon budget already totals $647 billion — four times what China, second in global military spending, shells out and more than the next 12 countries combined, seven of them American allies.   For good measure, Donald Trump has added an additional $200 billion to projected defense expenditures through 2019.

Yet to hear the hawks tell it, the United States has never been less secure.  So much for bang for the buck.

For millions of Americans, however, the greatest threat to their day-to-day security isn’t terrorism or North Korea, Iran, Russia, or China.  It’s internal — and economic.  That’s particularly true for the 12.7% of Americans (43.1 million of them) classified as poor by the government’s criteria: an income below $12,140 for a one-person household, $16,460 for a family of two, and so on… until you get to the princely sum of $42,380 for a family of eight.

Savings aren’t much help either: a third of Americans have no savings at all and another third have less than $1,000 in the bank.  Little wonder that families struggling to cover the cost of food alone increased from 11% (36 million) in 2007 to 14% (48 million) in 2014.

The Working Poor

Unemployment can certainly contribute to being poor, but millions of Americans endure poverty when they have full-time jobs or even hold down more than one job.  The latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that there are 8.6 million “working poor,” defined by the government as people who live below the poverty line despite being employed at least 27 weeks a year.  Their economic insecurity doesn’t register in our society, partly because working and being poor don’t seem to go together in the minds of many Americans — and unemployment has fallen reasonably steadily.  After approaching 10% in 2009, it’s now at only 4%.

Help from the government?  Bill Clinton’s 1996 welfare “reform” programconcocted in partnership with congressional Republicans, imposed time limits on government assistance, while tightening eligibility criteria for it. So, as Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer show in their disturbing book, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, many who desperately need help don’t even bother to apply.  And things will only get worse in the age of Trump.  His 2019 budget includes deep cuts in a raft of anti-poverty programs.

Anyone seeking a visceral sense of the hardships such Americans endure should read Barbara Ehrenreich’s 2001 book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.  It’s a gripping account of what she learned when, posing as a “homemaker” with no special skills, she worked for two years in various low-wage jobs, relying solely on her earnings to support herself.  The book brims with stories about people who had jobs but, out of necessity, slept in rent-by-the-week fleabag motels, flophouses, or even in their cars, subsisting on vending machine snacks for lunch, hot dogs and instant noodles for dinner, and forgoing basic dental care or health checkups.  Those who managed to get permanent housing would choose poor, low-rent neighborhoods close to work because they often couldn’t afford a car.  To maintain even such a barebones lifestyle, many worked more than one job.

Though politicians prattle on about how times have changed for the better, Ehrenreich’s book still provides a remarkably accurate picture of America’s working poor.  Over the past decade the proportion of people who exhausted their monthly paychecks just to pay for life’s essentials actually increased from 31% to 38%.  In 2013, 71% of the families that had children and used food pantries run by Feeding America, the largest private organization helping the hungry, included at least one person who had worked during the previous year.  And in America’s big cities, chiefly because of a widening gap between rent and wages, thousands of working poor remain homeless, sleeping in shelters, on the streets, or in their vehicles, sometimes along with their families.  In New York City, no outlier when it comes to homelessness among the working poor, in a third of the families with children that use homeless shelters at least one adult held a job.

The Wages of Poverty

The working poor cluster in certain occupations.  They are salespeople in retail stores, servers or preparers of fast food, custodial staff, hotel workers, and caregivers for children or the elderly.  Many make less than $10 an hour and lack any leverage, union or otherwise, to press for raises.  In fact, the percentage of unionized workers in such jobs remains in the single digits — and in retail and food preparation, it’s under 4.5%.  That’s hardly surprising, given that private sector union membership has fallen by 50% since 1983 to only 6.7% of the workforce.

Low-wage employers like it that way and — Walmart being the poster child for this — work diligently to make it ever harder for employees to join unions.  As a result, they rarely find themselves under any real pressure to increase wages, which, adjusted for inflation, have stood still or even decreased since the late 1970s. When employment is “at-will,” workers may be fired or the terms of their work amended on the whim of a company and without the slightest explanation. Walmart announced this year that it would hike its hourly wage to $11 and that’s welcome news.  But this had nothing to do with collective bargaining; it was a response to the drop in the unemployment rate, cash flows from the Trump tax cut for corporations (which saved Walmart as much as $2 billion), an increase in minimum wages in a number of states, and pay increases by an arch competitor, Target.  It was also accompanied by the shutdown of 63 of Walmart’s Sam’s Club stores, which meant layoffs for 10,000 workers.  In short, the balance of power almost always favors the employer, seldom the employee.

As a result, though the United States has a per-capita income of $59,500 and is among the wealthiest countries in the world, 12.7% of Americans (that’s 43.1 million people), officially are impoverished. And that’sgenerally considered a significant undercount.  The Census Bureau establishes the poverty rate by figuring out an annual no-frills family food budget, multiplying it by three, adjusting it for household size, and pegging it to the Consumer Price Index.  That, many economists believe, is a woefully inadequate way of estimating poverty.  Food prices haven’t risen dramatically over the past 20 years, but the cost of other necessities like medical care (especially if you lack insurance) and housing have: 10.5% and 11.8% respectively between 2013 and 2017 compared to an only 5.5% increase for food.

Include housing and medical expenses in the equation and you get the Supplementary Poverty Measure (SPM), published by the Census Bureau since 2011.  It reveals that a larger number of Americans are poor: 14% or 45 million in 2016.

Dismal Data

For a fuller picture of American (in)security, however, it’s necessary todelve deeper into the relevant data, starting with hourly wages, which are the way more than 58% of adult workers are paid.  The good news: only 1.8 million, or 2.3% of them, subsist at or below minimum wage.  The not-so-good news: one-third of all workers earn less than $12 an hour and 42%earn less than $15.  That’s $24,960 and $31,200 a year. Imagine raising a family on such incomes, figuring in the cost of food, rent, childcare, car payments (since a car is often a necessity simply to get to a job in a country with inadequate public transportation), and medical costs.

The problem facing the working poor isn’t just low wages, but the widening gap between wages and rising prices.The government has increased the hourly federal minimum wage more than 20 times since it was set at 25 cents under the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act.  Between 2007 and 2009 it rose to $7.25, but over the past decade that sum lost nearly 10% of its purchasing power to inflation, which means that, in 2018, someone would have to work 41 additional days to make the equivalent of the 2009 minimum wage.

Workers in the lowest 20% have lost the most ground, their inflation-adjusted wages falling by nearly 1% between 1979 and 2016, compared to a 24.7% increase for the top 20%.  This can’t be explained by lackluster productivity since, between 1985 and 2015, it outstrippedpay raises, often substantially, in every economic sector except mining.

Yes, states can mandate higher minimum wages and 29 have, but 21 have not, leaving many low-wage workers struggling to cover the costs of two essentials in particular: health care and housing.

Even when it comes to jobs that offer health insurance, employers have been shifting ever more of its cost onto their workers through higher deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses, as well as by requiring them to cover more of the premiums.  The percentage of workers who paid at least 10% of their earnings to cover such costs — not counting premiums — doubledbetween 2003 and 2014.

This helps explain why, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 11% of workers in the bottom 10% of wage earners even enrolled in workplace healthcare plans in 2016 (compared to 72% in the top 10%). As a restaurant server who makes $2.13 an hour before tips — and whose husband earns $9 an hour at Walmart — put it, after paying the rent, “it’s either put food in the house or buy insurance.”

The Affordable Care Act, or ACA (aka Obamacare), provided subsidies to help people with low incomes cover the cost of insurance premiums, but workers with employer-supplied healthcare, no matter how low their wages, weren’t covered by it.  Now, of course, President Trump, congressional Republicans, and a Supreme Court in which right-wing justices are going to be even more influential will be intent on poleaxing the ACA.

It’s housing, though, that takes the biggest bite out of the paychecks of low-wage workers.  The majority of them are renters.  Ownership remains for many a pipe dream.  According to a Harvard study, between 2001 and 2016, renters who made $30,000-$50,000 a year and paid more than a third of their earnings to landlords (the threshold for qualifying as “rent burdened”) increased from 37% to 50%.  For those making only $15,000, that figure rose to 83%.

In other words, in an ever more unequal America, the number of low-income workers struggling to pay their rent has surged.  As the Harvard analysis shows, this is, in part, because the number of affluent renters (with incomes of $100,000 or more) has leapt and, in city after city, they’re driving the demand for, and building of, new rental units.  As a result, the high-end share of new rental construction soared from a third to nearly two-thirds of all units between 2001 and 2016.  Not surprisingly, new low-income rental units dropped from two-fifths to one-fifth of the total and, as the pressure on renters rose, so did rents for even those modest dwellings. On top of that, in places like New York City, where demand from the wealthy shapes the housing market, landlords have found ways — some within the law, others not — to get rid of low-income tenants.

Public housing and housing vouchers are supposed to make housing affordable to low-income households, but the supply of public housing hasn’t remotely matched demand. Consequently, waiting lists are long and people in need languish for years before getting a shot — if they ever do.  Only a quarter of those who qualify for such assistance receive it.  As for those vouchers, getting them is hard to begin with because of the massive mismatchbetween available funding for the program and the demand for the help it provides.  And then come the other challenges: finding landlords willing to accept vouchers or rentals that are reasonably close to work and not in neighborhoods euphemistically labelled “distressed.”

The bottom line: more than 75% of “at-risk” renters (those for whom the cost of rent exceeds 30% or more of their earnings) do not receive assistance from the government.  The real “risk” for them is becoming homeless, which means relying on shelters or family and friends willing to take them in.

President Trump’s proposed budget cuts will make life even harder for low-income workers seeking affordable housing.  His 2019 budget proposal slashes $6.8 billion (14.2%) from the resources of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) by, among other things, scrapping housing vouchers and assistance to low-income families struggling to pay heating bills.  The president also seeks to slash funds for the upkeep of public housing by nearly 50%.  In addition, the deficits that his rich-come-first tax “reform” bill is virtually guaranteed to produce will undoubtedly set the stage for yet more cuts in the future.  In other words, in what’s becoming the United States of Inequality, the very phrases “low-income workers” and “affordable housing” have ceased to go together.

None of this seems to have troubled HUD Secretary Ben Carson who happily ordered a $31,000 dining room set for his office suite at the taxpayers’ expense, even as he visited new public housing units to make sure that they weren’t too comfortable (lest the poor settle in for long stays).  Carson has declared that it’s time to stop believing the problems of this society can be fixed merely by having the government throw extra money at them — unless, apparently, the dining room accoutrements of superbureaucrats aren’t up to snuff.

Money Talks

The levels of poverty and economic inequality that prevail in America are not intrinsic to either capitalism or globalization. Most other wealthy market economies in the 36-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have done far better than the United States in reducing them without sacrificing innovation or creating government-run economies.

Take the poverty gap, which the OECD defines as the difference between a country’s official poverty line and the average income of those who fall below it.  The United States has the second largest poverty gap among wealthy countries; only Italy does worse.

Child poverty?  In the World Economic Forum’s ranking of 41 countries — from best to worst — the U.S. placed 35th.  Child poverty has declined in the United States since 2010, but a Columbia University report estimates that 19% of American kids (13.7 million) nevertheless lived in families with incomes below the official poverty line in 2016.  If you add in the number of kids in low-income households, that number increases to 41%.

As for infant mortality, according to the government’s own Centers for Disease Control, the U.S., with 6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births, has the absolute worst record among wealthy countries. (Finland and Japan do best with 2.3.)

And when it comes to the distribution of wealth, among the OECD countries only Turkey, Chile, and Mexico do worse than the U.S.

It’s time to rethink the American national security state with its annual trillion-dollar budget.  For tens of millions of Americans, the source of deep workaday insecurity isn’t the standard roster of foreign enemies, but an ever-more entrenched system of inequality, still growing, that stacks the political deck against the least well-off Americans.  They lack the bucks to hire big-time lobbyists.  They can’t write lavish checks to candidates running for public office or fund PACs.  They have no way of manipulating the myriad influence-generating networks that the elite uses to shape taxation and spending policies.  They are up against a system in which money truly does talk — and that’s the voice they don’t have.  Welcome to the United States of Inequality.

Read more

Debate: Is Trump-Putin Summit a “Danger to America” or Crucial Diplomacy Between Nuclear Powers?

Read more of this story here from Democracy Now! by Democracy Now!.

S2 cirincione greenwald

As President Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, we host a debate on U.S.-Russia relations. In Washington, D.C., we speak with Joe Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation. In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, we speak with Glenn Greenwald, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and one of the founding editors of The Intercept. Greenwald calls the Trump-Putin meeting “excellent” and adds that President Obama also sought diplomacy with Russia. Cirincione calls the summit “a danger to America and to the West.”

Read more

UK Officials Reportedly Think GRU Agents Behind Salisbury Poisoning

Read more of this story here from Newsy Headlines by Newsy Headlines.


Watch Video

U.K. officials reportedly think a Russian military intelligence service that's been accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is also behind a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter.

The New York Times reports that British investigators' working theory is that current or former GRU agents carried out the March 4 attack in Salisbury.

At the time, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and other world leaders blamed Russia for the nerve gas attack. Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement. 

On Friday, special counsel Robert Mueller's team accused 12 GRU officers of hacking into Democratic organizations and the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016 with the intent of influencing the election.

A Kremlin spokesperson denied any GRU involvement in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, telling the Times, "We consider this whole thing a major provocation."

Read more