Nov 14

Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett own more wealth than bottom half of US

These three men – Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, and veteran financier Warren Buffett – are the three richest men in the world. And they now own more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the U.S. population. Their net worth is over $ 248.5 billion combined.

The Billionaire Bonanza report stated: “Our wealthiest 400 now have more wealth combined than the bottom 64 percent of the U.S. population, an estimated 80 million households or 204 million people.” That’s more people than the population of Canada and Mexico combined.

IPS’s Chuck Collins and Josh Hoxie know it is not a “natural phenomenon” how the rich got rich at the expense of the rest of the population. They say it’s the result of “unfair economic policies that benefit those at the top at the expense of those at the bottom.”

This IPS report, Billionaire Bonanza, says “All combined, households in the bottom one percent have a combined negative net worth of $ 196 billion. For comparison, the top one percent, a category holding the exact same number of people, have positive $ 33.4 trillion in combined net worth.”

It is said that President Donald Trump’s current tax plan must not pass as the inequality gap between the top one percent and the rest of the U.S. population would increase dramatically. He is attempting to scrap estate tax and income taxes for top earners, which only benefits the super rich and powerful.

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NationofChange

Nov 14

Doing what White House should be doing, state and local leaders favor climate accord at Bonn summit

Pr*@%!^#t Donald Trump didn’t show up at the Bonn climate summit. For one thing, he was visiting Asia kowtowing to Chinese leaders and making nice with the murderous president of the Philippines. For another, nobody at the summit rolled out the red carpet for him. Without that, he hates going anywhere. The only official presentation from the U.S. in Bonn was to promote the burning of fossil fuels, a move which generated a lot of flak.

But there were other prominent Americans at the summit who aren’t part of the lying, climate science-denying brigade. Included in this number were several Democratic governors and many other state and local officials. They were in Germany to let the rest of the world know that even though the Trump regime is scientifically illiterate and ideologically malignant on the subject of climate change, many American state and local authorities are in opposition. They sought to make clear that they are doing what they can to meet the non-binding pledges of the Paris Climate Accord, despite Trump’s declaration that the United States will withdraw from that agreement unless it can get one of the man’s ballyhooed “better deals.” (The U.S. can’t formally withdraw from the Paris agreement until November 2020.) 

On Saturday California Gov. Jerry Brown and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched “America’s Pledge on climate change.” This initiative is designed to focus on the actions of states, local governments, and businesses to cut greenhouse gas emissions to meet the goals of the Paris Accord.

Joshua S. Hill reports:

“When cities and states combine together and then join with powerful corporations, that’s how we get stuff done,” said Governor Brown at today’s event at the US Climate Action Pavilion, a purpose-built exhibition space sponsored by US non-federal leaders at COP23. “We’re here, we’re in and we’re not going away.”

“Today we’re sending a clear message to the world that America’s states, cities and businesses are moving forward with our country’s commitments under the Paris Agreement — with or without Washington,” added Governor Brown, who was recently named Special Advisor for States and Regions ahead of the United Nations’ 23rd Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP23). […]

“In the US, emission levels are determined far more by cities, states, and businesses than they are by our federal government — and each of these groups is taking action because it’s in their own best interest,” explained Michael Bloomberg, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change. “Reducing emissions is good for the economy and good for public health. The American government may have pulled out of the Paris Agreement, but American society remains committed to it — and we will redouble our efforts to achieve its goals. We’re already halfway there.”

Daily Kos

Nov 14

One Year Later: The Political Cancer Metastasizes

America was never what it had purported to be.

Exactly one day short of one year after the election of Donald Trump, the fog finally seemed to lift and the skies brightened. On Tuesday, voters rejected Trumpism in New Jersey and in Virginia, where establishment Republican Ed Gillespie embraced Trump’s racism and nativism, indicating how deeply the president’s poison has penetrated even the precincts of the party that should be vigorously in opposition to it.

In Maine, voters approved an expansion of Medicaid that their right-wing governor had rejected several times. In Washington state, Democrats won the upper house of the legislature. Meanwhile, GOP members of Congress are deserting the ship, one by one. As Steve Bannon marshals his “alt-right” forces to defeat mainstream Republicans, his primary candidates may be so far off the political spectrum next year that they could derail the Republicans’ Senate hopes. Across the board, Democratic prospects in 2018 look promising, if the Democrats don’t manage to screw things up, which is a very big if.

And yet, before anyone gets too sanguine, consider where we are. There will come a time, no doubt, when professional historians look back on these times and assess what happened to America, and I don’t think the assessment will be pretty. They will think of it as a period of national derangement, a time when America lost its bearings.

One year ago, Donald Trump, through the vicissitudes of our bizarre electoral system, beat Hillary Clinton, and one year ago I wrote a valedictory to the America I had known and loved, quoting lines from W.H. Auden’s September 1, 1939, in which he described the cataclysm of Hitler’s armies marching into Poland and launching World War II. America had flirted with disaster in the past, but we prided ourselves on not having succumbed to it, save with the Civil War. Somehow alleged good sense and solid institutions kept us from going over the precipice. Somehow.

And then, last Nov. 8, we did.

I wrote then of the peril the nation faced, of the way Trump’s victory broke with the idealism in America’s history, traditions and values. There was a feeling in some quarters that those of us who felt that way were being alarmist — that Trump would either normalize himself to fit the contours of our politics or that he would be normalized by the inhibitions of American democracy, where inertia exerts far more power than movement, especially since the great divide between the conservatives and liberals. You could hope that the disruption Trump represented would be mild, and it would be brief. You could hope that the Americans who supported Trump would come to their senses and that those who opposed him would create a countermovement.

Happily, to some degree, that has indeed happened. Even before Tuesday, recent polls showed a sense of buyer’s remorse. Many voters no doubt had felt glee at upending the applecart of modern America, and they enthused over Trump’s promise to destroy America as they had come to know it, which was the America of civility and tolerance and diversity, but also the America of elites and economic inequality and condescension.

That promise, however, was predicated on something else: that having blown up the country, Trump’s demolition would rediscover the old America underneath. Trump was supposed to be a political archeologist, digging down to another epoch. He was supposed to restore America to a halcyon past of white supremacy, on the one hand, and populism, on the other.

But Trump has betrayed that promise, even as he continues to give lip service to it. About the only thing he is likely to accomplish is a massive tax redistribution from the middle class to the upper classes, under the guise of “tax cuts,” which is something any old establishment Republican could have accomplished. In short, as a policymaker, Trump is less than nil, and that probably wouldn’t matter much to his supporters, who really don’t give a damn about policy, if it weren’t for the fact that Trump sold himself as a doer, and he is also nil there.

Still, that is just policy. Trump’s real accomplishment goes far deeper and is far more destructive than his attempts to repeal Obamacare or revoke environmental protections or banking regulations or any of the other dozens of things he has tried to do and sometimes did. After last Nov. 8, this suddenly became a different country than it had been. Not only had the skeletons come out of the closet, they were leading the parade. No, America was never what it had purported to be. The idealism was always better in theory than in practice. We were always too self-congratulatory, too fixated on American exceptionalism, on ideas like The Greatest Generation, overlooking a fundamental fissure.

That fissure opened because the country was formed over conflicting concepts of freedom and equality. We like to think of ourselves as champions of equality: a tolerant, charitable, compassionate egalitarian people, showing one another respect and decency, and sometimes we are. This is, I believe, the very foundation of American liberalism. But we also like to think of ourselves as free from constraints, independent and self-sufficient, less concerned with compassion than with what we regard as personal justice. This, I believe, is the foundation of American conservatism.

Throughout our history, these two forces have continually vied with one another and at best tempered one another. The country operates in a kind of equilibrium between community and individualism, between sacrifice and self-interestedness. Trump has upset that equilibrium. By foreswearing equality entirely, he turned us from a community into, as many observers are now saying, a group of tribes, each focused only on its own prerogatives. Trump turned us against one another. He created a new, cold civil war between an expiring America where freedom was paramount and an ascending one where equality was paramount. He arrested history.

When he is called the “divider-in-chief,” the label goes beyond his incendiary rhetoric to a zero-sum blame game. Whatever ails his supporters, he says, is the result of someone having taken something from them. His tweets are aimed squarely against immigrants and minorities who he believes have stolen the country away from the white Americans (white male Americans) who rightfully should control this country.

He nurses grievances, he advances conspiracy theories, he exacerbates angers, he scapegoats. He has opened wounds that had taken a century to begin to heal. And globally, he has given the middle finger to the rest of the world while lowering the nation’s standing and offending our allies while embracing our biggest enemy. He has stressed might over morality. In short, his is the authoritarian playbook.

A recent article in The Boston Globe looking at divisions in York, Pennsylvania, provides a powerful microcosm of how thoroughly Trump has splintered this country in only a year. He may not be the cause of this change, only its product. But no major candidate in any major party ever provided the opportunity he has to loose these divisions and ignite these hatreds.

I think of Trump’s America as a kind of Opposite Day — the game we played in grammar school where everything said was interpreted as the opposite. In a remarkably Orwellian fashion, Trump has taken whatever was good in this country and said and did the opposite. Nothing is what it used to be. Everything seems turned inside out. That is the country in which we now live. It is the single most radical political change, I believe, in the country’s history.

So the idea that Trump is just some bump in the road, or a contagion that will pass, is, I think, a fool’s dream. He now owns the Republican Party lock, stock and barrel. Those few who speak out against him, like Jeff Flake, only do so when they know they cannot win a primary against a Trump-backed candidate. Failure emboldens them. The others pretend to ignore him when it comes to legislation, but they know that while Trump is ignorant of and less than engaged with policy — all he wants are victories, regardless of policy — he is the electoral 800-pound gorilla in Republican primaries.

Rank-and-file Republicans still love him, not because of any ideological affinities but because of their emotional ones. We cannot and should not ignore that nearly 40 percent of Americans — basically the entire Republican Party — will walk in lockstep with him wherever he leads. That should terrify us.

Moreover, Trump, while no genius, certainly realizes how little he has to do to redeem himself just enough to keep his hate crusade afloat. We have already seen how the media practically canonized him for shooting some missiles at Syria, or how they gave him kudos for seeming to make a budget deal with Democrats Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. Trump dread is so deep in most of the country that even his refraining from tweeting for a few days would raise his stock and elicit praise that he was now “presidential.” Similarly, as I have written here, a war against North Korea would make him a short-term hero in many quarters and would certainly rally much of the country behind him. That is also from the authoritarian playbook. Egomaniacs don’t care about other people’s lives.

I wrote here a year ago that there would be no coming back from this — that no matter what happened subsequently, we had crossed a threshold. Once you know that those old institutions won’t inhibit a leader who hired Michael Flynn, a Russian acolyte, as his national security adviser (!), who threatens the press, who enriches himself in direct violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, who promotes white supremacism, who insults government professionals, including members of his own Cabinet, declaring, “I am the only one who matters,” or who… well, you know the litany. You also know that the country is damaged, its values are damaged and repair will be a long time coming, if ever.

Trumpism now owns that dark and malignant strain in American life that has long sabotaged the ideals we prefer to celebrate on the 4th of July, at Thanksgiving, and with stanzas of the national anthem and every salute of the flag. What we have learned this year is that Trumpism is now a permanent part of our polity. White supremacists are not likely to forget that one of their hatemongers took the presidency. This Trump cancer may be only a few aberrant cells, but it is a permanent feature of our body politic, threatening to metastasize, even if he is deposed.

We can enjoy Tuesday’s triumphs as a rebuff to Trump, which they most certainly were. We can and must remain vigilant to contain the malignancy. Still, we cannot erase the fact that Trump’s rampage has left our country deeply wounded, perhaps fatally. He blew up America. A year later, there is no great old America underneath for the Trump-supporting nostalgists. There is instead rubble. And he is not done yet.

 

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Nov 14

Our Unity Must Be Forged in the Fires of Solidarity – (2018 Peace Calendar)

There are very few things that we get more excited about each year at NationofChange than the release of the new year’s Peace Calendar from Syracuse Cultural Workers.

This year’s Peace Calendar is full of frameable artwork and inspiring stories that will keep you inspired through 2018.

Our Unity Must Be Forged in the Fires of Solidarity will make an exceptional gift for yourself or a loved one. Make sure you grab yours before they’re all gone!

You can secure your copy of this coveted calendar here by donating $ 30 to NationofChange or by creating a monthly donation subscription to NationofChange of $ 15 or more.

This year’s calendar features a painting by Cheryl Braganza of women marching for justice in Mumbai, India.

  • 200 people’s history annotations
  • 47th edition
  • Holidays for many faiths
  • Lunar cycles, 13 native moons.

Each page of the calendar features a different inspiring image and story:

The post Our Unity Must Be Forged in the Fires of Solidarity – (2018 Peace Calendar) appeared first on NationofChange.

NationofChange

Nov 14

Trump campaign was a chaotic, bumbling mess, except for its consistency on one issue: Russia

Attorney General Jeff Sessions advanced a new defense at Tuesday’s House Judiciary hearing about his extraordinary memory loss when it comes to all things Russia. The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman sums it up nicely:

Its essence is that the Trump campaign was such an ungodly, bumbling mess that it was simply incapable of colluding with the Russians in their campaign to undermine Hillary Clinton, help Donald Trump get elected, and generally disrupt and discredit the American electoral system.

As weaselly a defense as that may seem, it contains a good bit of truth. With each new revelation about the campaign’s contacts with Russia, a picture is filling out. It’s one not of a well-organized collusion conspiracy, but instead of a bunch of nincompoops engaging in a kind of ongoing, ad hoc, fitful sort-of-collusion, one that involved lots of meetings, lots of emails, and lots of contacts between various Russians with Kremlin connections and people at different levels of the campaign. 

During his testimony, Sessions called the campaign “a form of chaos every day” and said the national security team he led was “not a very effective group, really.” In essence, he added that he couldn’t possibly remember everything that happened on the campaign because it was such a disaster.

First of all, just because Trump’s campaign was stacked with a battalion of rogue “nincompoops” doesn’t relieve them of culpability. Whether or not a conspiracy succeeds is inconsequential, it’s the intent of the actions they took that matter.

And where intent is concerned, what’s fascinating is how Russia was the glue that held the whole blundering enterprise together. Regardless of how muddled the campaign hierarchy was, it was riddled with attempts to connect with Russian operatives. Just look at this cursory list:

Trump repeatedly heaped praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin, openly begged Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails and declared his “love” for Wikileaks (a “hostile intelligence service” that often abetted by “state actors like Russia”), mentioning the site 145 times during the final month of the campaign. Don Jr., Jared Kushner, and campaign chair Paul Manafort all met with several Russians at Trump Tower, including a Kremlin-linked lawyer and a former Russian counterintelligence officer. Don Jr. further communicated and coordinated with Wikileaks, the service that was distributing the emails Russian hackers stole from the Clinton campaign. Jeff Sessions talked with Russian Ambassador Surgey Kislyak—twice, and reportedly was informed of the Russian contacts of both Papadopoulos and Page, regardless of his faltering memory.
Daily Kos

Nov 14

Pistols in Preschools: As Michigan Debates Looser Gun Laws, Educators are on Edge

A proposed law would allow guns into schools, daycare centers and preschools.

Just days after the mass shooting at a Texas church, the Michigan Senate voted to allow people to carry guns in schools, churches, daycare centers, preschools and hospitals. The bills had been up for consideration last month when a gunman opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers in Las Vegas. Senator Arlen Meekhoff, who sponsored the legislation, called the timing “awkward.” In a year that has already seen 307 mass shootings, turns out it’s nearly always an awkward time to pass ever looser gun laws.

The legislation has parents alarmed about the safety of their children, and educators concerned about what allowing guns into schools will do to the learning environment. The showdown over what some are calling “Pistols in Preschools” is just the latest battle between Michigan schools and gun-rights advocates.

Last year, Ann Arbor Public Schools took a challenge to its gun-free zone from a gun-toting parent to the Michigan Court of Appeals and won the right to prohibit guns in their schools. Earlier this year, with that legal precedent, Kalamazoo Public Schools followed by instating their own gun-free policy in all of the buildings in their district.

So much for local control

Ironically, while Republican ideology lauds local control, these bills would strip authority from local school districts in Michigan, and force them to concede to guns in their school buildings. Meanwhile, voters who go in search of information from their representatives, including tallies of how many constituents called or wrote their senator in opposition to the bills versus how many called or wrote in support of them, are likely to be disappointed.That's because Michigan is one of only two states that exempts the state legislature from disclosing records and communication.

If the comments on 20th District Senator, Margaret O'Brien's Facebook page are any indication, her constituency was overwhelmingly opposed. On the same day that she voted in support of the bills, O'Brien posted information on her Facebook page about an active shooter preparedness event. The comments section contained dozens of angry replies, along with a handful of supporters. Notably, Kalamazoo, which is part of O’Brien’s district, experienced a mass shooting last year which left six people dead and two more seriously injured.  

Educators on edge

While the bills must pass the GOP-controlled House and be signed into law by the governor before going into affect, Michigan educators are already feeling uneasy.

Carey Gardner is a middle-school behavior specialist in the Kalamazoo Public Schools, a district where officials have been outspoken about the need to keep guns out of schools. Gardner says she understands why people could feel like guns in schools might make people feel safer. “You have people who are faced with a shooter and they have nothing. I mean, they're at their mercy,” she says. But she says the idea of having guns in school buildings is scary and intimidating and sends the wrong message.

“I think I could speak for everybody without even talking to anyone, we would all be on edge at some point. Because we don't know everybody's history,” Gardner says. “What if a student comes behind me and was to pull something, whether it was from myself or from a coworker? Or we have a parent that comes up, or parents that come up that are aggressive and agitated and frustrated? How do we know if a person's going to be too quick to react because they're scared?”

Gardner imagines a school environment that turns into the Wild West with shootouts in the building. With the presence of guns or even the mere wondering about who has guns, Gardner sees the inevitability of someone getting hurt.

Her concern is backed up by data. Recently NPR reported on the work of Stanford law professor John Donohue. His research on three decades of data around right-to-carry laws has found that as concealed carry rates increase, the rates of violent crimes also increase. On average, 93 people are killed by guns in the U.S. each day, and the U.S. gun homicide rate is 25 times the average of other high income countries.

Gardner says that not knowing whether or not people in her school building were carrying guns would change the culture and the climate of the building. “It's supposed to be your safe haven, your safe place, where you learn your social skills and academically, and it changes the whole dynamic of the culture of the school.”

Wild West worries

Brandi is a special education resource room teacher in a Michigan elementary school (she asked to be identified only by her first name). Brandi says she and her coworkers already feel the tension of the possibility of an active shooter. Their first back-to-school staff meeting of the year involved a presentation about active shooter preparedness that included audio from a teacher's phone call during the Columbine shootings. “It was sobering and difficult to hear. But I wouldn't say it makes a difference on how we do our day-to-day activities,” she says.

That's because teachers in her building, like everywhere else in the state, are juggling so many things already that trying to be constantly vigilant about the possibility of an active shooter is next to impossible. Brandi works in an older school building that makes it hard to comply with building security. Sure, doors are locked and people need to be buzzed into the building, but, she says, office staff members are busy and can't guard the door, so once buzzed in, it's mostly like an honor system for visitors to come directly to the office.

“As a staff we are expected to stop people in the hallways if they are not wearing a visitor's pass and ask them to return to the office, but I know that I've felt uncomfortable doing that and have not stopped people, nor have other staff members. The teachers are supposed to cover the windows on classroom doors (so an active shooter could not see in), and keep doors locked at all times, but many do not,” Brandi says.

Teachers are already being asked to simultaneously be instructors and building security guards—jobs with completely different skill sets. Brandi says she's never been a proponent of giving more people guns to combat other people with guns, but especially not in a school full of children. “I know I personally would not be physically stable enough to handle a gun properly, and I don't really trust another random citizen to do the same. I would personally rather see buildings made more secure and providing teachers and classrooms with non-violent tools (e.g. for barricading doors) than adding more gunfire to a combative situation.”

Neither Brandi nor Gardner feel like they have a solution for gun violence in the country or in schools, but they both agree that having guns in schools is not the answer. “Having more people with guns to fight other people with guns sounds like a war zone, not a school,” says Brandi.


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Nov 14

Posters for Peace & Justice – (2018 Calendar)

This year’s calendar from Amber Lotus features incredible artbook-quality prints of thought-provoking political poster art that are sure to keep you inspired through 2018.

This calendar is gorgeous, powerful, and environmentally friendly. You can grab yours right now with a tax-deductible donation to NationofChange.

This calendar will make an exceptional gift for yourself or a loved one. Make sure you grab yours before they’re all gone!

You can secure your copy of this coveted calendar here by donating $ 30 to NationofChange or by creating a monthly donation subscription to NationofChange of $ 15 or more.

Amber Lotus is proud to present the Posters for Peace & Justice wall calendar, a survey of thought-provoking political protest poster art. Combining compelling graphics and succinct statements, these images are plastered on brick walls, stapled to power poles, and silk-screened onto T-shirts, and have gone viral with activists worldwide. The works in this collection are a rallying cry – a potent tool for communication and social transformation.

  • 12″ x 12″ wall calendar (12″ x 24″ open).
  • A year of awesome political action posters on your wall.
  • The perfect art gift for the politically conscious consumer.
  • Frameable artbook-quality printing.
  • Award-winning posters by acclaimed artists such as Favianna Rodrigez, Luba Lukova, Steff Geissbuhler, Eric Drooker and Nate Williams.
  • Printed on paper sourced from a combination of sustainably managed forests and recycled materials.
  • This calendar features U.S. and Canadian legal holidays, phases of the moon, and important observances of the world’s major religions.

The post Posters for Peace & Justice – (2018 Calendar) appeared first on NationofChange.

NationofChange

Nov 14

Senate tax cuts bill will take health insurance away from 4 million people in the next year

The maniacs in the Senate and popular vote loser Donald Trump are getting their way. The tax cuts for the wealthy bill will also include a repeal of the individual mandate in Obamacare. The CBO has estimated that in the next decade, 13 million people would lose health insurance if it were repealed, and by 2019, 4 million will lose their insurance.

Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the Senate’s No. 3 Republican, told reporters there has been a whip count and he is confident Republicans can pass a tax bill that includes a measure to repeal the mandate.

Thune said the Alexander-Murray bill, aimed at stabilizing markets, would be brought up separately. That bill funds key payments to insurers for two years in exchange for more flexibility for states to change ObamaCare rules. […]

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said the bulk of the GOP’s policy luncheon Tuesday was focused on repealing the individual mandate through tax reform.

He said the decision wasn’t unanimous, but that no one threatened to vote against tax reform if it were included.

“This is totally different from health care. Nobody was standing up saying ‘if you do this, I’m not going to vote for the bill.’ There’s none of that. Everybody wants to get to yes,” he said.

This is ALL about health care. This is more than a tax bill, it’s an attack on health care, both Obamacare and Medicare. That’s why the nation’s insurers, hospitals, and doctors immediately announced their opposition and blasted Senate Republicans. They say, based on knowing how this shit works, that the bill will destabilize the market and “result in a significant increase in premiums, which would in turn substantially increase the number of uninsured Americans.”

As of now, the repeal isn’t in the House version of the bill, which could come to the floor as soon as tomorrow. But the Republican Study Committee has formally asked that it be included. House Speaker Paul Ryan wants to jam this through as fast as he can, before opposition really has a chance to build.

The Republican tax giveaway to the super wealthy is an attack on our health care, an attack as dangerous as Trumpcare was. Please, call your member of the House of Representatives and your senators at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to vote “no” on the Republican tax bill.

Daily Kos

Nov 14

This Is How Desperate Trump Has Grown for Anything He Can Call a ‘Win’

A new report suggests the president begged Vietnam to purchase U.S. military equipment.

President Donald Trump reportedly begged the Vietnamese government to buy American military equipment because he needed “quick wins” ahead of upcoming elections.

Sources tell Bloomberg that Trump grilled Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc about why his country wasn’t spending more money buying American weapons.

“He needed quick wins, he told his team in the room, because he’d be running for re-election before anyone realized,” Bloomberg reports. “And weapons sales, in Trump’s view, are good for his approval ratings.”

Trump apparently spent much of his trip hawking American weapons to other countries, as he sought to emulate the early success he had in cutting a massive weapons deal with Saudi Arabia earlier this year.

“Trump rarely set down in a country without pointing out that buying a few F-18s would go a long way toward winning his heart,” Bloomberg writes. “But he’ll return home to Washington without having secured a major new order for American defense contractors.”

Bloomberg’s sources also say that Trump disappointed many American allies in Asia during his trip by showing an unwillingness to embrace a long-term strategy for the United States’ relationship with the region.

“Local leaders were looking for seriousness and not just stamina, any sign Trump was prepared to provide a potent counter-balance to China,” writes Bloomberg. “There, he offered them little reason for optimism. He was already tweeting about the tax reform fight back home before he even left Manila, his final stop.”

 

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Nov 14

Northam’s transition team leader has ties to companies behind Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Virginia’s governor-elect, Ralph Northam, wasted no time in organizing a transition team. A day after his November 7th victory, Northam announced that Marianne Radcliff, a former state transportation official with rich experience in local government and politics, will lead his transition team.

Over the past two decades, Radcliff has established herself as a prominent lobbyist in the state’s capital. She is currently vice president of the Richmond-based lobbying firm Kemper Consulting. Previously she worked as a lobbyist for Williams Mullen.

DeSmog has found that Radcliff and Kemper Consulting have ties to companies behind the Atlantic Coast pipeline, a highly controversial project that loomed large in the gubernatorial race. These include links to Dominion – the energy giant and historically dominant corporate player in Virginian politics.

Northam, who early on supported the pipeline but later tried to assume a more careful position – perhaps in order not to alienate potential Democratic voters strongly opposed to the project – will now face renewed pressure from activists to oppose it as governor. The state has yet to issue all permits for the pipeline, including a crucial section 401 water quality certification under the Clean Water Act.

The pipeline question came up again and again during the Virginia gubernatorial campaign, even during a televised debate between Northam and his Republican rival, Ed Gillespie.

Northam said during the debate that he will support the project only if can be done with little environmental damage and with permitting rigor. If elected, he said, “I’ll work with the Virginia DEQ and Army Corps of Engineers to make sure, if the pipelines move forward, that they are done in an environmentally responsible way and taking into account people’s property rights.”

Yet Radcliff’s appointment may be signaling a nod to proponents of the pipeline. Kemper Consulting has been lobbying in the past few years for Virginia Natural Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Company, one of the partners behind the Atlantic Coast pipeline. Radcliff was personally registered to lobby for Virginia Natural Gas in 2015.

Kemper Consulting is also presently lobbying for Williams Companies, the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based gas pipeline corporation.

Yet perhaps even more significantly, Radcliff is also longtime lobbyist for Fluor Corporation, a multinational construction and engineering company with extensive operations in the oil and gas industry. In the past several years alone Fluor has been involved in the construction of three natural gas-fired power plants owned by Dominion: Brunswick County Power StationBear Garden Power Station, and Greensville County Power Station. Dominion has tied the latter two facilities explicitly to the Atlantic Coast pipeline, arguing that the pipeline will deliver gas to power the new stations.

In its formal application for the Greensville County Power Station, which is currently under construction, Dominion stated that the facility will “have access” to the Atlantic Coast pipeline.

Radcliff also has links to Dominion lobbyist David Hallock. Both are state-appointed members of Longwood University’s Board of Visitors. And last year, Governor Terry McAuliffe appointed Katherine Bond, a senior policy advisor at Dominion, to serve on the Longwood University’s board.

Hallock previously worked with Radcliff at Kemper Consulting. In 2015, after a stint as U.S. Senator Mark Warner’s Chief of Staff, Hallock opened his own lobbying company, Two Capitols Consulting. He’s been a Dominion lobbyist since then.

As it turns out, both Radcliff and Hallock also share a business interest. Financial disclosures the two have filed with the Virginia Ethics Advisory Council, which are required by their membership on Longwood University’s Board of Visitors, show that both own a business interest in a limited liability corporation called RKHHLLC, a commercial space in downtown Virginia.

disclosure filed by Kay Kemper, the president of Kemper Consulting who serves on the board of another state university, reveals an interest in RKHHLLC as well.

State of Virginia business records for RKHHLLC indicate the business was registered by Brian Ball, an attorney at Williams Mullen, Radcliff’s former employer.

DeSmog requested comment from Radcliff and Hallock on this story, but did not receive a response. Both were also asked about the nature of their interest in RKHHLLC. A request for comment from the Northam campaign went unanswered as well.

Rick Webb, coordinator for the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, a group of activists and organizations that have been opposing the pipeline since 2014, is concerned by Radcliff’s appointment – yet remains hopeful.

This appointment does raise concerns,” Webb says. “We’ve been encouraged by the Governor Elect’s past statements about the need for transparent and rigorous review of the ACP and MVP pipelines. Thus far, the Virginia DEQ‘s performance has fallen far short of that standard. So we again call on Mr. Northam to make his expectations clear. Selection of someone with ties to Dominion to lead his transition seems to send the wrong message. Nonetheless, we are hopeful.”

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