fresh voices from the front lines of change








Thom Hartmann

Is It Time To Regulate Or Nationalize Facebook?

Has Facebook gone from merely being a destination on the internet to something so interwoven in our lives that it should now be considered part of the commons and regulated as such? Is it time to discuss taking Facebook out of private, for-profit hands? While Facebook is currently embroiled in a controversy over whether it’s wrong for it to allow Trump’s political advertising that contains naked lies, the debate over fully or partially nationalizing the platform has gotten much less coverage. Facebook was so critical to Donald Trump’s 2016 election efforts, for example, that his Facebook manager, Brad Parscale, has been elevated to managing the entire Trump 2020 effort—again, with Facebook at the center of it. Political change flows out of public dialogue. Facebook has, for many Americans, become a primary source of news as well as a social, political, and civic activity center. It controls about a third of all web traffic. If starting from scratch, it would be hard to imagine such a central nexus for such critical interactions without envisioning it as a natural commons, like a civic center or broadcasting service.

House To Unveil Articles Of Impeachment

House Democrats expected to unveil formal charges in Trump impeachment. Reuters: "Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives were expected to unveil two formal charges against Donald Trump on Tuesday, moving quickly toward a momentous vote on whether to impeach the Republican president. Democratic lawmakers planned to make an announcement on articles of impeachment on Tuesday morning, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel said as he left House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. He did not elaborate. Pelosi’s office announced later that the House Committee officials will hold a press conference on Tuesday morning to announce the next steps in the impeachment inquiry. A senior House Democratic aide told Reuters they were expected to draft two articles of impeachment against Trump, one on abuse of power and the other on obstruction of Congress. Democrats accuse Trump of abusing the power of his office by withholding aid to Ukraine, vulnerable as it faced Russian aggression, as well as dangling a possible White House meeting to get Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate a Democratic political rival in the 2020 presidential race."

U.S. Border Officials Refuse Free Flu Vaccine For Migrants

US border officials deny request by doctors to administer free flu vaccine to detained migrants. Common Dreams: "A group of doctors seeking to vaccinate migrants detained by President Donald Trump's Customs and Border Patrol were denied at the gates of the Chula Vista Border Patrol Station in San Ysidro, San Diego Monday. 'Refusing to vaccinate is inhumane,' tweeted Immigrant Families Together director Julie Schwietert Collazo. 'The agency is willingly putting lives at risk of death.' It was the latest example of what critics of the administration call the "intentional cruelty" of Trump's immigration policies. 'People are needlessly suffering and dying,' said Dr. Marie DeLuca, one of the physicians who was turned away. 'You can't lock people up in inhumane conditions, watch them get sick, and then refuse them access to medical care.' The doctors were supported by a coalition of immigration advocates, including the groups Doctors for Camp Closures, Families Belong Together, and Never Again Action. Monday's action marks the beginning of a planned week of action by the doctors and others at Chula Vista. In a statement, Families Belong Together chair Jess Morales Rocketto said that recent reporting from ProPublica on the death from flu and border patrol inaction of an immigrant child in detention gave the protest added urgency. 'This administration's cruel immigration agenda is intentionally barring life-saving medical care from children by refusing to provide vaccines during flu season,' said Rocketto. 'Earlier this year, as immigration authorities sat by, 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez died from the flu on the floor of his concrete jail cell.'"

Student Loans The Next Subprime Crisis

Student loans a lot like the subprime mortgage debacle, watchdog says. NPR: "Mike Calhoun is a man on a mission. He's flying around the country, warning state lawmakers and prosecutors, sounding the alarm at conferences, and with members of Congress. He did the same thing back before the housing market crash, warning then about reckless subprime loans. 'We projected over 2 million subprime mortgage foreclosures, and the response was we were ridiculed by the industry,' he says. Of course, Calhoun was right. In fact, the wave of defaults and foreclosures was even worse and drove the economy into the worst recession in generations. Back then, he was watching the number of risky mortgages grow and grow. Now he's watching student loans, 'and there are a lot of similarities,' he says. 'You've had an absolutely explosive growth in the amount of student debt. In fifteen years it's gone from about $300 billion to now $1.6 trillion.' 'Once again, it's the mismatch between the debt and the borrower's income, their ability to repay,' Calhoun says. This time around it's the government making the vast majority of the loans. That's effectively turned the Department of Education into the country's largest consumer lender. And, Calhoun says, more and more people can't pay. 'Already in the student loan world, we are seeing default levels that approach what there was in the subprime mortgage world,' he says."

Insurance Insider Admits Systematically Misleading Consumers

From health insurance spin doctor to truth teller. Truthout: "'I was getting people to make decisions based on misleading information that could have life or death consequences.' That’s Wendell Potter, the former head of public relations for CIGNA. As the executive spin doctor for one of the biggest health insurance companies in the country, he was responsible for concocting tales that enabled CIGNA to deny coverage, discredit critics, and otherwise cast the corporate health insurance machine in a positive light. That was until the numbers in his spreadsheets became actual people with real lives. What happens when a health insurance PR executive confronts the consequences of his spin? 'What happens is the insurance company, when they’re faced with having to pay high medical bills, they often go back and look at the application that the person filled out at the time of getting the policy — Looking for any reason to cancel it so that they could avoid paying for the needed care. And by doing that, the companies avoided paying for many millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars in care that people really needed –and that in many cases would have meant the difference between life and death.'"

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