fresh voices from the front lines of change








Sam Pizzigati

Lies in the White House, Cancer in Our Neighborhoods

Something is shaking on the cancer front that needs our full attention. The Trump administration, investigative journalist Sharon Lerner discovered, “is executing an old tobacco industry scheme to dismantle the federal government’s ability to protect the public from cancer.” The Trump White House has packed the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s top echelons with free-market fundamentalists who’ve set about “freeing” chemical companies from regulations designed to limit the presence of cancer-causing chemicals in our nation’s air, water, and soil. These political appointees are working hand in glove with America’s chemical manufacturers, outfits that have spent $1.4 billion on lobbying over the past dozen years. All those lobbying dollars have paid off. Chemical companies now have their pals running the regulatory show — and more Americans, as a result, figure to find themselves in families fighting cancer.

Impeachment Trial Opens After Heated Debate

Impeachment trial: Senate sets rules for Trump trial on heated first day. CBS: "With a marathon day of debate on the rules of President Trump's impeachment trial now behind them, the Senate will gather at 1 p.m. Wednesday to hear opening arguments from the House's impeachment managers. The Senate approved the parameters for the impeachment trial in the early morning hours Wednesday after Democrats were roundly rejected in their efforts to subpoena witnesses and documents before opening arguments are finished. Increasingly restless senators sat silently over the 13-hour session as House impeachment managers and White House lawyers debated 11 amendments to the resolution introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell setting the rules for the trial, all of which failed, and all but one in party-line votes. McConnell's resolution was adopted in another party-line vote of 53-47. A particularly bitter exchange in the early morning hours prompted an extraordinary rebuke from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial. 'I think it's appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the house managers and the president's counsel in equal terms to remember that they are addressing the world's greatest deliberative body,' Roberts said. 'One reason it has earned that title is because its members avoid speaking in a manner and using language that is not conducive to civil discourse. I do think those addressing the Senate should remember where they are.'"

Trump Campaign Finance Violations Spark Separate Investigation

Trump’s impeachment trial isn’t his biggest legal risk. Bloomberg: "President Donald Trump’s sprawling corruption may never be brought under lawful control, especially with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acting as inside man in Trump’s impeachment trial. But if Trump is ever to be punished for his many abuses of power, it just might be for his disregard of the nation’s ineffectual and much-maligned body of campaign-finance law. True, it’s unlikely. Campaign-finance violations are often treated as clerical errors. Yet the rule of law sometimes has a roundabout way of making the guilty pay. Al Capone went to prison for tax evasion. Richard Nixon was forced from the presidency over a botched burglary. And amid the thuggish efforts to insulate Trump from the democratic accountability of fair elections, campaign-finance laws are proving stubbornly relevant. The laws include a 'broad prohibition on foreign national activity' in U.S. elections. Foreigners are prohibited from contributing money or any 'thing of value' to a campaign. They are also prohibited from spending money 'in connection with any federal, state or local election in the United States.' Thus Russian President Vladimir Putin’s sabotage in 2016 was not just a crime against democracy — it was an illegal in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign."

CPCC, DCCC Agree To 'Ceasefire'

Top progressives, DCCC reach ceasefire over 'blacklist.' Politico: "Top liberals have reached a détente with the House Democratic campaign arm in a dispute over a policy that inhibits primary challengers to incumbents — a move intended to unify Democrats in this year’s battle to protect their majority and defeat President Donald Trump. Some of the House’s most influential progressives, including Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), said they will contribute tens of thousands of dollars to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, despite a contentious new rule that blacklists campaign consultants who work for candidates taking on sitting Democratic members. “I intend to pay the full dues. I have a view that, in 2020, we have to come together to ensure the defeat of Donald Trump and the retaining of our majority,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), another sharp critic of the DCCC policy who began paying dues in January. A rank-and-file member like Khanna, who isn’t in leadership or on an exclusive committee, is expected to pay roughly $150,000 in party dues during the election cycle. 'My view has always been that I think that policy should be changed,' said Khanna, who ousted a Democratic incumbent, then-Rep. Mike Honda, in 2016. 'But we have to make sure that we’re supporting the effort.' So far, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez remains the most prominent exception to the newly improved relationship between progressives and the DCCC."

Iowa Progressives Boost Multiracial Turnout

The Iowa caucuses have long turned out the ‘same old white crew.’ 2020 could be different. The Nation: "Every four years, Iowa briefly assumes an outsize level of importance in American politics, then disappears almost entirely from the national discourse. Since 1972, Iowa has held the first presidential contest in the nation—a privileged position that brings a deluge of hopeful candidates, campaign resources, and media attention to the state. (New Hampshire’s primary follows a week later; the nation’s most populous states, including California and Texas, don’t vote until March.) Winning the Iowa caucuses is seen as a significant indicator of a campaign’s viability, even though the Iowa electorate, which in 2016 was 91 percent white, is hardly representative of the national electorate. The Democratic primary process needs an institutional overhaul. But the popular image of the Iowa caucus electorate also needs revision. On the prairie, change is quietly underway. There are indications of a forthcoming resurrection of the forgotten grassroots culture of the caucuses, now for an intersectional age. A key driver of this shift is that Iowa’s demographics are changing rapidly. In fact, immigration is the primary factor driving population growth here. This caucus season in Iowa, local activists are finding that building power requires not only engaging with electoral politics but also developing voters’ long-term civic engagement habits. 'When we start learning about civics and elections, [it’s] like, 'You go vote in November and then vote in the school board, and you did your job,'' said Hugh Espey, the executive director of Iowa CCI. 'But the moneyed class, the power elite—that’s not how they see it. They see that this is nonstop. They’re working at it all the time. We have to work at it all the time and build power, too.'"

Trump May Expand Muslim Travel Ban

Trump weighs travel ban expansion in coming days. Politico: "President Donald Trump may expand his controversial travel ban with an announcement expected as early as Monday, the three-year anniversary of the original order, which targeted several majority-Muslim nations. The list of countries is not yet final and could be changed, but nations under consideration for new restrictions include Belarus, Myanmar (also known as Burma), Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania, according to two people familiar with the matter. A draft being considered by the Trump administration would place immigration restrictions on the additional seven countries, but not necessarily completely ban all citizens of those nations from entering the United States. The restrictions could apply only to certain government officials, for instance, or certain types of visas. Nonetheless, any new restrictions are likely to strain ties with the affected countries, some of which assist the U.S. on issues like fighting terrorism, and some of which Washington has been trying to court for strategic reasons. Trump confirmed Tuesday in an interview with The Wall Street Journal from Davos that he is trying to add additional nations to the travel ban, but declined to list the countries."

Saudis Hacked Amazon's Bezos For Takedown

Amazon boss's phone 'hacked by Saudi crown prince'. The Guardian: "The Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos had his mobile phone “hacked” in 2018 after receiving a WhatsApp message that had apparently been sent from the personal account of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, sources have told the Guardian. The encrypted message from the number used by Mohammed bin Salman is believed to have included a malicious file that infiltrated the phone of the world’s richest man, according to the results of a digital forensic analysis. This analysis found it 'highly probable' that the intrusion into the phone was triggered by an infected video file sent from the account of the Saudi heir to Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post. The two men had been having a seemingly friendly WhatsApp exchange when, on 1 May of that year, the unsolicited file was sent, according to sources who spoke to the Guardian on the condition of anonymity. Large amounts of data were exfiltrated from Bezos’s phone within hours, according to a person familiar with the matter. The Guardian has no knowledge of what was taken from the phone or how it was used. The extraordinary revelation that the future king of Saudi Arabia may have had a personal involvement in the targeting of the American founder of Amazon will send shockwaves from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. The disclosure is likely to raise difficult questions for the kingdom about the circumstances around how US tabloid the National Enquirer came to publish intimate details about Bezos’s private life – including text messages – nine months later."

American Journalist Charged For Exposing Crimes In Brazil

Glenn Greenwald charged With cybercrimes in Brazil. NYT: "Federal prosecutors in Brazil on Tuesday charged the American journalist Glenn Greenwald with cybercrimes for his role in bringing to light cellphone messages that have embarrassed prosecutors and tarnished the image of an anti-corruption task force. Mr. Greenwald, an ardent critic of Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, is a deeply polarizing figure in Brazil, where his work is lionized by leftists and condemned as partisan and heavy handed by officials in the Bolsonaro administration. In fact, Mr. Greenwald has been part of a team that won some of the most important prizes in journalism — the George Polk Award and the Pulitzer Prize for public service — for his role in reporting on documents describing government surveillance that were passed on to him by Edward J. Snowden, a former contractor with the National Security Agency of the United States."

Far-Right Groups Rally Militias In Virginia

Far right groups are rallying Virginia counties to form militias. Truthout: "An estimated 22,000 people attended the rally against looming gun restrictions in Virginia yesterday in the state capital of Richmond. The week leading up to it was filled with warnings of potential violence, wild conspiracy theories, threats against lawmakers, and indications that white supremacist groups would attend. Three neo-Nazis were arrested before the event for threats related to it, and the governor passed an emergency decree banning guns inside the rally due to threats. After the buildup, the rally itself was anticlimactic; there were no incidents and only a single arrest. But the events have energized the Patriot movement and militia groups to encourage the formation of new, armed political forms in rural Virginia counties, many of which have vowed to reject the gun restrictions. The last election left Virginia with a Democratic governor and majority in the legislature. New gun control bills include limited measures like restricting handgun purchases to once a month, background checks, and barring guns from public buildings. But to the far-right gun rights crowd — including militia and Patriot movement groups — this is already halfway down the road to confiscation of all privately owned guns. The rhetoric was white hot the week before the rally. In addition to the militias, 'alt-right' groups promoted the rally. Discussion groups were abuzz with chatter about the 'boogaloo' — right-wing internet speak for a coming civil war. In the far right’s mind, this has long been imagined to be kicked off by Democrats confiscating guns."

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