Although Beto O’Rourke’s bid for one of Texas’s Senate seats was ultimately unsuccessful, his electrifying campaign made national headlines. His fame was such that he believed––and many of his supporters and advisors believed––that he could be a viable candidate for the Democratic nomination for president.
Last week, he launched his campaign:
The announcement was accompanied by a Vanity Fair piece.
Almost immediately, O’Rourke came under fire for a variety of things.
First, it was his wife’s silence during the announcement video. She sat quietly, gazing lovingly at her husband and smiling, for the entire video. Observers point out that the silent-wife routine does not fit into a candidate pool with powerful women leaders.
Then critics accused Beto of having a huge ego, the result of white male entitlement. Other accused him of being a “poor man’s Obama.”
Beto himself soon increased his own problems by making inappropriate jokes about his marriage, white privilege, and his teen hobbies. He has made public apologies and vowed to be more thoughtful. He admitted to benefitting from white privilege.
Beto was already coming off a deficit because he lost his Senate bid in the midterms. Trump already has a ready-made insult for Beto: He’s a loser. But it looks like Beto may not make it very far.
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President Trump has just proposed the largest budget in history. The whopping $4.75 trillion dolor proposition includes massive increases in military spending––more money than the Pentagon actually asked for, as well as $8.6 billion for a border wall. If that bit about the border wall sounds like déjà vu, you’re right. Trump’s $5 billion border wall ask shut the government down for the longest period in history.
The budget will also $1.9 trillion in cuts (which the White House is calling “cost savings”) from domestic programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
The budget is so bad that even some Republicans tried to shy away the from its key details. White House Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Russell Vought said, “We need to continue to secure the country. We need to continue to secure the border. We’re not going to be bashful about that. But at the same time, we’re also going to say that we have many, many programs that are wasteful and inefficient that we can no longer afford.”
Congress sets the budget, so Trump’s proposal will likely have little impact on what actual government spending will look like. Nevertheless, the proposal is significant because it signals the President’s campaign strategy for the upcoming election.
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Facebook has enjoyed a brief respite from all of the bad publicity it suffered a few months ago. At that time, employees reported that Facebook was being torn apart from within, with pro-Zuckerberg and pro-Sandberg factions feuding. Facebook was also grossly negligent in the genocide in Myanmar, and suffered other international scandals. But underneath it all, tension was building in a major fault line: privacy. One expert even said that the end of Facebook might be near because of its terrible mishandling of privacy.
Zuckerberg is no dummy. He knows that his company has mishandling privacy––he knows because they did it on purpose, in order to make money. But now that the company has expanded around the world and makes an obscene profit, Zuckerberg is ready to address the privacy question. In a recent essay, Zuckerberg proposed a social media platform that is more like WhatsApp insofar as it focuses on messaging and sharing information with close friends.
According to Technology Review, however, “Zuckerberg’s essay is a power grab disguised as an act of contrition.” Zuckerberg has focused on the encryption side of privacy exclusively. He intentionally failed to address philosophical questions of privacy. Facebook still controls the means of communication, meaning that privacy is inherently limited. When you take into account Instagram and WhatsApp, in addition to this new platform Zuckerberg is proposing, Facebook has a monopoly on the free flow of communication. Tech Review suggests the answer is simple: Facebook, as a monopoly, needs to be broken up.
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Next time you have the chance, wander around a Whole Foods and pay attention to two things. First, look at how many times “organic” and “local” is written on anything but specific products: on the walls, on the signs, on the ads, and so on. Then take a look at how many ingredients are actually local and organic.
From there, take a closer look at the products. Read the labels carefully. Some say “certified organic,” which is pretty clear. Others are more vague. “All Natural” or “Free Range” or “Certified Humane” comes to mind. One egg company, Nellie’s Free Range Eggs, has pictures of happy chickens wandering a big open space on the label.
If you were to go visit Nellie’s, though, you’d find sheds with 20,000 hens stuffed in, with just 1.2 sq ft of floor space each. That’s about enough room for a hen to rotate in place. Some free range life, eh?
Four people are suing Nellie’s for deception. They are backed by PETA.
The lawsuit draws attention to the treatment of chickens and label practices for so-called “free range” or “humane” products. Consumption of eggs is on the rise in America, and with some companies using those labels to charge a whopping $8 for eggs (like Nellie’s) this lawsuit might be one good thing PETA has done.
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A woman attacked seven people in two Manhattan neighborhoods––Harlem and the Upper West Side––with pepper spray over the span of seventy minutes. Two of the attacks occurred in subway stations. Police spokesperson Detective George Tsourovakas said that the suspect is black and the seven victims were all white. The woman has not yet been identified.
The woman allegedly approached all over her victims without saying a word. The police have declined to state, however, whether they are treating this incident as a hate crime. The incident has all the ingredients of another controversy about race in the United States.
Journalist Andy Ngo has pointed to a number of such false claims of hate crimes on his Twitter feed. Ngo claims that the Southern Poverty Law Center––an organization that has come under fire for its obvious liberal bias––is stoking panic against Trump and Republicans. This could be a political ploy amongst Democrats, a way of bringing attention to causes, or any number of things. Ngo’s Twitter feed compiles a list of hoaxes long enough to convince anyone that these hoaxes are occurring with increasing frequency.
This latest attack, however, inverts the general hate crime formula. We will update you when more information is available.
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Recent investigations have revealed that thousands of massage parlors, all around the country, are keeping women against their wills and forcing them to have sex with clients. The women are often from outside the United States. Searching for a way to get out of debt, they answer an ad for high paying work. Before they know it, they’re being shipped to the United States, taught the trade, and sent to a massage parlor somewhere. Some go to New York, others go to Texas, and so on.
Thanks, in part, to the recent incident with Robert Kraft, more attention is being paid to this $3-billion industry. News recently broke that Donald Trump is friends with Robert Kraft. What’s worse, as you can see in the selfie above, Trump took a picture with Li Yang, one of the human traffickers involved in this scheme. She herself carries a rhinestone encrusted MAGA clutch purse, and has also donated more than $16,000 to Trump and $42,000 to a political action committee for Trump.
Trump said he was “surprised” by the news about Kraft. Interestingly, though, anyone who comes into close contact with Trump is supposed to go through an extensive background check. Apparently the background checks aren’t that extensive.
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A grand jury in Cook County returned a 16-count true bill of charges against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett. The charges say that Smollett lied to a variety of police officials about the attack, filed a false police report, and there are also speculations that Smollett orchestrated a hate-letter sent to the “Empire” cast. Last month, Smollett was charged with one felony.
Most cases in Cook County are settled out of court, and it is therefore extremely unlikely that Smollett will be convicted of all sixteen felonies. If he opts to go to court, he may be sentenced to up to three years of probation.
Several months ago, actor Jussie Smollett claimed to have been attacked by two white men wearing ski masks. According to Smollett, the men threw an unknown chemical on him, wrapped a rope around his neck like a noose, yelled racist and anti-homosexual slurs at him, and then shouted “This is MAGA country!” before fleeing the scene.
The incident led civil rights activist groups to denounce the incident for its racism and homophobia, and to claim that America was still very racist and homophobic. The attack was the most recent in a series of allegedly racist and homophobic incidents perpetrated against cast of the show “Empire.”
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Michael Cohen is suing the Trump organization for $1.9 million. Trump’s company is allegedly backing out on a preexisting agreement to pay legal fees Cohen accrued as a result of investigations into Trump and his organization. Cohen is also suing Trump for another $1.9 million for legal penalties Cohen incurred for services he provided Trump.
The Trump organization allegedly reneged on the payments after Cohen began cooperating with Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian collusion. The optics are bad: it looks as though Trump is unashamedly punishing Cohen for being a “rat.” Cohen is set to begin his three-year prison sentence in May, and as of last week he has been disbarred.
The following is a statement from Cohen’s attorney: “This action arises from the Trump Organization’s failure to meet its indemnification obligations under a contractual agreement between the Trump Organization and Mr. Cohen, pursuant to which the Trump Organization agreed to indemnify Mr. Cohen and to pay attorneys’ fees and costs incurred by Mr. Cohen in connection with various matters arising from Mr. Cohen’s work with and on behalf of the Organization and its principals, directors, and officers. These matters included multiple congressional hearings, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation, and others.”
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Since Jared Kushner took his place in the White House, critics have questioned his suitability. More recently, critics have questioned his trustworthiness. News broke last week that White House officials did not want to grant Jared Kushner security clearance due to his questionable ties to foreign entities. Trump overrode them.
Almost immediately after that story broke, Kushner’s behavior in Saudi Arabia has been called into question. For example, U.S. embassy officials in Riyadh said that they did not receive details about Kushner’s trip or about his meetings with Saudi royalty––nor was anyone present for those meetings.
Kushner is apparently closely connected to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, and even (allegedly) defended him when he was implicated in the death of Jamal Khashoggi.
Military and intelligence officials say that Kushner’s behavior was “undermining US authority” in the region. There are also questions about potential conflicts of interest. The New York Times has reported that the Saudis “wooed” Kushner and now have him as an ally inside the White House––and inside the president’s family. Kushner allegedly gave the Crown Prince advice for how to weather the Khashoggi scandal, for example. The relationship raises troubling concerns about Kushner’s pursuit of financial gain and how that might impact his work for the government.
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Private prisons have long been a target of criminal justice reformers. Critics find private prisons problematic for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the simple fact that such prisons are incentivized to get and keep people incarcerated. There are more complaints than that, though, outlined in a Fox News article. Essentially, the only people who win with this industry are the prison owners and investors. If beds aren’t filled, then the government (who use the prisons, of course) still has to pay for empty beds. Guess where that money comes from? Your tax dollars. You might even be funding private prisons without realizing it, since several banks (with whom you might do business) bankroll such prisons.
But one bank has just left the ranks of those funders: JPMorgan has announced that it will no longer finance private detention centers. The Obama administration directed the Bureau of Prisons to phase out its use of private prisons in 2016, sending stocks plummeting. Within one month of Trump’s presidency, Trump reversed that policy. Stocks rebounded.
When word got out that private prisons were participating in Trump’s crackdown on immigration by incarcerating inmates, protestors demanded that JPMorgan separate from such prisons.
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A New Yorker recently revealed that, before the election, Fox News learned that Trump paid Stormy Daniels hush-money in order to keep their affair secret and killed the story. When a reporter brought the story to Fox news exec Ken LaCorte, he said, “Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert [Murdoch] wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go.” The author of that bombshell piece has called Fox News “state-support, state-sponsored television.”
The fallout of that piece is just beginning. The Democratic National Committee has announced that it will not allow Fox News to televise their primary debates. The DNC believes that Fox News will not be able to provide unbiased coverage of the debates. According to the president of the DNC, the New Yorker report cited above proved that Fox News was “not in a position to host a fair and neutral debate for our candidates.” He also called the relationship between Trump and Fox News “inappropriate.”
Trump has already Tweeted in retaliation:
“Democrats just blocked @FoxNews from holding a debate,” he said in a tweet Wednesday night. “Good, then I think I’ll do the same thing with the Fake News Networks and the Radical Left Democrats in the General Election debates!”
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The anti-vaccine movement has become dangerous. Unvaccinated children are causing outbreaks all over the world, especially of measles. The anti-vaccination movement is spurred by the (mistaken) belief that vaccines are tied to autism. Not that it will matter, but another study has just demonstrated with a respectable degree of certainty that there is no connection between autism and vaccines.
Over 650,000 children were observed in Denmark, 95% of whom were vaccinated between 1999 and 2010. The data revealed no increase of instances of autism among both children who were not at risk of it (based on genetics) and those who were at risk for it. There have been 17 studies that confirm the same thing, but the belief that the two are linked––which began in 1998––remains.
The belief is so strong, in fact, that a group of very vocal protestors harassed the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which met last week to discuss vaccination practices. Of the 165 open seats in the auditorium, at least 80 attendees were opposed to vaccines. The protestors waited through the technical presentations, and during the 75-minute comment period they unleashed.
One said, “I do not consent to handing over my God-given children to the government of the United States of America. How is a vaccine that caused my son’s intestines to fold in on itself and almost die safe and effective?” This woman’s child suffered a 1:100,000 side effect of a vaccine––though it may have been caused by the disease itself.
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