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Friday, December 15, 2017

VIDEO: SLAPP LAWSUITS

THE BIGGEST THREAT TO THE RESISTANCE YOU NEVER HEARD OF
By Robert Reich


To watch this video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlhVHiWM4yk

Have you heard of SLAPP lawsuits? You soon will.

SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.”

It is a lawsuit brought by big corporations intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the overwhelming costs of a legal defense until they’re forced to abandon their criticism or opposition.

And it may be the biggest threat to the resistance you’ve never heard of.  

Here’s an example: Resolute Forest Products, one of Canada’s largest logging and paper companies, has sued, in a U.S. court, environmental groups that have been campaigning to save Canada’s boreal forest. 

Resolute based its lawsuit on a U.S. conspiracy and racketeering law (RICO) intended to ensnare mobsters. Resolute alleged that the environmental groups have been illegally conspiring to extort the company’s customers and to defraud their own donors. 

The suit wasn’t designed to win in court. It was designed to distract and silence critics. This is punishment for speaking out. Thankfully, a federal court agrees and a judge just dismissed Resolute’s claims. But other corporate bullies are still trying to use this playbook.

EDITOR’S NOTE: SLAPPs first started cropping up in the 1980s. I had to deal with SLAPPs a lot as national organizing director for the organization now known as the Center for Health and Environmental Justice. For the most part, we helped local citizens’ groups turn the tactic back on the SLAPP attackers. Click here to read about a 1989 case I worked on.

Citizens took the anti-SLAPP fight further, getting most states, including Rhode Island, to enact legislation protecting free speech and imposing harsh penalties on those who would try to SLAPP their opponents into silence. CLICK HERE for a 2011 article I wrote here in Progressive Charlestown on how to “SLAPP-back.” – Will Collette


Turning the corner


For more cartoons by Ted Rall, CLICK HERE.

Polls show public understands what Trump is doing

Pic of the Moment

Facebook's poison ads

Facebook Allowed Political Ads That Were Actually Scams and Malware
Image result for Political Ads on FacebookIn September, an ad with the headline, “New Approval Ratings For President Trump Announced And It’s Not Going The Way You Think,” targeted Facebook users in the U.S. who were over 40 and labeled as “very liberal” by the tech company.

“Regardless of what you think of Donald Trump and his policies, it’s fair to say that his appointment as President of the United States is one of the most…,” ran the text. “Learn more.”

To make American campaigns more transparent, we’ve built a tool to display political ads that are rarely seen outside their selected audience of Facebook users.

At least some people who clicked on this come-on found their computers frozen. Their screens displayed a warning and a computer-generated voice informed them that their machine had been “infected with viruses, spywares and pornwares,” and that their credit card information and other personal data had been stolen — and offered a phone number to call to fix it.

Actually, the freeze was temporary, and restarting the computer would have unlocked it. But worried users who called the number would have been asked to pay to restore their access, according to computer security experts who have tracked the scam for more than a year.

This ad, which targeted Facebook users in the U.S. who were over 40 and labeled as “very liberal” by the tech company, led some people to a scam site that froze their computers and tried to trick them into paying for bogus tech support.

Russian disinformation isn’t the only deceptive political advertising on Facebook. The pitch designed to lure President Donald Trump’s critics is one of more than a dozen politically themed advertisements masking consumer rip-offs that ProPublica has identified since launching an effort in September to monitor paid political messages on the world’s largest social network. 

As the American public becomes ever more polarized along partisan lines, swindlers who used to capitalize on curiosity about celebrities or sports are now exploiting political passions.


That’s a lot of particles

Marine organisms can shred a plastic bag into 1.75 million pieces, study shows
University of Plymouth

sad biology GIF by PBS Digital StudiosA single plastic carrier bag could be shredded by marine organisms into around 1.75 million microscopic fragments, according to new research.

Marine scientists at the University of Plymouth examined the rate at which bags were broken down by the amphipod Orchestia gammarellus, which inhabits coastal areas in northern and western Europe.

They believe the results are an example of marine wildlife actually contributing to the spread of microplastics within the marine environment, rather than them simply being emitted from the water supply or forming through the physical and chemical break down of larger items.

The study was conducted by BSc (Hons) Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology students Daniella Hodgson and Amanda Bréchon, and Professor of Marine Biology Richard Thompson. It is published in Marine Pollution Bulletin.

Its main aim was to discover whether different types of plastic and the presence of a biofilm -- a layer of organic material which accumulates over time -- altered the rate at which such organisms broke down plastic debris.


Republicans plan to chop tax credits for green energy

GOP Tax Scam Attacks Renewables While Nurturing Nuclear and Fossil Fuel Industries
Several provisions in the GOP tax plan threaten the future of renewable energy in the United States while bolstering support for nuclear reactors and the fossil fuel industry, according to a New York Times analysis.

Despite the recent boom in electrical generation from wind and solar—which soared to a record 10 percent of the nation's total generation in June—and the fact that the solar industry alone employs more Americans that coal, gas, and oil sectors combined, both the House and Senate versions of the Republican tax plan propose altering the conditions that have enabled the U.S. renewable industry to blossom. 

"In different ways, direct and indirect, the House and Senate bills each imperil elements of" renewable energy's rise, Brad Plumer and Jim Tankersley write for the Times. The two bills will undergo a reconcilation process with the intention of sending a final version to the president's desk before the new year.

During the conference panel to finalize the bill, lawmakers will review the multiple measures expected to curtail U.S. renewable energy production, as the Times details:

A Senate bill provision intended to stop multinational companies from shifting profits overseas could unexpectedly cripple a key financing tool used by the renewable energy industry, particularly solar, by eroding the value of tax credits that banks and other financial institutions buy from energy companies.

The House bill's effects would be more direct, rolling back tax credits for wind farms and electric vehicles, while increasing federal support for two nuclear reactors under construction in Georgia.

The wind industry has warned that the House language, which would reduce the wind tax credit to 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, from 2.4 cents, and change eligibility rules, could eliminate over half of the new wind farms planned in the United States.

Amy Grace, a renewables analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, told the Times that "in the long run, we think wind and solar will become cheap enough to compete without subsidies.... but in the short term, those tax credits have been important."

Although the Senate bill would not cut the vital tax credits for wind and solar, the Senate's Base Erosion Anti-Abuse Tax—which aims to stop companies from shifting profits abroad—would impose restrictions on renewable energy companies that sell credits to banks and investors, cutting off the companies from vital financing, thereby jeopardizing wind and solar farms nationwide.

The fossil fuel industry, meanwhile, is "under little pressure in either bill;" in fact, producers of oil and gas are expected to benefit from the final bill. Despite widespread protests, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has led an effort to require the federal governent to permit drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, and an amendment by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) essentially proposes lowering the tax rates on oil and gas companies' profits.

As the Huffington Post explained in a report published earlier this week, Cornyn's amendment takes a cue from the Republican leaders' goal of drastically reducing the corporate tax rate, and would lower the rate for a specific type of business model that is subject to "pass-through" taxation and is often utilized by the fossil fuel industry. 

Gregg Polsky, a tax professor at the University of Georgia School of Law, likened the dirty energy industry handouts to the time Oprah Winfrey famously gave new cars to her entire audience. "It's like Oprah for big business," he said. "You get a car, you get a car, everybody gets a car!"

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Who benefits?

Related imageTrump and congressional Republicans are engineering the largest corporate tax cut in history in order “to restore our competitive edge,” as Trump says.

Our competitive edge? Who’s us?

Most American corporations – especially big ones that would get most of the planned corporate tax cuts – have no particular allegiance to America. Their only allegiance is to their shareholders.

For years they’ve been cutting the jobs and wages of American workers in order to generate larger profits and higher share prices.

Some of these jobs have gone abroad or been outsourced to lower-paid contractors in America. Others have been automated. Most of the remaining jobs pay no more than they did four decades ago, adjusted for inflation.

When GM went public again in 2010 after being bailed out by American taxpayers, it boasted of making 43 percent of its cars in places where labor is less than $15 an hour – often outside the United States. And it got its American unions to agree that new hires would be paid half the wages and benefits of its old workers.

Capital is global. Big American corporations are “American” only because they’re headquartered and legally incorporated in the United States. But they could (and sometimes do) leave at a moment’s notice. They also employ or contract with workers all over the world. 

And they’re owned by shareholders all over the world.  

According to research by the Tax Policy Center’s Steven Rosenthal, about 35 percent of stock in U.S. corporations is now held by foreign investors. 

So when taxes of “American” corporations are cut, foreign investors get a windfall.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimates that the Senate majority’s tax bill would give foreign investors a tax cut of $31 billion in 2019

The House bill would give them $50.4 billion. 
That’s money that foreign investors would otherwise be paying into the U.S. Treasury.

By way of comparison, the combined tax cuts for families in the bottom 80 percent of the income distribution in the 30 states won by President Donald Trump comes to $39.4 billion, far less than the House bill gives away to foreign investors.


For all you Soylent Green lovers

The Republican tax bill is Soylent Greenbacks
For more cartoons by Jen Sorenson, CLICK HERE.

From the Charlestown Historical Society


THE CHARLESTOWN HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Cross' Mills

WINTER 2017

The year 2017 is winding down and it's been full of new acquisitions, events and ongoing projects for CHS.  As we look forward to 2018, we will be preparing to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the society!  Join us at our Annual Meeting to learn about our plans for 2018. 

Thank you to all who have come by to chat, share and contribute.

Sincerely,

Charlestown Historical Society 
ANNUAL MEETING - JANUARY 20, 2018

Annual Meeting - January 20, 2018
2:00 PM
Cross' Mills Public Library

Please mark your calendars and join us for our annual meeting.  Our guest speaker will be Kelly Sullivan, a journalist and author, who will share some fascinating and little-known tales of life gone by in South County.

We will also have a brief business meeting.

Light refreshments will be served.

CHAMPLIN FOUNDATION GRANT

We are very pleased to announce a grant from the Champlin Foundation to support the restoration of the 1732 Card House murals, donated to CHS by Tom and Patty Ready.  The project will be carried out by three conservators from the American Institute of Conservation (AIC) and their final resting place will be within the Charlestown Town Hall Council Chambers for our community and visiting public to enjoy.  We are most grateful to the Champlin Foundation for this grant which allows us to share and display some of Charlestown's early history.

Photos of the artwork and discussion of the project will be included at the annual meeting.

ENCAMPMENT AT AMOS GREENE FARM


Our 2017 Revolutionary War Encampment took place on October 14 at the historic Amos Greene Farm.  The drive down the country, stone-walled path to the farm was a step back in time.  Despite the lack of cooperation from Mother Nature, visitors enjoyed the militia units scattered around the grounds, skirmishes with the Patriots and French staving off the British, daily camp activities and period demonstrations.  


   


Thank you to the Ricci Family who have lovingly restored this original 100-acre farm allowing CHS to bring its history back to life.

Cross' Mills Common Burying Ground

Under the direction of Cemetery Chair, Curtis Smith, CHS has been restoring this old burying ground at Cross' Mills over the past seven years.  This site is one of Charlestown's oldest cemeteries, though no longer in use.  Great strides have been made in reviving over 70 headstones.  Public signage is being planned with a brief description of its history.

CHS is also networking with Dr. Jon Marcoux of Salve Regina University (utilizing his ground-penetrating radar) and Charee Jackson Surveying for direction in locating a suitable site for the new signage and future charting of the entire grounds.

An information booklet is also planned so that we may bring greater awareness to this special site and final resting place of many of Charlestown's oldest families.
About Us
 Charlestown Historical Society
P.O. Box 100
Charlestown, RI  02813
401-364-1838


The Charlestown Historical Society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization registered in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. 

DEM Accepting Applications For Grants To Support Community Tree Programs

Informational meeting to be held next Wednesday in Providence

christmas tree snow GIFThe Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), in partnership with the United States Forest Service and the Rhode Island Tree Council, today announced $30,000 is available in matching grants to support local tree programs. 

A Request for Proposals is now open - with a deadline of January 31, 2018. Over the past 25 years, DEM has awarded more than $5 million in grants under the America the Beautiful Tree Rhode Island program.

The grant program, which covers 40 percent of a project's cost, supports urban forestry efforts, including tree plantings, community forestry planning, invasive species management, and related education and outreach. Grant requests between $2,000 and $4,000 will be considered. 

An informational workshop will be held next Wednesday, December 19 at 2:00 p.m. at DEM Headquarters, 235 Promenade Street, Room 300, Providence to review program details.

Additional information about this grant opportunity is available on DEM's website. For questions, contact Tee Jay Boudreau, deputy chief of DEM's Division of Forest Environment at 222-2445 ext. 2059 or via email at teejay.boudreau@dem.ri.gov


Eating himself to death, or just wishful thinking

By Tim Abel 

Related image

We’ve all heard the stories of Donald Trump preferring a well-done steak with ketchup and shunning any new delicacies, despite living a lifestyle that offers him all the luxuries one could ever desire.

However, it’s not just that the President has terrible gastronomical taste, a new memoir suggests that his diet is one of several poor lifestyle choices that could very well shorten his life.

According to an excerpt from Let Trump be Trump, an upcoming book by Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and aide David Bossie, we get to enter the inner circle where the President of the United States having a 2,400-calory McDonald’s dinner is par for the course. 

“Trump’s appetite seems to know no bounds when it comes to McDonald’s, with a dinner order consisting of two Big Macs, two Filet-O-Fish, and a chocolate malted,” is just one of the claims made in the book.

As sky clears, we may be able to see space station overflight at 5:25 PM

ISS will make 6-minute long journey across C-Town sky tonight at 5:25 PM
By Will Collette

Image result for international space station

Though the skies are still gray and thick with clouds from last night's snowfall, the forecast says those clouds are going to clear.

The National Weather Service forecast says that our gray skies will give way to a mostly clear and chilly night.

If that happens early enough, the International Space Station (ISS) will treat us to a six-minute fly-over. That's about the maximum time given the ISS's speed and its ability to reflect sunshine from the sun that set shortly before.

The space station appears as if out of no where at 5:25 PM sharp in the northwest at 10 degrees over the horizon. It will rise to 63 degrees and will track to the east southeast for six minutes where it will disappear six minutes later at degrees above the horizon as it loses the sun's reflected light.

It is about as bright as a passing jetliner as it makes a quick and silent arc up to its maximum elevation. 

While this is not like watching a firework's display, it is impressive in its own right as we watch mankind's only current manned venture into space.


“Justice” is reopening probe on debunked charges against Planned Parenthood

Another Attack On Planned Parenthood
BY JOELLE GRANDE

planned parenthood GIFIn a surprising twist, the US Department of Justice will engage in a glaring waste of taxpayer dollars by opening an investigation into Planned Parenthood that was “case closed” a year ago.

In 2015, an organization calling itself the Center for Medical Progress released a series of videos purporting to prove that the women’s health organization was illegally selling fetal body parts.

That claim was roundly debunked after multiple states launched investigations into Planned Parenthood.
None of them – Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Washington – found any evidence supporting the claim.

Instead, a grand jury in Harris County, Texas voted to indict the Center for Medical Progress instead of Planned Parenthood– that’s how egregious the claims were.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Worthy rich

Unworthy poor
Image may contain: 1 person, textWhen the time comes, and I hope it comes soon, to bury this era of moral rot and the defiling of our communal, social, and democratic norms, the perfect epitaph for the gravestone of this age of unreason should be Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley's already infamous quote:
"I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing... as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”
Grassley's vision of America, quite frankly, is one I do not recognize. I thought the heart of this great nation was not limited to the ranks of the plutocrats who are whisked through life in chauffeured cars and private jets, whose often inherited riches are passed along to children, many of whom no sacrifice or service is asked. 

I do not begrudge wealth, but it must come with a humility that money never is completely free of luck. And more importantly, wealth can never be a measure of worth.


Yeah, Trump "wins" the War on Christmas


For more cartoons from Jen Sorenson, CLICK HERE.