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2019-02-22 13:10:16 UTC
2019-02-23 11:57:24 UTC
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The man who lives in the Blaine House in Augusta, Maine, was, for many, a sneak preview of the 45th president of the United States. Like Donald Trump, Republican Gov. Paul LePage has transformed the face of government with his politically incorrect brand of conservatism — and he did it despite winning less than a majority of votes. LePage won a seven-way Republican primary for governor in 2010 with 37 percent of the vote, and he beat a Democrat and three independents in the general with just 38 percent.
Eight years later, it's far from clear that LePage would have a path to victory if he were running now in the Republican primary for governor. That's because, partly in response to LePage's plurality wins, Maine on Tuesday will become the first state to use ranked-choice voting to decide a statewide election. So not only are there races in Maine we'll be watching, but the process matters too. And if Maine voters don't pass an initiative reauthorizing the voting method at the same time, this real-life political-science experiment will be cut short.
The question of keeping ranked-choice in place for future primaries and Congressional races in the general election led 54-46 percent with 57% of precincts reporting at 12:05 AM EDT.
Maine's Governor Paul LePage has threatened to not certify the results, but that doesn't matter according to Maine's Secretary of State:
Gov. LePage on Tuesday says he "probably" won't certify results from the voter-approved ranked-choice voting system.
Maine law requires the secretary of state to tabulate results and get them to the governor within 20 days of an election. The governor "shall" certify them within a reasonable time period, but Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, a Democrat, said this only applies to state general elections and not primaries. "He can bluster all he wants, but he can't change the results," Dunlap said.
Two American diplomats stationed in China were reportedly evacuated from the region after being sickened by a mysterious ailment linked to odd sounds.
The two Americans evacuated worked at the American Consulate in the southern city of Guangzhou, the New York Times reported Wednesday, adding that their colleagues and relatives are also being tested by a State Department medical team.
American officials have been worried for months that American diplomats and their families in Cuba -- and now China -- have been subjected to a "sonic attack," leading to symptoms similar to those "following concussion or minor traumatic brain injury," the State Department said in a statement Tuesday.
The new cases broaden a medical mystery that began affecting American diplomats and their families in Cuba in 2016. Since then, 24 Americans stationed in Havana have experienced dizziness, headaches, fatigue, hearing loss and cognitive issues, the State Department said.
[...] The nature of the injury, and whether a common cause exists, hasn't been established yet, the department said.
Related: US Embassy Employees in Cuba Possibly Subjected to 'Acoustic Attack'
U.S. State Department Pulls Employees From Cuba, Issues Travel Warning Due to "Sonic Attacks"
A 'Sonic Attack' on Diplomats in Cuba? These Scientists Doubt It
Cuban Embassy Victims Experiencing Neurological Symptoms
Computer Scientists May Have Solved the Mystery Behind the 'Sonic Attacks' in Cuban Embassy
Submitted via IRC for SoyCow8317
Trump has nominated Geoffrey Starks as the FCC's newest Commissioner, but little is known about his views.
It's now clear who will (likely) take FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn's seat now that she's stepping down. President Trump has signaled his intent to nominate Geoffrey Starks to fulfill the remainder of a five-year Commissioner term that began on June 30th, 2017, when Clyburn's stint officially ended. The transition will take place if and when the Senate confirms his appointment, although there's a good chance of that happening when Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer has backed the nomination. Just how this will shape the FCC's decisions remains murky, though.
Starks has been an assistant bureau chief at the FCC enforcement division for the past three years, and before then was a senior counsel for the Justice Department. He's the classic heads-down regulator, then. However, that's about all people know. It's not yet certain where he stands on net neutrality or the FCC's overall anti-regulatory stance under Chairman Ajit Pai.
Submitted via IRC for Runaway1956
On the 29th anniversary of the crackdown in Beijing, protesters are reenacting the historic face-off between a lone man and a Chinese tank. [...] Better known as “Tank Man”, he is one of the most enduring images of China’s violent military crackdown on democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, known in China as liusi, or June 4th.
On the 29th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, protesters are reenacting the face-off under hashtags including #Tankman2018, #Tankmen2018, a campaign started by Chinese artist and cartoonist, Badiucao. According to Badiucao, Tank Man represents “something lost in China’s young generation now — the idealism, passion, sense of responsibility, and confidence that an individual can make a change”, he said. “Tank Man is very relevant today and people should see it. Society has not changed much since the massacre for the oppression has never stopped”.
The Center for American Progress reports
Last month, the NFL announced a new policy for its players during the national anthem: Players are permitted to stay in the locker room during the anthem, but if they go out onto the field during it, they must stand. If any of the players takes a knee, the team will be fined.
Soon afterwards, a Wall Street Journal report confirmed what most have long suspected: That President Donald Trump's public outrage about NFL players protesting police brutality and systemic racism during the national anthem at football games heavily influenced NFL owners to change the rule, and discouraged them from signing players who would protest.
It's all terrible news for those in favor of free speech and peaceful protest, and for those against white nationalism and police brutality.
However, Mark Geragos, the lawyer representing Kaepernick in his collusion lawsuit against the NFL, [...] believes [...] that Trump's direct influence over NFL owners on this issue violates federal law. U.S. Code 227 [which] says that members of Congress or the executive branch cannot "wrongfully influence a private entity's employment decision ... solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation".
A few revelations from the last couple of weeks strongly support Geragos' case here, and it's important to remember that Geragos knows much more about the case than we do--he has taken the depositions of more than a dozen NFL owners, while the public only knows about the depositions that have leaked.
[...] Of course, influencing the private hiring decisions of a company isn't the only part of U.S. Code  that needs to be proved; it would also have to be shown that Trump did it for partisan political purposes.
That sounds trickier to prove, but in this case, that's not necessarily true. First of all, Trump's comments were made at a political rally supporting an Alabama Republican candidate for US Senate--an expressly partisan environment. And according to the WSJ, Trump told Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in private conversations that the issue was a "winning" one for him.
White Americans' fear of losing their socioeconomic standing in the face of demographic change may be driving opposition to welfare programs, even though whites are major beneficiaries of government poverty assistance, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University.
While social scientists have long posited that racial resentment fuels opposition to such anti-poverty programs as food stamps, Medicaid and Temporary Aid to Needy Families, this is the first study to show the correlation experimentally, demonstrating a causal relationship between attitudes to welfare and threatened racial status.
"With policymakers proposing cuts to the social safety net, it's important to understand the dynamics that drive the welfare backlash," said study lead author Rachel Wetts, a Ph.D. student in sociology at UC Berkeley. "This research suggests that when whites fear their status is on the decline, they increase opposition to programs intended to benefit poorer members of all racial groups."
The findings, to be published May 30 in the journal Social Forces, highlight a welfare backlash that swelled around the 2008 Great Recession and election of Barack Obama.
Notably, the study found anti-welfare sentiment to be selective insofar as threats to whites' standing led whites to oppose government assistance programs they believed largely benefit minorities, while not affecting their views of programs they thought were more likely to advantage whites.
"Our findings suggest that these threats lead whites to oppose programs they perceive as primarily benefiting racial minorities," said study senior author Robb Willer, a professor of sociology and social psychology at Stanford University.
[...] "Overall, these results suggest whites' perceptions of rising minority power and influence lead them to oppose welfare programs," Wetts said.
A Russian journalist and critic of the Kremlin, reported to have been shot dead in Ukraine, showed up alive at a press conference on Wednesday to declare that his murder was faked by Ukrainian security services in an effort to foil an assassination plot against him.
In a stunning development, Arkady Babchenko, 41, walked into a room of journalists in Kiev who had been expecting to get an update on his murder.
He apologized to his wife Olechka -- who on Tuesday was reported to have found him bleeding to death at his apartment -- for the "hell" she had gone through. Ukrainian officials offered a jaw-dropping explanation for his so-called death -- to expose a Russian plot against him.
Also at BBC.
Al Jazeera reports
Polls have closed in an Irish referendum on abortion that could represent a change in the path of a country that was once one of Europe's more socially conservative.
Voters turned out in large numbers on [May 25] to have their say on whether to repeal the country's Eighth Amendment, which outlaws abortion by giving equal rights to the unborn.
An exit poll, conducted for the Irish Times by Ipsos/MRBI, suggested that the country voted by a landslide margin to change the constitution so that abortion can be legalised.
The vote to repeal the constitutional ban was predicted to win by 68 percent to 32 percent, according to the poll of 4,000 voters, the Irish Times said.
[...] If the proposal to repeal the Eighth Amendment is defeated on [May 25], the country will not have a second referendum and it could be another 35 years before voters have their say on the matter again, [Prime Minister Leo] Varadkar said.
[...] 78 percent of the Irish population is Catholic
[...] Thousands of people living abroad returned home to vote. Ireland is one of the few countries in the European Union that does not allow those abroad to vote via post or in embassies.
Those away for less than 18 months remain eligible to vote at their former local polling station. Those living on the Atlantic islands cast their ballot a day early to help prevent delays in transportation and counting the ballot papers.
When the constitutional amendment to instate the ban was voted on in 1983, 66.9 percent voted "yes," and 33.1 percent voted "no".
Widely reported, including:
Al Jazeera reports
The National Football League (NFL) announced a new policy that will fine teams an undetermined amount if players on the field fail to stand during the national anthem.
[...] The new policy does not require players be present during the anthem, allowing those who wish to protest and not attend the ceremonial act to remain in the locker room.
Players said they were not consulted and threatened to challenge the policy in the courts. A statement by the NFL Players Association said its athletes had shown ample patriotism by way of their social activism and community support initiatives.
[...] New York Jets chairman Christopher Johnson said he supported the measure out of obligation to the membership, but said players can take a knee or perform another type of protest without fear of repercussion from the team. He will pay their fines.
"If somebody [on the Jets] takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organisation, by me, not the players. I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players," Johnson said.
New York Magazine notes
The monetary risk to Johnson isn't huge, since no Jets players took a knee last season. [...] Johnson is currently acting as owner of the team while his brother, Woody Johnson, serves as Trump's ambassador to Britain.
The Center for American Progress reports
The Supreme Court held on [May 21] that employers can force their employees to sign away many of their rights to sue their employers. As a practical matter, Monday's decision in Epic Systems v. Lewis [PDF] will enable employers to engage in small-scale wage theft with impunity, so long as they spread the impact of this theft among many employees.
Neil Gorsuch, who occupies the seat that Senate Republicans held open for a year until Donald Trump could fill it, wrote the Court's 5-4 decision. The Court split along party lines.
Epic Systems involves three consolidated cases, each involving employment contracts cutting off employees' rights to sue their employer in a court of law. In at least one of these cases, the employees were required to sign away these rights as a condition of starting their job. In another, existing workers were told to sign away their rights if they wanted to keep working.
Each contract contained two provisions, a "forced arbitration" provision, which requires legal disputes between the employer and the employee to be resolved by a private arbitrator and not by a real court; and a provision prohibiting employees from bringing class actions against the employer.
Writing with his trademarked smugness, Gorsuch presents Epic Systems as a simple application of a legal text. "The parties before us contracted for arbitration", he writes. "They proceeded to specify the rules that would govern their arbitrations, indicating their intention to use individualized rather than class or collective action procedures. And this much the Arbitration Act seems to protect pretty absolutely."
It's the sort of statement someone might write if they'd never read the Federal Arbitration Act--the law at the heart of this case--and had only read the Supreme Court's decisions expanding that act's scope.
[...] Epic Systems means that employers who cheat a single employee out of a great deal of money will probably be held accountable for their actions--though it is worth noting that arbitrators are more likely to favor employers than courts of law, and that they typically award less money to employees when those employees do prevail. The biggest losers under Epic Systems, however, will be the victims of widespread, but small-scale, wage theft.
Via Common Dreams, Public Citizen says Congress Should Overturn Today's U.S. Supreme Court Decision Eroding Workers' Rights
Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch, and the courts.