It’s been months since any politician or mainstream media outlet has reported in detail on Puerto Rico. But the situation on the island remains dire—socially, politically, and financially. In addition to the ongoing, extensive recovery from Hurricane Maria, 2019 marks the 13th consecutive year of recession for Puerto Rico’s economy. The Financial Oversight and Management Board, created in 2016, was supposed to be overseeing the debt crisis and reducing government spending. But the board’s austerity measures have been controversial and now Democrats in the House of Representatives want to use their new majority to investigate the board. According to The Washington Post, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) says that the board’s proposed cuts have made the island’s economic recovery more difficult. Grijalva is the incoming chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, which oversees Puerto Rican affairs. “It’s our responsibility as a committee—now as a majority—to treat the citizens of Puerto Rico as coequals,” said Grijalva. He hopes that the committee will visit the island and learn about both the board and the economy, which could lead to oversight hearings based on what they find. While Grijalva blames the board for exacerbating the island’s economic misfortune, the fiscal board says it is not their fault. Instead, they shifted blame to the local government. A spokesman for the board says it is the island’s government that is making things worse by refusing to enact the board’s proposed cuts. In November, the board sent a letter to House Democrats warning that the Puerto Rico’s deficits would only grow larger in the long term. In order to prevent this, they advised that the government would need to implement more reforms and use short-term surpluses to manage long-term deficits. Apparently, no one can agree on how to fix the debt and who’s to blame for it. But things continue to get worse. Hurricane Maria caused an estimated $43 billion in damages and the island owes $70 billion to bondholders. The island’s annual general fund budget is only $9 billion, all of which means bondholders will be waiting for their money for a long time. Interestingly, the people of Puerto Rico have absolutely no say on who is on the fiscal board that is managing the debt. Members of the board are chosen by the White House from a list generated by members of Congress. Both Republicans and Democrats get to pick a slate of names to go on the list. And while Puerto Rico technically has a delegate in Congress, its delegate is a non-voting member which means they have no say in fixing what is so obviously broken.
Fifty-one years in prison is the kind of justice you get if you are the 16-year-old survivor of sex trafficking that kills a much older man who solicits you for sex. Though Cyntoia Brown is clearly the victim in this scenario—a young woman who has experienced unspeakable trauma and sexual assault at the hands of men, the state of Tennessee says that she must remain in prison for five decades before she can be released. In 2004, Brown was 16 when she shot and killed Johnny Allen, a man who was 43 years old at the time. She was a runaway who was living with her 24-year-old boyfriend, a pimp who raped her and forced her into prostitution. Allen was a real-estate agent who solicited Brown one night for sex. He took her back to his home and got into bed with her. According to Brown, she feared for her life and thought he was reaching for a gun. So she shot him first with a handgun she had in her purse. The Huffington Post notes that Brown was later tried as an adult and convicted of the following: first-degree murder, felony murder, and aggravated robbery. She was originally sentenced to life in prison. The U.S. Supreme Court says that life sentences without parole for juveniles is a violation of their constitutional rights. And so Brown’s lawyers filed a lawsuit claiming that her sentence is unconstitutional. But the state of Tennessee doesn’t care about Brown or her rights. So last week, the state’s Supreme Court ruled that she has to remain in prison for 51 years before she is eligible for parole. Specifically, “under the state’s law, defendants like Brown who were convicted of first-degree murder after July 1, 1995, can only be released from prison after serving at least 51 years of their sentences.” This is not justice. Especially when Brown was convicted of a crime for defending herself against a man who was in the act of committing a crime—unless, of course, Tennessee considers sex with a minor who’s been forced into prostitution legal. It’s nothing but a workaround for the court, which delighted in noting that technically Brown isn’t in prison for the rest of her life. In fact, they made it clear that she’d received a “life sentence, not a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.” One can only hope these judges are pleased with themselves. After all, it takes a truly awful person to sentence a teenage rape victim to life in prison. It’s worth noting that Brown hadn’t even reached the age of consent and wasn’t a legal adult at the time. And yet somehow, she’s the villain who ends up in jail until she’s a senior citizen. It’s really hard to imagine that this would be happening if Brown were white. And especially male. Actually, it wouldn’t be happening. Because white men who rape are so often given a pass, receiving light sentences or no sentence at all. We need only look at some recent cases in the news to know this.
The congressional inquiries into the horrific death of Roxsana Hernández while in immigration custody continue to escalate, following Congress member Bennie Thompson’s letter to acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director Ronald Vitiello seeking further investigation into her death. An independently run autopsy found that Hernández, a transgender asylum seeker originally from Honduras, likely languished without care for days before she was transferred to a hospital, where she died in intensive care. The forensic expert also found that she had likely been beaten before her death. “The seemingly preventable death of Ms. Hernandez Rodriguez,” Thompson continues, “is just one of 11 deaths at adult immigration detention centers this year.” ICE is supposed to release an initial public report following any death in its custody. Seven months after Hernández’s death, ICE has refused to release anything, and instead has sought to discredit Dr. Kris Sperry, the forensic expert who conducted Hernández’s autopsy. In a separate letter earlier this month, Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) also called on ICE to release the report. “We also request,” they continued, “that ICE and CBP each provide us with complete accounting and documentation of the specific training that their officers, agents, and contractors receive related to the processing, medical evaluation and care, and safety of transgender individuals in custody.” Hernández’s death has been emblematic of the treatment of the most vulnerable populations in immigration custody, especially in the sort of private detention facilities she had been held in. The Senate also need to take these deaths into account because Vitiello is currently gunning to permanently lead ICE. “These detainee deaths and detention standard violations raise serious questions about the treatment of individuals in ICE custody,” Thompson continued, “particularly especially vulnerable individuals and, more broadly, about your agency’s oversight of contract detention facilities.”
One of the main jobs of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is to act as a collection agency. Like any collection agency, it is tasked with making sure that the monies coming in and out are lawfully accounted for. The much-feared “auditing” that the IRS can pursue on Americans and companies is supposed to be a process by which the IRS keeps people and large companies “honest” about paying their rightful amount of taxes. Ideally, the IRS carries out audits on people and institutions with the potential of hiding or lying about how much of their private revenue belongs to all of us to use on the programs and functions we, as a country, need. Historically, the IRS has, like many government departments, been hamstrung and directed to take it relatively easy on the people with the most money. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) has been a part of our country’s tax codes in some shape or form since the mid-1970s. The basic idea grew out of the national conversation on what to do about poverty in our country. A country as wealthy as the United States should not need to squeeze water from a stone, especially when there are so many people and companies flush with profits. The majority of people claiming the EITC earn around $20,000 a year—and they are also more likely to be audited by the IRS than Americans making 20 times as much. ProPublica explains that this is the result of a couple of things. For one, budget cuts to the IRS’s collection apparatus have hamstrung the agency’s ability to go after potentially more complicated tax evasion practices. The other reason is that Republicans have been pushing their now-standard racist and classist attacks on ‘fraudulent’ government spending, solely on the backs of people making the least amount of money.
The battle to prevent further climate change is now being blocked unapologetically by the world's top three fossil fuel oligarchies: Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States. (That all three are headed by apparent criminals may or may not be coincidence. We'll set that aside for now.) The Trump administration largely ignored a new government-produced study detailing the current «substantial damages» and near-term escalation of those costs, though Trump himself took the time to nonsensically dismiss it based on his own say-so. Over the weekend, it partnered with two of the world's worst actors to further de-emphasize scientific warnings of catastrophic warming paired with catastrophic effects on humankind. As is appropriate for anything touched by the ever-pouting Individual 1, it is largely the outburst of a tantruming child. “The United States was willing to note the report and express appreciation to the scientists who developed it, but not to welcome it, as that would denote endorsement of the report,” a State Department spokesman said. “As we have made clear in the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] and other bodies, the United States has not endorsed the findings of the report.” Take that, collected scientific evidence gathered from every corner of the globe; we don't welcome you. Also, it's really insensitive of you to be coming to all these carefully proven conclusions during fundraising season, and here in oil country it's always fundraising season. That the current Republican administration would choose to partner with Russia, led by a kleptocrat who owes his rule the skimmings of his nation's oil industry, and Saudi Arabia, a monarchy that owes its own existence and relevance to the stuff they can drill out of the ground, is conspicuous. But it is not surprising. Trump is, first and foremost, a crook; his climate stance and the stance of his team of arch-conservatives is based entirely on appeasing a fossil fuel industry that is willing to spend extravagantly in order to gain a government that will defend their own interests, and planet be damned. Trump likely believes he will be dead before the consequences of those acts become apparent to the wider public. Given his diet and evident decay, that may be the case. But given that the consequences are being felt now, in California megafires and strengthening Eastern storms, it is not a bet that too many on his staff should be so willing to take. The evidence is becoming overwhelming; the effects of even slightly warmer temperatures are being felt not in textbooks, but on the nightly news. The public will, at some point, come face to face with the consequences of unchecked fossil fuel consumption in the form of a single, unprecedented disaster striking a region or city long thought to be immune from such destruction, and when that day comes I wonder if the current sneering anti-science shills will have enough of a head start to outrun the angry crowds.
Enrollments in the Affordable Care Act through the federal marketplace are down significantly from previous years, and almost 12 percent from last year. With a deadline of December 15—this Saturday—looming, this is alarming. As is a new Sunlight Foundation investigation that might explain some of those lower enrollments. They've discovered that a few weeks after open enrollment started this fall, changes were made to HealthCare.gov’s «Apply for Health Insurance» webpage. They report that information about two of the ways you can apply for coverage is missing now, «replaced by a new list of application options and links, including a link for 'Help On Demand,' a third-party consumer assistance referral system, operated by a for-profit software company, BigWave Systems.» Instead of providing consumers with the option of signing up for coverage by mail and phone, HHS is directing people to sign up through enrollment sites run by for-profit companies. Sunlight says that the «removals may cause confusion and could impede consumers’ ability to obtain health insurance coverage.» Absolutely. The agents and brokers that people are now being directed to are getting commissions from health insurance policies, and people trying to sign up don't have information on all of their alternatives. They've also lumped the navigator or «assisters» who don't work on commission and can provide in-person help in with those agents and brokers. Additionally, they've de-emphasized the option to use Healthcare.gov for signing up. Originally, it was the first option provided, now it's last on the list of ways to apply. All this comes after the administration removed an assister training guide for Latino outreach. Jodi Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids & Families at the University of South Florida, says these materials are critical. «You have to know your community, the population, the culture of who you’re trying to reach. If we’re not providing the resources to be able to do that effectively, we’re going to lose that population that needs this more than anyone.» It makes grassroots outreach even more important. Please help spread the word about open enrollment and about the free help that's available, just a quick call or click away. Call 1-800-318-2596, visit localhelp.healthcare.gov or make a one-on-one appointment now. Here are the states with extended deadlines for enrollment: California – January 15, 2019 Colorado – January 15, 2019 D.C. – January 31, 2019 Massachusetts – January 23, 2019 Minnesota – January 13, 2019 New York – January 31, 2019 Rhode Island – January 31, 2019
The sophisticated campaign has targeted dozens of companies, most of which are based in the US.
Debuting just ahead of CES 2019, the updated two-in-one gets a premium redesign and improved pen functionality.
Characters from Netflix's cancelled Marvel Television shows can't appear in non-Netflix series for at least two years, Variety reports.
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If you attended the pop star's May 18th concert, your smile might've been captured, according to Rolling Stone.
Get the latest leaks and rumors here about Samsung's next major phone.
Stratim, the mobility services company formerly known as Zirx, is suing its co-founder and now-former COO Shmulik Fishman for breach of fiduciary duties, civil conversion, criminal conversion, theft, criminal mischief, deception, unjust enrichment and fraud. The lawsuit’s co-plaintiff is Adesa, a subsidiary of KAR Auction Services, which acquired Stratim earlier this year. Stratim powers fleet management […]
It's been just over a month since Rocket Lab's inaugural (and long-delayed) commercial launch, «It's Business Time,» and it's about to take another customer to space: NASA. Tonight's 8PM scheduled launch will take 10 small satellites to orbit as part of NASA's Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) XIX mission.
Fintech startup Revolut is now officially a bank. While the startup initially expected to get its European banking license during the first half of 2018, the company has finally come out of the regulatory tunnel with a license in hand. As expected, Revolut applied for a license through the Bank of Lithuania and is leveraging […]
Lucasfilm has released an initial cast list for “The Mandalorian,” the live action Star Wars series that Jon Favreau is creating for the upcoming streaming service Disney+. Pedro Pascal, who had a brief-but-glorious run on “Game of Thrones” as Oberyn Martell, will star in the title role — Lucasfilm describes his character as “a lone […]
The marsupial lion has long mystified scientists. But the recent discovery of more of its fossils, including a nearly complete skeleton of the extinct beast, has revealed some of its secrets.
During the first two weeks of Scoot’s operations of shared, electric scooters in San Francisco, more than 200 scooters were either stolen or damaged beyond repair, Scoot CEO Michael Keating wrote in a blog post today. As a temporary fix, Scoot attached cable locks to some of its scooters in San Francisco. Now, the company […]
HONOLULU (AP) - The Latest on a plane crash off the coast of Hawaii (all times local): 3:25 p.m. U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer Sara Muir says the pilot of an aircraft that crashed off Honolulu is in stable condition. She says the pilot was rescued about 3 miles ...
DALLAS (AP) - The CEO of United Airlines says his pilots don't need any additional training on the new Boeing jet that is at the center of the investigation into a deadly crash in Indonesia. Oscar Munoz says that's because United's pilots are prepared to respond to problems that might ...
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas' parks and tourism director is leaving the agency to take a job with Bentonville-based Walmart. Gov. Asa Hutchinson's office announced Wednesday that Kane Webb is resigning as head of the state Department of Parks and Tourism at the end of the year. Webb will ...
Just Cause 4 delivers the kind of over-the-top B action movie mayhem we’ve all come to expect from the franchise. This is either a positive or a negative, depending on how you feel […] The post ‘Just Cause 4’ Is a B Action Movie in Video Game Form appeared first on Geek.com.
The “Momo Challenge,” a creepy viral game taking over people’s tech devices, is causing much distress in communities worldwide. On Tuesday, the “Momo Challenge” prompted school officials in Brick, New Jersey to warn parents […] The post ‘Momo Challenge,’ a Creepy Viral Game, Prompts Social Media Warnings appeared first on Geek.com.
Seems like NBA star Steph Curry didn’t believe in the giant leap for mankind. The Golden State Warrior sparked a flood of questions on Twitter (and provoked the ire of science teachers everywhere) […] The post NASA Responds to Steph Curry’s Bizarre Moon Landing Comments appeared first on Geek.com.
HIGHLIGHTS: Well timed Lob to Anthony Davis in the 2nd
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St. John Bosco's Trent McDuffie announced his commitment to the University of Washington Wednesday
George Blagojevic had career-highs with 28 points _ on 11-of-14 shooting _ and 14 rebounds and Hartford beat Bryant 91-74
Kaleb Hunter and Eric Hamilton each scored 17 points and UNC Greensboro rolled to a 77-54 victory over Coppin State
Fairleigh Dickinson downs Army 93-84 behind Edge, Williams