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National/International

09 Sep 2019
I suppose I can’t not write about Sharpie-gate, as much as I’d rather not. After all, of the myriad episodes that have defined the Trump administration’s idiocracy, few have reached this peak of stupidity. On Saturday, Aug. 31, with Hurricane Dorian bearing down on the U.S., President Trump warned that it posed a serious risk to Alabama, though forecasters had days earlier said Alabama was out of danger. The next day, after receiving calls from worried residents, the Birmingham office of the National Weather Service tweeted that Alabama would “NOT see any impacts from the hurricane.” For reasons best left to a psychologist, Trump refused to let it go. He spent the next week obsessing over it, insisting that he was right and the NWS…
05 Sep 2019
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First a spoiler alert: Among the multiple apocalyptic revelations in Ben Westhoff’s Fentanyl, Inc.: How Rogue Chemists Are Creating the Deadliest Wave of the Opioid Epidemic is bad news for all hard-drug users, from casual weekend abusers to full-time cocaine cowboys. Putting questionable substances up your nose, in your veins or even on your tongue is highly discouraged from here on in. “Any drug where it’s a powder or a pill, you just can’t trust it,” Westhoff said in an interview about his latest project. “There can be fentanyl in anything … (Home drug-testing kits) are getting very sophisticated, and there are websites you can consult, but in terms of going to a party and someone offering you some blow or something like that, it’s…
29 Aug 2019
The maxim that we’re not to speak ill of the dead is generally good advice, though it’s complicated by the death of men like David Koch, the oilman and right-wing financier who died on Aug. 23 at the age of 79. There’s a ghoulish quality to gloating about the demise of one’s ideological adversaries before the bodies are in the ground—as HBO’s Bill Maher did on his show Friday night—especially at a time when politics has become a factionalized blood sport. And any polemic about David Koch’s decades of funding the far right is likely to draw a two-dimensional caricature of the man, eliding his truly remarkable philanthropy, as well as his forward thinking on immigration and criminal-justice reform—which, truth be told, was well ahead…
09 Aug 2019
The week after Donald Trump launched his racist attack on U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, which came on the heels of his racist attacks on four nonwhite Democratic members of Congress, my hometown paper gave its resident MAGA apologist, J. Peder Zane, ink to argue that the president and his Republican Party are not, in fact, racist, but rather the victims of a “false narrative” painted by Democrats, who are the real racists. While Trump may have been “insensitive” in calling a mostly black congressional district with a median income above the national average “a disgusting rat- and rodent-infested mess,” Zane tells us, a “fair-minded person, while hoping that the president would be more precise, should see that he is not a racist.” Four days later,…
31 Jul 2019
Editor’s Note: Informed Dissent is a column, by alternative newsmedia veteran Jeffrey C. Billman, that explores the age of Trump, mixing political and historical insights with biting, unapologetic commentary. It will appear a couple of times per month at CVIndependent.com. By my count, Robert Mueller’s testimony before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees last Wednesday, July 24, produced six significant headlines. He confirmed that he had not exonerated President Trump. He said that Trump asked his staff to falsify records. He suggested there were “currently” FBI investigations into whether people in Trump’s orbit were compromised. He agreed that Trump’s written answers to his questions were not “always truthful.” He admitted (more or less) that Trump had met the three elements of obstruction of justice. And,…
30 Jul 2019
When Antoinette Martinez rolls her cart through the produce section of the FoodMaxx in Watsonville, her 5-year-old son, Caden, often asks for strawberries and blueberries. Sometimes Martinez bends, but usually she sticks to the produce on sale: Roma tomatoes for 69 cents a pound, or cucumbers at three for 99 cents. Banana bunches are relatively cheap. “If it’s not under a dollar, then I don’t buy it,” Martinez said, bypassing $2 lettuce as Caden clambered into her grocery cart. “It’s about stretching the dollar.” The food budget isn’t as tight as it used to be since Martinez, a single mother, got a job at the Second Harvest Food Bank in Santa Cruz County. She helps people sign up for food stamps, known in California as…
05 Dec 2018
At 8:29 a.m. on Nov. 30, part of the rock slab underneath the water 7 miles north of Anchorage, Alaska, shifted, causing a magnitude 7 earthquake. As Anchorage was preparing for the day, the quake ripped apart roads, shattered windows and ruptured water and gas lines in and around the city. While officials are still assessing the damage, the biggest impacts appear to be to infrastructure—there were no reports of deaths caused by the quake. The response to such an event is extensive and wide-ranging: Across the globe, seismometers—instruments that measure tiny ground movements—recorded the earthquake’s signals. Scientists at the Alaska Earthquake Center and elsewhere started piecing together what happened and monitoring the hundreds of aftershocks that followed. Federal officials briefly issued a warning for…
09 Oct 2018
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“Fake news” is not a new thing. In Censored 2019: Fighting the Fake News Invasion, Project Censored’s vivid cover art recalls H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. The situation today may feel as desolate as the cover art suggests. “Censored 2019 is a book about fighting fake news,” editors Andy Lee Roth and Mickey Huff observed in the book’s introduction. In the end, they argued that “critical media education—rather than censorship, blacklists, privatized fact-checkers, or legislative bans—is the best weapon for fighting the ongoing fake news invasion.” Project Censored’s annual list of 25 censored stories, which makes up the book’s lengthy first chapter, is one of the best resources one can have for such education. Project Censored has long been engaged in much more than…

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