U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: November 30, 2016

Drew Angerer/Getty Images


1. Trump vows to leave business ‘in total’
In a series of tweets Wednesday morning, President-elect Donald Trump announced that “legal documents are being crafted” to take him “completely out of business operations” in his sprawling, multi-billion-dollar empire. Trump said he will hold a press conference with his children on Dec. 15 to address his decision to leave his “great business in total” to focus on the “far more important task” of being president. He noted he was not “mandated” by law to do this, but that he wanted to eliminate any perceived conflicts of interest. Already, Trump has raised eyebrows for his Washington, D.C., hotel on government-leased property, and reports of his post-election push against a British wind farm that would mar the view from his Scottish golf course.

Source: Bloomberg, NBC News

2. Trump adds Mnuchin, Ross, Chao to Cabinet
President-elect Donald Trump plans to nominate investor and former Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin to be his administration’s treasury secretary. Mnuchin has no government experience but served as the finance chairman of Trump’s campaign. He also helped Trump develop his proposal to overhaul the tax code. Trump also picked businessman Wilbur Ross as commerce secretary, and Elaine Chao, who served as labor secretary under former President George W. Bush, as his transportation secretary. If confirmed, Chao, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), will supervise one of Trump’s first major priorities — the investment of $1 trillion in roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure.

Source: The Washington Post, The New York Times

3. Tennessee wildfire kills 3 in resort area
A wildfire continued to rage in east Tennessee tourist towns near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Tuesday, its toll rising to three people killed and at least 150 homes and businesses destroyed. More than 14,000 people were forced to evacuate the towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, where visitors were rushed out of the popular Dollywood theme park. The fire, deemed “unprecedented” by local authorities, started on Chimney Tops mountain, one of the Smokies’ most popular hiking spots. Dry conditions and high wind helped it spread out of control. “This is a fire for the history books,” Gatlinburg Fire Chief Greg Miller said.

Source: The Washington Post

4. Romney praises Trump after latest talk in secretary of state hunt
Mitt Romney praised President-elect Donald Trump after the two and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus had dinner Tuesday night as Trump intensifies his search for a secretary of state. Romney, who denounced Trump as a fraud during the campaign, said he has “increasing hope that President-elect Trump is the very man who can lead us.” The former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee is considered one of Trump’s top prospects for the job as his administration’s top diplomat. Some Trump aides have opposed Romney and are pushing former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Trump loyalist. Retired Gen. David Petraeus is another top prospect. Other possibilities include retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker.

Source: Reuters, CBS News

5. ISIS claims Ohio State attacker was one of its ‘soldiers’
The Islamic State said Tuesday that the man who injured 11 people at Ohio State University was a “soldier” of the extremist group. A campus police officer fatally shot the suspect, Somali-born Ohio State student Abdul Razak Ali Artan, shortly after he hit pedestrians with a car, then got out and slashed several people with a large knife. Artan allegedly had expressed anger on Facebook about U.S. interference in Muslim countries. “If you want us Muslims to stop carrying lone wolf attacks, then make peace” with ISIS, he said in one post, a law enforcement official said.

Source: The Washington Post, The Associated Press

6. Trump suggests new push to make flag burning illegal
President-elect Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that “no one should be allowed to burn the American flag,” suggesting that the act should be punishable by “perhaps a loss of citizenship or year in jail.” The Supreme Court, however, has ruled that flag burning is constitutionally protected as free speech. Some protesters upset over Trump’s victory in this month’s election have burned U.S. flags in demonstrations around the country. Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic opponent, previously co-sponsored an unsuccessful 2005 bill aiming to reinstate a ban on flag burning intended to provoke violence. Top Republicans disagreed with Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that people who burn the flag “pose little harm to our country. But tinkering with our First Amendment might.”

Source: Politico

7. Obama sends aide to Castro funeral
Cubans waited in lines for hours on Tuesday to pay tribute to Fidel Castro, the revolutionary leader who ruled the communist Caribbean island for half a century and died Friday at age 90. The presidents of Mexico, Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Panama, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and several Caribbean nations flew to Havana to pay their respects to the controversial Castro, revered in much of the developing world for his defiance of the U.S. and programs for the poor, but despised in the Miami exile community and elsewhere for his regime’s human rights abuses. President Obama did not send a formal delegation, but the top U.S. diplomat in Cuba, and National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, who negotiated with Cuba on restoring diplomatic relations, attended.

Source: The Associated Press, The New York Times

8. North Dakota says it won’t block pipeline protesters’ supplies
A North Dakota sheriff’s office threatened to block food and other supplies destined for the main camp of anti-Dakota Access pipeline protesters, but state officials quickly denied they had any such plans. Gov. Jack Dalrymple issued an “emergency evacuation” order for the camp on Monday, but a spokesman said he was “more interested in public safety than setting up a road block and turning people away.” Activists have been trying for months to keep the oil pipeline from being built on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, due to concerns the project will pollute water sources and destroy sacred sites.

Source: Reuters

9. Carrier reaches deal with Trump to keep 1,000 jobs in Indiana
Carrier Corp. said Tuesday it had reached an agreement with President-elect Donald Trump to keep “close to 1,000 jobs” in Indianapolisinstead of moving all of the jobs in the city to Mexico. Trump tweeted that it was a “great deal for workers!” Carrier officials, Trump, and Mike Pence, the vice president-elect and governor of Indiana, are expected to announce the agreement officially in an event on Thursday. The company has 1,400 workers at its Indianapolis plant, meaning layoffs are still possible. “If they’re saying they’re going to retain 1,000 jobs, that would mean 400 are going away,” said Chuck Jones, president of United Steelworkers Local 1999, which represents Carrier workers.

Source: Indianapolis Star, The Associated Press

10. Hillary Clinton presents Katy Perry UNICEF charity award
Hillary Clinton presented pop star Katy Perry with an award from UNICEF at Tuesday’s Snowflake Ball in a rare public appearance for Clinton since her loss to Donald Trump in this month’s presidential election. Perry received the Audrey Hepburn Humanitarian Award for her charitable work for UNICEF. Perry was a big Clinton supporter and even campaigned for the Democratic nominee. She broke into tears when Clinton surprised her by participating in the event. Clinton received a standing ovation, and said Perry’s lyrics “remind us when you get knocked down to get back up.”

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, The Associated Press

U.S. Politics

Democrats Need To Rebrand Their Economic Message

Democrats Need To Rebrand Their Economic Message

Chuck Schumer (D)

WASHINGTON — A brawl is about to break out among Democrats on Capitol Hill, and when it’s done, Democrats will say they’re going to be OK. They’re wrong.

They’ll return next year to face one of the biggest Republican majorities in the House of Representatives since the 1920s. They’ll have 48 out of the 100 Senate seats, but they have to defend 25 of those seats in two years. They lost the White House in a year when they were strongly favored to win.

And they still face a daunting challenge crafting, let alone communicating, an economic message. It’s widely agreed that the party was unable to find a vigorous, meaningful way of telling working-class voters it understood their concerns.

Those voters “see the party as wanting to advance everyone but them,” said Will Marshall, the president of the Progressive Policy Institute, a centrist group with Democratic leanings.

“We celebrate every time a barrier falls, but what Trump voters hear is ‘Nobody cares about me.’ You have to talk to these voters in a more emphatic way.”

Part of that strategy means getting away from a big-spending, liberal image. “A more centrist perspective is going to position them better,” said James Pfiffner, Virginia-based author of a dozen books on American government and politics.

That’s not what you’re going to hear starting Tuesday, as Congress returns to write a federal budget and House Democrats vote on whether to retain Nancy Pelosi as their leader or turn to Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio.

Republicans will have at least 238 seats in the House next year, while Democrats should have 194, a net gain of six seats. Three races are undecided, and all lean Republican.

Ryan’s challenge to Pelosi is the first time since she became the top House Democrat 14 years ago that she’s faced opposition.

Ryan reflects concern that the party’s dismal showing in the congressional and presidential elections is a loud, stark reminder it’s not bold or inclusive enough.

Ryan, said Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., “wants more voices in the conversation so that we can work together to craft our message and forge a winning strategy.”

That makes sense to many liberals, who cheered Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and his Democratic presidential campaign pledges to shake up the political system.

“The Democratic Party needs to project that we’ll really challenge power and the system, and not just have good policies within the system,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a liberal activist group that’s not endorsing anyone.

Democrats have to remember, he said, “the main thing people are looking for is backbone in the Democratic Party.”

Pelosi, a wily political survivor, is seen as winning easily with accolades from unions and liberals.

Once that vote, scheduled for Wednesday, is done, Democrats will be talking big.

“Democrats don’t have a debate about seniors, diversity or women’s issues,” said Rep. Ann Kuster, D-N.H., who represents a swing district. While Democrats are unified over the role of government, “Republicans are about to go to war over deficits versus tax cuts,” she said.

“We’re not on life support. The party could be stronger, but it’s still strong,” said Dan Glickman, a former Wichita, Kan.-area congressman and secretary of agriculture in the Clinton administration.

Democrats offer several ways their congressional positions are solid:

—Popular vote. “We won the most votes,” said Bob Mulholland, a veteran California Democratic strategist. Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has 47.9 percent of the vote to President-elect Donald Trump’s 46.7 percent. His popular vote is the lowest for a White House winner since Bill Clinton 24 years ago.

—Demographics. Democrats running in House races won 67 percent of the Latino vote, 89 percent of the African-American vote and 56 percent of voters under 30, according to network exit polls. The Latino and young-voter percentages were up slightly from 2014, while the African-American number was about the same.

—History. Republicans won control of the House two years after Clinton won his first term. Democrats won control six years after George W. Bush won his first term, and Republicans regained control two years after Barack Obama’s 2008 victory. The GOP had a net gain of 64 House seats in 2010.

—Opposition. The party out of power doesn’t get the blame for governing if things go awry. Republicans have prospered from attacking President Obama’s economic and health care agendas. Now Democrats are in a position to be the critics and rail against the new president. They already are.

“He talked about being a populist. He talked about taking on special interests,” said Sanders. “Yet the initial indications that we are seeing is that not much of what he talked about … has much to do with where he is today.”

But the old problem remains: Democrats aren’t convincing enough working-class people that the party’s on their side.

“We needed to let the American people know what we believe,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democrats’ new leader in the Senate.

He cites the example of student debt as a missed opportunity. Sanders got overwhelming support from under-35 Democrats as he argued to make tuition free at public colleges and universities. Clinton and most congressional candidates argued for a modified version.

That confused people, perhaps contributing to the poorer Democratic showing among younger voters, he suggested.

The biggest danger for congressional Democrats is that Trump is successful and fashions a new Republican era, much as Ronald Reagan did through most of the 1980s.

“If his policy falters, they may regain seats in the midterms,” Robert Borosage, the president of the liberal Institute for America’s Future, said of the Democrats. “Yet they can win battles and still lose the war.”

U.S. Politics

7 questions about Jill Stein’s recounts


Jill Stein’s recount campaign involves only cursory participation from the Hillary Clinton camp or any official arm of the Democratic Party. | Getty



Donald Trump’s margin over Hillary Clinton in the three states that provided the Republican’s decisive Electoral College majority is only a combined 104,000 votes. But don’t expect that to change.

The odds that Clinton will somehow end up reciting the oath of office on January 20 are extremely low.

Despite pending recounts or audits planned in those three states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – the reality is that the results would have to change to such a degree that Clinton would carry all of them. Even Democratic officials in those states insist that the count wouldn’t change that drastically.

Still, Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee who finished fourth in each of the three states, is moving to challenge the election results, citing irregularities in the vote count.

While Stein’s recount campaign involves only cursory participation from the Clinton camp or any official arm of the Democratic Party, it has mobilized progressives seeking to deny Trump the presidency. Stein has raised millions to pay the three states to audit the results or count the ballots again.

But even if recounts in Michigan and Wisconsin, the two closest states, flipped those states to Clinton, the Democrat would still need the 20 electoral votes from Pennsylvania to overtake Trump. And Clinton trails Trump by nearly 71,000 votes in Pennsylvania.

The size of those battleground-state tallies will almost certainly withstand any recount or audit — despite Clinton’s overall lead in the national popular vote, which is approaching 2 percentage points.


Here are 7 questions about the recounts — and why they are unlikely to alter the outcome of the election:

1. What is happening in the 3 states?

Both Michigan and Wisconsin have finalized their vote counts. Stein has filed a challenge to the Wisconsin results, and has until Wednesday to move for a Michigan recount.

The system is different in Pennsylvania. There, the Stein camp has already moved to recount results in more than 100 precincts. It is also pursuing a separate legal effort to initiate a statewide recount by judicial order.

2. What are the questions raised in the states?

In its Wisconsin filing, Stein suggests that the hacking of elections systems and political actors by foreign entities or agents could have been extended to the state’s electronic voting machines. Moreover, Stein said in the filing, “there is evidence of voting irregularities” in Wisconsin, including “a significant increase in the number of absentee voters.”

Stein’s case in Pennsylvania is similar and includes identical supporting materials, including an affidavit from University of Michigan professor J. Alex Halderman, in which Halderman outlines the cyber vulnerabilities he’s discovered in elections systems.

“One explanation for the results of the 2016 presidential election is that cyberattacks influenced the result,” Halderman says in the affidavit.

“The only way to determine whether a cyberattack affected the outcome of the 2016 presidential election is to examine the available physical evidence — that is, to count the paper ballots and paper audit trail records, and review voting equipment, to ensure that the votes cast by actual voters match the results determined by the computers,” Halderman’s affidavit continues.

3. Is the Clinton campaign involved in these efforts?

Not really. Clinton campaign attorney Marc Elias said last weekend the campaign “intend[s] to participate” in the recount efforts if Stein successfully initiates them.

In a statement posted on the website Medium last Saturday, Elias acknowledged that the campaign has “quietly taken a number of steps in the last two weeks to rule in or out any possibility of outside interference in the vote tally in these critical battleground states.” But, Elias wrote, “that effort has not, in our view, resulted in evidence of manipulation of results.”

Still, Elias said that the Clinton campaign has “an obligation to the more than 64 million Americans who cast ballots for Hillary Clinton to participate in ongoing proceedings to ensure that an accurate vote count will be reported.”

4. What is the timeframe for these recounts?

The clock on any effort that delays finalizing the result is ticking. States have only two weeks remaining, until December 13, in which to resolve any challenges to electors.

It’s an open question whether all three states would be able to complete their recounts by that date, however, without incurring increasing staffing costs.

5. How likely is it that any of the results could be overturned?

Extremely unlikely.

Elias, the Clinton campaign lawyer, acknowledged as much in his Medium post, writing that “the number of votes separating Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the closest of these states — Michigan — well exceeds the largest margin ever overcome in a recount.”

Democrats in Michigan — even those who support a recount of the vote tally, which shows Trump ahead by 10,704 votes, or a little more than two-tenths of a percentage point — don’t expect the result to change. Julie Matuzak, a Democratic member of the state’s Board of Canvassers, told the Detroit News on Monday, “I don’t think we’re going to find anything wrong.”

Trump’s lead is larger in Wisconsin: 22,177 votes, or roughly three-quarters of a percentage point. Similarly, Democrats don’t see Clinton overtaking Trump in a recount.

“It may not be 22,177,” state Elections Commission chairman Mark Thomsen, a Democrat, said, referring to Trump’s post-recount margin. “But I don’t doubt that the president-elect is going to win that.”

And in Pennsylvania, where Trump’s lead is even larger, the commonwealth’s Democratic secretary of state, Pedro Cortes, told reporters there is “no evidence whatsoever that points to any type of irregularity in any way, shape or form.”

6. Are there enough electoral votes to deny Trump victory?

Only if all three states flipped to Clinton. Current projections give Trump 306 electoral votes, compared to Clinton’s 232 electoral votes.

Even if recounts in the two states where Trump’s lead is within a single percentage point — Michigan and Wisconsin — were successful in catapulting Clinton to the lead, the president-elect would still maintain an Electoral College majority, 280-258.

Clinton could only overtake Trump by winning all three states. Under that circumstance, she would win, 278-260.

7. Is there a chance that the Electoral College could reject Trump?

This is also very doubtful. After the slates of electors are finalized by December 13, the Electoral College will meet on December 19.

Some Clinton electors are brainstorming ways to deny Trump a majority of electoral votes. The Colorado Independent reported Monday that four of that state’s nine electors plan to appeal to Trump electors in other states to reject their candidate and support someone else. And to back that up, the Colorado Clinton electors will reject their state winner and cast their votes for this other candidate, likely a Republican.

There are myriad obstacles to such an effort, however. The Trump electors are Republicans, many of whom like Trump and want him to be president.

Additionally, twenty-nine states, plus the District of Columbia, have laws on the books designed to punish these “faithless electors” — though the penalties for supporting another individual are often minor.

And even if 37 of the 306 Trump electors defected and denied Trump a majority of electoral votes, it would likely mean that no candidate would win a majority. That would kick the election to the new House of Representatives, with each state’s delegation receiving one vote. Republicans will hold the majority in 32 state delegations in the new House, compared to only 17 Democratic-controlled delegation and one split delegation.

U.S. Politics

Trump effect: Teachers report nearly 2,500 cases of bigotry and bullying in US schools since election

What has the ‘Trump effect’ been on children? (Juan, CC BY-NC)

What has the ‘Trump effect’ been on children? (Juan, CC BY-NC)


Teachers have reported nearly 2,500 “negative incidents” of bigotry and harassment at U.S. schools in the first 10 days since Donald Trump’s election as president.

More than 10,000 teachers and other educators responded to an online survey administered by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project, and 90 percent of respondents said the election had negatively impacted students’ behavior and mood.

Eight in 10 respondents said they were anxious and concerned for their students, especially black, Muslim and LGBT children and teens, and they were worried how Trump’s election would affect themselves and their families.

The teachers reported a noticeable increase in verbal harassment, the use of slurs and other derogatory language, and incidents involving swastikas, Nazi salutes and Confederate imagery.

Many of the incidents involved students taunting classmates with variations on Trump’s campaign rhetoric, such as threats to build a wall around or deport Latino students.

Even the minority of teachers who hadn’t noticed any change in student relationships since the election admitted they worked in schools with few minority students or immigrants.

“The takeaway message is first of all that school administrators and school board members and anyone who has to do with education has a crisis on their hands,” said Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance.

“If you’re talking about at least a quarter of students — and it’s estimated that a quarter of students in American schools are immigrants, or the children of immigrants — suffering trauma, that is going to have quite the impact over the course of the year,” Costello added.

The SPLC had previously tracked more than 800 incidents of “hateful harassment” across the U.S. since the Nov. 8 election.

Some of the teachers reported that recent incidents of harassment went unpunished by their schools, and about 40 percent said their schools had no apparent plan of action for dealing with them.

“I don’t think that they anticipated in any way what kids were going to say because for the most part, our schools are very diverse,” said one teacher from Kansas. “It’s not something we deal with anymore. It’s not like the ’50s, so this reactionary stuff going on just caught a lot of people by surprise.”

But Costello said the sharp uptick in less than two weeks since Trump’s election shows the problem must be seriously and swiftly addressed.

“There’s certainly been a breakdown in school culture and I think many schools are now ripe for incidents.”

U.S. Politics

Netflix’s Barack Obama biopic star Devon Terrell said role helped him accept his identity

Netflix's Barack Obama biopic star Devon Terrell said role helped him accept his identity

Image Credit: Getty Images


President Barack Obama, set to leave the Oval Office in about two months, is known as the United States’ first black president. To some, however, it is Obama’s mixed-race identity that resonates most.

This is the case for Devon Terrell, a 24-year-old Australian actor, who is portraying Obama in the Netflix biopic Barry. The film follows the journey of a young Obama — the son of a white mother and a Kenyan father — who is searching for his place in America as a Columbia University student in New York City at a time when racial tensions were intensifying in the early ’80s.

In an interview with Mashable, Terrell said that while preparing for his role, playing young Obama has helped him accept his mixed-race identity as someone of Anglo-Indian and African-American descent in a country where he still feels like an outsider. Like Obama, who moved to Indonesia with his mother at a young age, Terrell moved to Australia when he was 5.

“I was the only one of my kind, so I knew what it felt like to be an outsider and to try to fit into different circles,” Terrell told Mashable. “I’m still a very young man as well, so I’m asking the same questions as Barack.”

Terrell, who learned how to mimic Obama’s distinctive voice and write left-handed for the film, said he hopes the film honors the president’s legacy in a time when many feel a sense of uncertainty under Donald Trump’s America.

“The election has totally taken over conversations around the world right now, so I hopefully this can start other conversations that bring hope to the world,” Terrell said. “He’s broken down all these barriers that people had on themselves.”

According to Terrell, however, the most important lesson he’s learned from playing young Obama for the film is to realize, no matter who you are or where you come from, you still belong.

Sarah Harvard

U.S. Politics

Following Trump Beef, Hamilton Sets Broadway Sales Record

Image result for hamilton new york broadway



It might be far from the most important story of the last few weeks, but somehow, the Mike Pence/Donald Trump/Hamilton feud is still a real thing that happened in the real world that has generated real headlines. Incredibly, it also had some very real consequences. Namely, in the last week, the Broadway smash hit broke a record for ticket sales, according to the New York Times.

In spite of — or perhaps because of? — the #BoycottHamilton trend on Twitter, the musical set a record for the most money ever made in a single week by a Broadway show by bringing in $3.3 million. The previous record was held by Wicked, which sold $3.2 million worth of tickets during one nine-show week in 2013. Hamilton only had eight shows during their record-shattering week.

NYT shared this, too:

[Hamilton] set a record for the highest premium ticket price charged by a Broadway box office — $998 — although some people have paid more buying tickets from resellers.

It is unclear how many people actually paid $998 for one ticket from the box office and it’s also unclear how many of them were motivated to go because of the real-life drama.

[image: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com]

U.S. Politics

The battle over the Dakota Access Pipeline, explained

Image result for pipeline protest north dakota

 Native Americans march to a burial ground sacred site that was disturbed by bulldozers building the Dakota Access Pipelin | Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images


For months, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota has been waging a pitched battle against a proposed oil pipeline that would run near their reservation — arguing that it would endanger both their water supplies and sacred sites.

These protests have become a huge, huge story. The fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline encompasses everything from the federal government’s historically appalling treatment of Native Americans to broader debates about fracking and climate change. The cause has attracted an array of tribes, activists, and environmentalists around the country, and authorities have been clashing with protestors all summer.

On Sunday, these clashes turned violent when law-enforcement officials used water cannons on protesters in freezing weather — sending some 26 people to the hospital with bone fractures or hypothermia. This came after an earlier major confrontation on October 27, when activists occupied private land along the pipeline’s proposed route, arguing that it actually belonged to the tribes under an 1851 treaty with the US government that hasn’t been properly honored. In response, police used rubber bullets, pepper spray, and water cannons to disperse the protestors, arresting 141 people in all.

Opponents have also taken the fight to court, hoping to alter or block the pipeline. The DC Circuit Court is currently hearing a major legal challenge to the project, with the Standing Rock Sioux arguing that the Army Corps of Engineers did not properly consult them before green-lighting the section near their reservation.

The pipeline is now 75 percent complete, but it’s hit some serious roadblocks. On September 9, the Obama administration ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to pause further permitting and revisit the controversial section nearest the reservation. Then, on November 2, President Obama said that officials are looking into possible ways to reroute the project, though a decision could take weeks. The pipeline company, for its part, is hoping Donald Trump will approve the project when he comes to office.

All the while, protests continue to grow. So here’s a guide to how we got this point.

What is the Dakota Access Pipeline?

The pipeline in question was first proposed in 2014 by Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners. If built, it would carry some 450,000 barrels of crude per day from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota down to a terminal in Illinois, where it could be shipped to refineries and turned into usable fuel.

The whole thing would stretch 1,134 miles underground and cost some $3.8 billion:

 (Javier Zarracina/Vox)

The rationale behind this project is straightforward. Since the late 2000s, drillers have been using fracking techniques to exploit vast new deposits of oil in the shale formations of North Dakota. Crude oil output has surged, and the state has become one of the epicenters of the recent US oil boom.

But because this all happened so quickly, there weren’t sufficient pipelines to carry all that new oil to market. Instead, North Dakota’s drillers have been shipping thousands of barrels of crude each day by trains, which are costlier and also sometimes get derailed and explode. Oil companies would prefer a cheaper, quieter pipeline, especially now that crude prices have dropped and profits are thinner. Hence the proposal.

Why is the Dakota Access pipeline so controversial?

Although oil pipelines are less accident-prone than trains, they’ve certainly been known to leak, with destructive results. So there’s been scattered complaints about the proposed route ever since late 2014, starting with farmers in Iowa.

But by far the biggest source of opposition has been in North Dakota, around the portion of pipeline that would run just north of Sioux County and the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, home to 8,250 people. See the black square below:

 (Javier Zarracina/Vox)

For months, members of the Standing Rock Sioux have raised two major concerns about the project:

  • First, the pipeline would cross right under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, half a mile north of the reservation. A leak or spill could send oil directly into the tribe’s main source of drinking water. The tribe points out that Dakota Access originally considered a route farther north, upstream of Bismarck, but the company rejected that route, in part, because of the close proximity to the state capital’s drinking-water wells.
  • Second, the tribe argues that the pipeline would run through a stretch of land north of the reservation that contains recently discovered sacred sites and burial places. True, this land isn’t part of the current reservation. But the Standing Rock Sioux argue that the land had been taken away from them unjustly over the past 150 years. And any bulldozing and construction work could damage these sites.

As such, the tribe has called on the pipeline to be rerouted or reconsidered altogether. (In response, Dakota Access has argued that it will employ “new advanced pipeline technology” to limit leaks — and that it will take care to protect any cultural sites.)

More to the point, the Standing Rock Sioux argue that under federal law, the US government should have consulted extensively with the tribe about these issues — and didn’t. On July 27, the Standing Rock Sioux and the nonprofit Earthjustice sued the Army Corps of Engineers in federal court, arguing that the agency had wrongly approved the pipeline without adequate consultation.

As journalist Aura Bogado explains, at the core of this dispute is the concept of “tribal sovereignty.” The US government is supposed to have a “government-to-government” relationship with native tribes — not run roughshod over them.

What are the Dakota Access pipeline protests?

Since March, thousands of Native Americans from across the country have come to Cannon Ball to camp out and protest the pipeline in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux.

The fight has attracted the interest of climate activists and environmentalists, who have been focused on blocking new fossil fuel infrastructure, particularly after their victory in stopping the Keystone XL pipeline last year. It’s also pulled in politicians like Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein. (Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has avoided taking a stand.)

The Missouri River is seen beyond an encampment September 4, 2016, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
(Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

The last few months in particular have seen the battle intensify. This new phase began around August 24, after the Standing Rock Sioux asked the DC Circuit Court for an injunction to halt activity on the pipeline while their broader lawsuit against the project was resolved (a lawsuit that could take a year or more).

Then, on September 3, shortly after the injunction was requested, Dakota Access deployed bulldozers and began digging up the section of the pipeline route that contained possible native burial artifacts — widely viewed as an attempt to circumvent the lawsuit and make the pipeline inevitable. Protesters tried to stop the bulldozers, and there’s video of private security responding with dogs and pepper spray.

Five days later, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple activated the state National Guard “in the event they are needed to support law enforcement response efforts.”

In October, protestors began occupying a portion of privately owned land just north of the reservation that lay directly in the pipeline’s path. They’ve argued that this slice of land actually belongs to Native Americans under the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, signed between eight tribes and the US government — a treaty that was subsequently violated after Congress unilaterally took back territory over the years. “We have never ceded this land,” said Joye Braun of the Indigenous Environmental Network in a statement.

The protestors on the private land say their demonstrations have been peaceful, featuring prayers and chants and drum circles. But local authorities have cracked down hard on these intrusions: On October 27, police used pepper spray, water cannons, and bean bags to push back the activists, arresting more than 141 people in all.

On November 21, the clashes took another violent turn as law enforcement officials used water cannons in subzero temperatures to beat back a crowd of 400 people. (The Morton County sheriff’s office claimed that protestors had been setting fires.) According to the Guardian, at least 26 people were hospitalized — some with bone fractures, most with hypothermia.

What’s the lawsuit over the pipeline all about?

Sioux Tribe Rallies For Environmental Review Of Dakota Access Pipeline In DC
Wiyake Eagleman of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe participates during a rally on Dakota Access Pipeline August 24, 2016, outside US District Court in Washington, DC. |  Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

While the protests rage on, there’s also a court case winding through federal courts that could decide the ultimate fate of the pipeline. The case centers around the Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency that typically approves interstate pipelines and provides permit for water crossings.

By law, any federal agency overseeing a construction project has to consult with native nations or tribes if there are places with “religious and cultural significance” nearby. (This is true even if those places are not explicitly part of a reservation — a recognition that many tribes have been forcibly relocated by the federal government and have had their lands taken over the years.)

In their complaint, filed on July 27, the Standing Rock Sioux argued that the Army Corps of Engineers handed out water permits too hastily and only consulted with the tribe on a narrow set of potential impacts. (The tribe ended up sitting out much of the consultation process in protest.) The tribe also argued that Dakota Access used out-of-state experts to survey the lands beforehand, and so missed a whole bunch of culturally significant archaeological discoveries along the pipeline’s path.

You should read Robinson Meyer in the Atlantic for much more on the legal merits of the case. He argues that the Standing Rock Sioux have a reasonable case — the law is pretty clear that native nations or tribes need to be consulted extensively, in a “government-to-government” fashion. But it’s far from clear they’ll actually win.

This case is currently being heard by US District Judge James E. Boasberg, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Obama in 2011. It could take months to reach a resolution. So, in the meantime, the Standing Rock Sioux and the nonprofit Earthjustice had asked for an injunction to halt construction until a final decision.

On September 9, Boasberg denied that request for an injunction. You can read his reasoning here. He starts by setting the scene: “Since the founding of this nation, the United States’ relationship with the Indian tribes has been contentious and tragic.” But he then goes on to argue that the tribe “has not shown it will suffer injury that would be prevented by any injunction the Court could issue” and that the Army Corps “gave the Tribe a reasonable and good-faith opportunity to identify sites of importance to it.”

Immediately after the injunction was denied, however, the Obama administration stepped in and ordered a stop to construction around Lake Oahe until the Army Corps of Engineers could revisit the disputes over this portion of the pipeline. “Furthermore,” the Department of Justice, Department of Interior, and Department of the Army said in a letter, “this case has highlighted the need for a serious discussion on whether there should be nationwide reform with respect to considering tribes’ views on these types of infrastructure projects.”

What happens next for the pipeline?

Donald Trump Holds Weekend Meetings In Bedminster, NJ
Enter this guy.
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

On November 2, as protests continued, Obama issued another statement saying that the Army Corps “is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline.” He added: “[W]e’re going to let it play out for several more weeks and determine whether or not this can be resolved in a way that I think is properly attentive to the traditions of the first Americans.” (Here’s a piece from E&E on whether rerouting the project is even possible — certainly it would cost developers millions of dollars.)

For now, the portion of the pipeline nearest the reservation remains in limbo and the legal battles will continue. As Earthjustice explains, the broader lawsuit against the pipeline is still moving forward — and may not get resolved before the end of 2016, at least. What’s more, Dakota Access still must get one last bit of approval from the Army Corps of Engineers before digging on either side of Lake Oahe. On November 14, the Army Corps called for“additional discussion” with the Sioux before deciding to grant that final permit.

Looming over all of this, of course, is the specter of Donald Trump. The company behind the project, Energy Transfer Partners, has said that it fully expects Trump’s administration to approve the pipeline come January. The company’s CEO, Kelcy Warren, donated $100,000 to a Trump Victory Fund before the election. (Trump himself reportedly once held stock in Energy Transfer Partners worth over $500,000, though a spokesperson told the Washington Post he sold it off earlier this summer.)

Still, nothing’s settled yet. And, in the meantime, protestors aren’t backing down. Here’s Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, in September: “We’re going to continue to [fight this battle] as long as it takes to try and have this nation recognize the injustices that are being implemented on our nation.”

Further reading:

U.S. Politics

Trump proposes stripping citizenship from political protesters

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana


This is how autocracy happens.

Its a scene that is likely to prove quite familiar during a Trump presidency, Americans woke up Tuesday to discover that the incoming president took to Twitter to expose his ignorance of or disregard for the Constitution.

Criminalizing flag burning is unconstitutional, at least when the flag is burned as a political statement. As the Supreme Court explained in Texas v. Johnson, “if there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” Moreover, there is no indication “either in the text of the Constitution or in our cases interpreting it . . . that a separate juridical category exists for the American flag alone.” If someone chooses to express a political message through flag burning, even if that message is contempt towards the United States, the Constitution protects that speech.

Justice Antonin Scalia, who Trump has held up as a model for his Supreme Court nominee, was in the majority in Johnson.

But even setting aside Trump’s unconstitutional call to criminalize flag burning, which became a staple of American conservative politics long before Trump emerged as a presidential candidate, Trump is calling for something even more extraordinary. He wants to strip citizenship — and with it, voting rights — from political dissidents. Federal law does permit Americans to lose their citizenship after “committing any act of treason against, or attempting by force to overthrow, or bearing arms against, the United States,” but flag burning is a far cry from treason or armed rebellion. It is a political statement, and democracy depends on the free expression of political ideas.

The president-elect of the United States has proposed stripping a political protester’s very status as an American. In the process, he would take away that person’s ability to vote — and thus to vote for someone other than Donald Trump. Today, Trump proposes this consequence for a very specific category of speech that most Americans view as odious. But once a person’s voting rights can be made contingent upon their beliefs, or their silence, then elections become increasingly meaningless.


U.S. Politics

2,000 veterans plan to be a ‘human shield’ for the North Dakota Pipeline activists

Native Americans march to the site of a sacred burial ground that was disturbed by bulldozers building the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), near the encampment where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest of the oil pipeline slated to cross the nearby Missouri River, September 4, 2016 near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.  .Protestors were attacked by dogs and sprayed with an eye and respiratory irritant yesterday when they arrived at the site to protest after learning of the bulldozing work. / AFP / ROBYN BECK        (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

No justice. No Peace | attribution: AFP/GETTY Images


As more and more signs point towards the government trying to strong-arm Dakota Access Pipeline protectors and activists in the coming days, a movement called Veterans Stand for Standing Rock plan on lending their help and their bodies.

As many as 2,000 veterans planned to gather next week at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota to serve as “human shields” for protesters who have for months clashed with the police over the construction of an oil pipeline, organizers said.


The veterans’ plan coincides with an announcement on Tuesday by law enforcement officials that they would begin blocking supplies, including food, from entering the main protest camp after an evacuation order from the governor, according to Reuters. But protesters have vowed to stay put.

The veterans’ efforts also coincide with the Army Corps of Engineers plans to close off access to the movement’s campsite by creating the Orwellian-named “free speech zone.”

“Yeah, good luck with that,” Michael A. Wood Jr., an founder of the veterans’ event, said in an interview.

Wood Jr. helped to organize the event and was bowled over when, in asking for 500 veterans sign up, he found himself having to cap the event at 2,000. The veterans participating want the U.S. government to reveal what it is really about. Are they going to continue totalitarian and violently oppressive tactics or are they going to recognize that the citizens did not and still do not agree with this pipeline plan?

By Walter Einenkel

U.S. Politics

Here’s Donald Trump’s tweet where he says if he were President he would screw everyone but himself

I guess you’re my “friend.” – Getty Images

Let me be perfectly clear here, IMO this TWISTED, DEMENTED, SOCIOPATH has no business holding the highest office in the land. (ks)


Donald Trump has not even been given the electoral votes that would officially make him our next President yet but he is already going about using his new position to pressure foreign leaders to enrich his personal business interests. Considering that this is a man who has a voting base impervious to “facts” or “evidence” or “reality,” it is hard to imagine that they care much about anything but lighting the world on fire. Back in 2014, when Donald Trump was still more joke than nightmare human being, he responded as he loves to do to someone asking him not to run for President.

It  was probably the positive responses from his followers that gave him the idea that he didn’t need to compromise he could just be the enormous narcissistic dick all the way through until election day. One thing to note here: Donald Trump doesn’t actually have “friends.” This means everybody is screwed.

By Walter Einenkel