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US imprisonment rate falls to lowest since 1997: Justice Department

Source: Reuters

29 DEC 2016 AT 16:15 ET

The U.S. prison population fell the most in almost four decades to 1.53 million inmates in 2015, resulting in the lowest rate of incarceration in a generation, the Department of Justice said on Thursday.

The drop has been driven by changes in federal and state corrections policies that include drug treatment programs and the sentencing of fewer nonviolent drug offenders to federal prisons, the department said in its year-end report on prison populations.

Roughly one in 37 U.S. adults was under some form of correctional supervision at the end of 2015, the lowest rate since 1994.

The number of federal and state inmates at the end of 2015 was down by 35,500, or 2.3 percent, from the year before, in the biggest drop since 1978, it said.

Read more: http://www.rawstory.com/2016/12/us-imprisonment-rate-falls-to-lowest-since-1997-justice-department/

Kremlin spokesman vows retaliation against U.S. sanctions

Source: The Washington Post

By Washington Post Staff December 29 at 3:58 PM

The spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow rejects accusations that it hacked U.S. political parties and the new sanctions imposed by the Obama administration on Thursday. The new measures include the sanctioning of agencies and individuals tied to the hacks and the removal of 35 Russian government officials from the United States.

This is a developing story. It will be updated.


Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/world/wp/2016/12/29/kremlin-spokesman-vows-retaliation-against-u-s-sanctions/?pushid=breaking-news_1483045141&tid=notifi_push_breaking-news&utm_term=.5e5bc2dc54a7

School board votes to oust Trump campaign official who compared Michelle Obama to an ape

Source: RawStory

29 DEC 2016 AT 15:34 ET

Carl Paladino, the Trump campaign official who drew widespread condemnation for his racist attack on Michelle Obama last week, has been ousted from his position at the Buffalo School Board.

Per the Buffalo News, the school board on Thursday easily garnered a 6-to-2 majority of votes from its members needed to kicked Paladino out. After the final vote was announced, people in the room burst into boisterous applause to celebrate Paladinos expulsion from their school board.

“Words matter, Mr. Paladino,” School Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold said during a board meeting, which Paladino did not attend. “The impact on children of color, especially African-American children is incalculable … They would like me to tell you, ‘You’re fired.'”

The board's resolution said that Paladino's unambiguously racist, morally repugnant, flagrantly disrespectful, inflammatory and inexcusable comments had garnered both local, national, and international attention that reflects negatively on the Buffalo Board of Education, the City of Buffalo and its leadership and its citizens. Paladino, who served as the co-chairman of Trumps New York campaign, got into trouble after he said that he wanted Michelle Obama to be let loose in Africa so she could live with apes.

Read more: http://www.rawstory.com/2016/12/trump-campaign-official-who-compared-michelle-obama-to-an-ape-ousted-from-school-board/

Russian U.K. Embassy Blasts 'Hapless' Obama for 'Cold War Deja Vu'

Source: The Daily Beast

Russia’s embassy in the United Kingdom blasted the Obama administration on Thursday afternoon after it was announced that the U.S. was imposing sanctions on Russia as retaliation for its cyberattacks that interfered in the U.S. presidential election. “President Obama expels 35 [Russian] diplomats in Cold War deja vu. As everybody, including [American] people, will be glad to see the last of this hapless [administration],” the embassy’s official account tweeted, along with an accompanying image with the word “lame.” Earlier, the editor-in-chief of Russia Today, which is frequently criticized for pro-Kremlin and pro-Putin bias, mocked the U.S. for the sanctions, saying sarcastically: “Oh, I’m afraid.”

Russian Embassy, UK

President Obama expels 35 🇷🇺 diplomats in Cold War deja vu. As everybody, incl 🇺🇸 people, will be glad to see the last of this hapless Adm.


Read more: http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2016/12/29/russian-u-k-embassy-blasts-hapless-obama-for-cold-war-d-j-vu.html?via=desktop&source=copyurl

Paul Ryan Backs Obama's Russia Crackdown

Source: The Daily Beast

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan backed President Obama's decision to issue sanctions on Thursday in response to Russian hacking which sought to influence the presidential election. “Russia does not share American's interests,” Ryan said in a statement. “In fact, it has consistently sought to undermine them, sowing dangerous instability around the world. While today's action by the administration is overdue, it is an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy with Russia. And it serves as a prime example of this administration's ineffective foreign policy that has left America weaker in the eyes of the world.”



Read more: http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2016/12/29/paul-ryan-backs-obama-s-russia-crackdown.html?via=desktop&source=copyurl

Indiana University same sex partner benefits end Dec. 31

Source: Associated Press

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — More than 20 Indiana University employees will lose health care coverage if they don’t marry their same-sex partners by the end of the month.

University employees in same-sex relationships have relied on a domestic-partner health care policy offered since 2002, the South Bend Tribune (http://bit.ly/2iIDSft ) reported.

Employees who applied for the benefit were required to sign an affidavit saying he or she would marry if the opportunity was available.

A university spokeswoman said the number of domestic partners enrolled in medical plans dropped from 250 at its highest point to 22 after marriage certificates were submitted following the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage. Shortly after the Supreme Court decision the IU board of trustees discontinued domestic partner benefits. Those benefits will expire Dec. 31.

Read more: http://www.salon.com/2016/12/29/indiana-university-same-sex-partner-benefits-end-dec-31/

The GOPs Bibi-Centric Foreign Policy

By Ed Kilgore

December 29, 2016
10:54 a.m.

It is entirely unsurprising that congressional Republicans, along with some Democrats, have jumped with both feet on the last-minute dispute between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government over the latter’s defiant settlements policy and the former’s willingness to let the U.N. Security Council condemn it. But already there are signs of an overreaction to the dustup that tell us a lot about the strangely central role Netanyahu plays in the GOP version of foreign policy.

The most predictable part of the brouhaha is the GOP backlash against the United Nations for this latest incident in its long history of antagonism to the Israeli occupation of Arab lands. The U.N. has been a perennial target for conservatives of almost every hue, and thus a point of unity for people who don’t agree on much of anything else. For President-elect Donald Trump, the U.N. is the obvious symbol of international restraints on U.S. freedom of action. The Security Council resolution is thus an easy pretext for a fight that was going to happen anyway, as Richard Gowan observed at Politico:

Donald Trump likes attacking soft targets, and the United Nations is about as soft as they come. Over the past two months, U.N. officials have been bracing for an entirely inevitable clash with the next U.S. administration. Their only question has been exactly what would set off the showdown. Would it be climate change? Torture?

Now they have their answer. The president-elect is gearing up to do battle with the U.N. even sooner than expected, and his casus belli is a classic sore point in U.S.-U.N. relations: Israel. Trump not only tried to stop the U.N. Security Council’s recent resolution condemning Israeli settlements, but also suggested the U.N. itself will face consequences once he is president, tweeting, “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th.”


What History Has to Say About the Economy Trump Will Inherit

The economy was stronger in 2016 than several previous election years

by Andre Tartar
December 29, 2016, 12:00 AM EST

Research suggests factors beyond the control of any U.S. president, not their actual policies, set the course of the economy. Yet with voters, President-Elect Donald Trump will secure much of the praise or blame when it comes to the impact of his agenda over the next four years.

Here are six charts that illustrate the economy that Trump — who wants to focus on "jobs, jobs, jobs" — will inherit from President Barack Obama and how it compares with historical standards.

Gross domestic product is chugging along, growing at a 1.7 percent pace in the year through the third quarter. That's slower than what most prior administrations faced, and comes against a backdrop of weak global demand, aging demographics and tepid corporate investment. Trump has said he's aiming to achieve 3.5 to 4 percent average annual growth, even as real GDP expansion is projected to average just 2.2 percent next year and 2.3 percent in 2018, according to economists.


Trump's Pick for Budget Chief Liked Gold, Had Dim View of Dollar

Source: Bloomberg

President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, has been an active investor in gold and gold-mining stocks, often seen as a hedge against collapsing currency.

The South Carolina Republican congressman has accused the Federal Reserve of debasing the value of the greenback and has praised bitcoin, an alternative currency. He held between $50,000 and $100,000 in precious metals as of the end of 2015, filings show.

Now, as Trump’s nominee to run the Office of Management and Budget, Mulvaney, 49, is poised to influence U.S. fiscal policy. As director of OMB, he would help the president set government spending and could end up working on an overhaul of the federal tax code. At least one other member of Congress appointed by Trump to a cabinet-level position, Representative Tom Price, also has a history of trading stocks while in office.

Mulvaney’s investments in mining companies date to at least 2010, the year he was elected to the House of Representatives as part of the Republican Tea Party wave. A filing detailing his holdings at the end of that year shows he and family members owned stocks and funds of gold- and silver-mining companies -- including Eldorado Gold Corp., Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. and Pan American Silver Corp. -- with a total value of between $252,000 and $855,000.

Read more: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-12-29/trump-s-pick-for-budget-chief-liked-gold-had-dim-view-of-dollar

Donald Trump confirmed yesterday that his veterans health plan is a joke

Updated by Matthew Yglesias@mattyglesiasmatt@vox.com Dec 29, 2016, 10:20am EST

One of Donald Trump’s major themes on the 2016 campaign trail was the need to improve the health care offerings afforded to America’s veterans. We’re going to “take care of our veterans like they have never been taken care of before” was a fairly typical stump speech line, though he sometimes shortened it to simply a brief promise to “take care of our vets.”

This was typically laced with references to the spring 2014 VA scandal and devoid of references to the bipartisan reform legislation that passed in the wake of the scandal. Trump didn’t particularly have a policy critique of the Obama administration and never so much as mentioned any of Hillary Clinton’s policy ideas on the issue — the pitch he was making was, broadly, that Democrats didn’t respect or care about veterans as much as he did.

Wednesday he held meetings at his Florida estate with private sector health care leaders to discuss ways to improve things, and then, as described by the New York Times’s Michael Shear, briefed the press on his thinking:

Mr. Trump met with several executives of private hospital systems at his Mar-a-Lago estate on Wednesday. After the meeting, Mr. Trump called out to reporters, saying he wanted to describe his ideas for changes to the Department of Veterans Affairs, but then quickly directed one of his senior aides to describe the proposals under consideration.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, provided no details about how the plans would work, how much they would cost, or the possibility of unintended consequences from privatizing part of the V.A.’s sprawling medical system.

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