December 3, 2016

Word: Betsy DeVos

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten - DeVos has no meaningful experience in the classroom or in our schools. The sum total of her involvement has been spending her family’s wealth in an effort to dismantle public education in Michigan. Every American should be concerned that she would impose her reckless and extreme ideology on the nation.

Betsy DeVos is everything Donald Trump said is wrong in America—an ultra-wealthy heiress who uses her money to game the system and push a special-interest agenda that is opposed by the majority of voters. Installing her in the Department of Education is the opposite of Trump’s promise to drain the swamp.

How Trump controls the media

December 2, 2016

Problems we hadn't started worrying about yet

Guardian - A row has broken out over the use of animal fat in the new plastic £5 note, with calls from some vegans and vegetarians for the production process to be changed.

A petition has been launched calling for the use of tallow, a substance made from animal fat, in the banknotes to be stopped. The petition has attracted more than 70,000 supporters so far and will be delivered to the Bank of England.

The petition says: “The new £5 notes contain animal fat in the form of tallow. This is unacceptable to millions of vegans and vegetarians in the UK. We demand that you cease to use animal products in the production of currency that we have to use.”

The Bank of England declined to comment on the petition. A spokeswoman said the issue was the polymer that the new £5 notes are printed on, which contains tallow. The central bank buys polymer pellets from an external company, Innovia Security, which supplies banknote substrate for 80 denominations in 24 countries.

The issue came to light when the Bank responded to a question on Twitter, confirming that the polymer pellets contained traces of tallow.

90% of educators see Trump regime a turn for the wose

Daily Beast - In a new survey of American educators conducted after Election Day, 90 percent of respondents reported that their school’s climate has been negatively affected by the presidential election. The online survey, conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, included 10,000 teachers, counselors, administrators, and others from K-12. In an accompanying report, titled “The Trump Effect,” 80 percent of teachers described a feeling of heightened anxiety and concern on the part of students who are worried about the election’s effects on themselves and their families. Forty percent said they witnessed derogatory language being used against marginalized students, including students of color, Muslims, and immigrants. “It is worth noting that many teachers took pains to point out that the incidents they were reporting represent a distinct uptick; these dynamics are new and can be traced directly to the results of the election,” the report says.

Giuliani made millions off of an anti-Trump Mexican politician

Washington Post: Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani was paid millions under a contract arranged by a Mexican politician who is likely to run for president of Mexico in 2018 on an anti-Trump, Mexico-first platform. That could be a conflict of interest if Giuliani is named secretary of state and tasked with renegotiating NAFTA and trying to get Mexico to pay for a border wall.

Word: Burning the flag

VIA LEA CAMPBELL

December 1, 2016

Word: The Carrier deal

Not to mention $14 billion in state tax breaks

Another Trump fake: his public works program

Washington Post - The Trump plan that emerged late in the campaign would give private investors an 82 percent tax credit to pump money into projects, credits that theoretically would reduce their need to profit from the investment. Trump said that his plan is a win-win for taxpayers because tax dollars lost by granting the credits would be recouped by taxing the wages of people put to work on the projects and from taxes paid by contractors hired to do the work.

The second part of the Trump plan involves repatriation, a much-talked about idea to lure home $2.5 trillion in cash stashed overseas by U.S. corporations. It is an idea championed by Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), but in the Trump plan it comes with a twist.

Trump has proposed reducing the rate companies would pay to bring the money home from 35 to 10 percent. Those companies then could invest slightly more money in infrastructure projects, gain the 82 percent tax credit and effectively erase that 10 percent tax.

“We believe that this tax credit-assisted program could help finance up to a trillion dollars’ worth of projects over a ten-year period,” the Trump campaign said in an Oct. 27 white paper. The Trump transition team did not respond this week when asked whether his thinking had evolved since Election Day.

None of the longtime transportation analysts interviewed for this report shared Trump’s confidence that tax credits to private business would generate $1 trillion for infrastructure projects.

“In certain parts of the country, those kinds of private financing work,” said Ed Mortimer, infrastructure director at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “In other parts of the country we need to use general funding.”

Analysts also questioned Trump’s belief that the outlay from tax credits would be recouped in taxes collected from construction workers and from the profits of contractors. With unemployment down to 4.9 percent — many construction workers already are back on the job, and most contractors are engaged with post-recession jobs — the projected net gain in income taxes seems likely to fall short.

The Capitol Hill crowd — members of Congress and lobbyists — has been talking for years about the billions of dollars in private capital that has been “sitting on the sidelines” while infrastructure projects want for funding.

The reality, however, is that investors expect a return for their money, and very few projects promise to make money. The most common way to profit is through tolling roads or bridges. But while tolling could work in high-volume urban settings, investors are not going to flock to build roads and bridges in vast stretches of rural America.

The Congressional Budget Office said last year that just 26 private-investment projects were completed or underway nationwide.

MORE

J Steven Hart: Trump's warrior against the working class

Dirt Diggers Digest - If Donald Trump really were a champion of the working class, one place you would expect to see it reflected would be in his plans for the Labor Department... The person put in charge of the DOL transition is J. Steven Hart, chairman of the firm of Williams & Jensen, which calls itself “Washington’s Lobbying Powerhouse.” Hart is a lawyer and an accountant who worked in the Reagan Administration but his firm now lobbies mainly on behalf of large corporations such as the health insurer Anthem and Smithfield Foods.

He may provide other services for big business.  In a 2007 article in The Washingtonian about DC’s top lobbyists, Hart was described as “the man corporations call when they are having trouble with labor unions.” There is not much in the public record on Hart’s activity as a union buster, which may mean only that he worked behind the scenes.

Behind the Carrier deal

Politico - The deal that President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence brokered to keep Carrier jobs in Indiana likely hinges on its parent company's fear about losing business with the federal government, said an official who will play a critical role in approving the agreement.

Trump and Pence will visit Indiana on Thursday to announce they’ve delivered on a campaign promise to keep about 1,000 factory jobs from moving to Monterrey, Mexico. The agreement reportedly includes $700,000 in state tax breaks offered by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, a quasi-public entity that doesn't require legislative approval for its deals.

But John Mutz, a former Indiana lieutenant governor who sits on the agency’s 12-member board, told POLITICO that Carrier turned down a previous offer from IEDC before the election. He said he thinks the choice is driven by concerns from Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies, that it could lose a portion of its roughly $6.7 billion in federal contracts.

“This deal is no different than other deals that we put together at the IEDC to retain jobs, but the fact is that the difference is that United Technologies depends on the federal government for lots of business,” Mutz said

GOP would wreck seniors' healthcare coverage

Paul Van de Water,   Center on Budget and Policy Priorities - Medicare is a success by almost any measure, and there’s no reason to weaken its guarantee of health coverage for older Americans and persons with disabilities.

Medicare provides health coverage less expensively than private health insurance. With 57 million participants, it can demand lower prices from hospitals and doctors, who wield growing market power as part of large health care systems. Medicare also has much lower administrative expenses than private insurers and doesn’t make a profit.

Much more than private health insurance, Medicare has spearheaded reforms in the health care payment system to improve efficiency and control fees. Partly due to these reforms, Medicare has outperformed private insurance in limiting the growth of health costs. Since 1987, Medicare spending per enrollee has grown by 5.7 percent a year on average, compared with 7 percent for private insurance.

Health reform has improved Medicare’s financial outlook, contrary to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s claims. Its hospital insurance trust fund is now projected to remain solvent 11 years longer than before the Affordable Care Act was enacted. Even in 2028, when the fund is projected to be depleted, incoming payroll taxes and other revenues will still be sufficient to pay 87 percent of hospital insurance costs.

Medicare leads the way in slowing the growth of health care costs while improving the quality of care.

Word: Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders - When you lose the White House to the least popular candidate in the history of America, when you lose the senate, when you lose the House, and when two-thirds of the governors in this country are Republicans, it is time for a new direction.

Here's who Trump's considering for Homeland Security head

Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke

Alternet - Nearly a year go, Clarke said that terrorist and ISIS sympathizers in America need to be rounded up and shipped off to Guantanamo, according to Mother Jones. He proclaimed, “It is time to suspend habeas corpus like Abraham Lincoln did during the civil war... He guessed that about several hundred thousand or even a million sympathizers were in the United States and needed to be imprisoned.

Clarke .... wrote an article for Fox blaming the Black Lives Matter movement for the murder of Dallas police officers.

“There is no police brutality in America. We ended that back in the ’60s,” Clarke said on Fox News last October.

DeVos' group owes Ohio $5.3 million in fines

Poltico - A school-choice advocacy group headed by billionaire Betsy DeVos owes the state of Ohio more than $5.3 million for election law violations — a record fine that is now nearly a decade past due. DeVos is President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the Education Department.

The unpaid fine dates back to 2008, when All Children Matter — a group that lobbied for school-choice legislation and was run by DeVos — broke Ohio election law by funneling $870,000 in contributions through its nationwide PAC to its Ohio affiliate, according to the Ohio Elections Commission.

The state commission told POLITICO that DeVos' group initially asked Ohio if this sort of spending was permissible. When the state said no, DeVos' group did it anyway.

"I've been with the commission since 1996 and I've never had anyone else ask for an advisory opinion and then proceed to not do what the opinion said," said Philip Richter, executive director and staff attorney at the Ohio Elections Commission.

November 30, 2016

Even the Transportation Secretary to be is a big conflict of interest

Alternet - President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Elaine Chao as his transportation secretary. Chao served as secretary of labor, from 2001 to 2009, under President George W. Bush. She's also the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The appointment of Chao to this position is striking for at least one major reason: her family owns a major international shipping company. Chao's father, Dr. James Chao, is the chairman of The Foremost Group which he founded in 1964. Elaine Chao's sister Angela, is currently the deputy chairman of the company. Chao's father began donating to McConnell in the eighties. In 2008 he gave Chao and McConnell between $5 million and $25 million, giving a huge boost to McConnell's personal worth.

The firm..leaves a faint online trace. Foremost’s website FMCNY.com is blank. Records and court documents obtained by The Nation show that the ownership of the company’s vessels—with names such as Ping May, Soya May, Fu May and Grain May—is obscured through a byzantine structure of tax entities.

A 2014 report from the Louisville Courant revealed that Chao registers his ships in Liberia to avoid paying taxes in the United States.

One of the agencies under control of the Transportation Department is the United States Maritime Administration.

Mnuchin headed 'foreclosure machine' that foreclosed on 36,000

NPR -  Mnuchin's resume also includes a stint as chairman and CEO of a California bank that's been called a foreclosure machine.

During the depths of the financial crisis, Mnuchin was looking to make profits from the ruins of the housing bust. In 2009, he put together a group of billionaire investors and bought a failed California-based bank, IndyMac. It had been taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. after its sketchy mortgage loans went bad.

Mnuchin and his partners bought IndyMac on the condition that the FDIC agree to pay future losses above a certain threshold. They renamed the bank OneWest Bank and, after running it for six years, they sold it last year for a profit, estimated at close to $1.5 billion.

Kevin Stein of the California Reinvestment Coalition, a housing advocacy group, says that profit was made on the backs of suffering California homeowners. "In essence what they did is they bought a foreclosure machine," he says.

According to the coalition, OneWest foreclosed on more than 36,000 homeowners under Mnuchin. During that time, the FDIC made payments to OneWest totaling more $1 billion. Those payments went to the "billionaire investors of OneWest Bank," says Stein, "to cover the cost of foreclosing on working-class, everyday, American folks," many of whom lived in California.

More on the Tom Price war on healthcare

NY Times - Under the [Tom Price] legislation, it would be easier for doctors to enter into private contracts with Medicare beneficiaries. Such contracts allow physicians to opt out of Medicare’s strictures and charge more than the amounts normally allowed.

The bill would eliminate the federal health insurance exchange, through which millions of people have obtained subsidies for the purchase of insurance coverage. States could contract with private entities to set up websites that resemble HealthCare.gov, but only to provide information on insurance plans’ prices and benefits and their networks of doctors and hospitals. The new websites could not directly enroll people in private plans or in Medicaid.

His bill says that doctors would generally be “exempt from the federal antitrust laws” when they engage in contract negotiations with health insurance plans over the terms of their service. In many cases over the years, the federal government has accused doctors of violating antitrust laws in their dealings with insurers.

Mnuchin already promises a conflict of interest

Politico - The Trump administration plans to target the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law as a way to stimulate economic growth, Donald Trump’s pick for treasury secretary said.

Steven Mnuchin, a long-time Goldman Sachs banker tapped by Trump to lead the Treasury, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Wednesday morning that going after the law will be one of his top priorities.

“The number one problem with Dodd-Frank is it’s way too complicated and it cuts back lending, so we want to strip back parts of Dodd-Frank that prevent banks from lending and that will be the number one priority on the regulatory side,” Mnuchin said. “The number one priority is going to be make sure that banks lend.”

Washington Post -  Throughout the presidential campaign, Donald Trump’s relationship with Wall Street ran hot and cold. On the podium, he sounded a populist battle cry — heaping disdain on elites and tarring his opponents by their associations with Wall Street. But behind the scenes, Trump assembled a gang of financiers, bankers and ex-bankers to advise his campaign.

Now, he is drawing on that same set of high flying, high-net-worth individuals to captain his new administration. There was Betsy DeVos, a billionaire investor and a heavyweight political donor, whom Trump nominated as his education secretary. There was Wilbur Ross, another billionaire investor, said to be Trump’s pick to become commerce secretary.

On Wednesday, Trump named another member of America’s elite for a position in his Cabinet.

Steve Mnuchin, a hedge fund chairman and 17-year Goldman Sachs alum, is Trump’s pick for treasury secretary. If he is confirmed, Mnuchin would be at the helm of any future decisions on bank bailouts or economic stimulus.

Federal judge orders Border Patrol to end torture of prisoners

Immigration Impact - A federal judge ordered the Border Patrol to immediately cease its practice of refusing to provide basic amenities to people detained in Border Patrol holding cells in Tucson, Arizona. The judge cited evidence that shows that detainees are kept in freezing holding cells—often called “hieleras” or “iceboxes” —for days without any access to showers or basic hygiene and are forced to sleep on cold concrete floors with only a thin Mylar sheet. Judge David C. Bury ordered the Border Patrol to immediately begin providing any detainee held for more than 12 hours with a mattress, as well as the opportunity to clean themselves, among other things.

Meanwhile. . .

President-elect Donald Trump said he’s leaving his business “in total,” but provided no details about who would take over.

Arrests of Dakota Access pipeline protesters strain North Dakota courts

Protesters burned the United States flag outside of Trump International Hotel in New York City Tuesday, following President-elect Donald Trump’s suggestion that flag burners be jailed or lose their citizenship

Charging candidates for an honest election & other recount problems

Brad Blog - The WI Election Commission informed the Stein campaign (and independent candidate Rocky De La Fuente, who has also filed for a "recount" there) that she will have to pay $3.5 million to even begin counting paper ballots in the state. I've confirmed with her campaign that she intends to do so, even after state election officials had originally estimated the fees to be $1 million for a statewide recount. That, even as state law has recently changed to allow counties to use computers to "recount" ballots, rather than public hand-counts. As we've long reported, similar barriers are often erected to block citizen oversight of elections, begging the question again: What good are hand-marked paper ballots if nobody is actually allowed to count them?

But the situation is far worse in Pennsylvania, where voters in most of the state are forced to vote on 100% unverifiable touch-screen systems and the state's arcane "recount" statutes require tens of thousands of voters to file affidavits (3 in each precinct) asking for such counts.

Longtime election integrity champion and VotePA.us founder Marybeth Kuznik joins us with details on what is now going on in the Keystone state towards that end, and to help explain the insanity of the state's unverifiable voting systems and the near-incomprehensibility of its "recount" laws.

"Pennsylvania election law is so convoluted," she tells me, while explaining the requirements for three voters in each of the state's 9,163 precincts (that's 27,489 voters) to file a complaint in order to have a statewide voter-initiated count. She also explains the second route towards such a count, which requires 100 voters to file in the Commonwealth Court.

In either case, since much of the state uses unverifiable touch-screens, there is often nothing at all to count, even if a count is allowed. "They'll print out the Election Night tapes. They'll bring out some sort of a printout from the central tabulator. Usually they just bring out results. They look at the precinct tape, they look at the precinct printout, they go 'Hmm, that looks the same to me!', and everything's good. That's the recount!," Kuznik explains. "The thing is, of course it's going to be 'good'. The same software that counted on Election Night and printed out that tape is what's counting and printing out this result paper that they compare. It's nuts. It's just crazy."

As you'll hear, it's even worse than I've described it here. But, that's how it still works (or doesn't) in PA, after all of these years, and even in light of a forensic analysis by computer scientists of just one PA county voting system in 2011, after vote-flips were reported and candidates received zero votes in several elections in heavily-Republican Venango County. That landmark study found, among other disturbing things, as we reported at the time: "unexplained, out-of-sequence activity log entries in the computer tabulation system, indications that the system was mounted several times with a 'USB flash drive' device, and, perhaps most troubling, evidence that the system was repeatedly accessed by an unidentified remote computer, for lengthy periods of time, on 'multiple occasions.'"

Those same systems --- and even worse ones --- are still used today across the state in 2016, as the fate of the world relies on them. Yes, as we've been warning you for more than a decade: "It's just crazy."

November 29, 2016

Meanwhile. . .

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple issued an "emergency evacuation" order today to remove thousands of Dakota Access Pipeline protesters from the Oceti Sakowin camp, citing "harsh winter conditions."

US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that of 30 occupations growing the most over next decade, only 8 will require a college degree.


New York Times - Both candidates spent most of their television advertising time attacking the other person’s character. In fact, the losing candidate’s ads did little else. More than three-quarters of the appeals in Mrs. Clinton’s advertisements (and nearly half of Mr. Trump’s) were about traits, characteristics or dispositions. Only 9 percent of Mrs. Clinton’s appeals in her ads were about jobs or the economy. By contrast, 34 percent of Mr. Trump’s appeals focused on the economy, jobs, taxes and trade.
 

Paul Ryan's deadly anti-healthcare plan

US Uncut - Speaker Ryan first unearthed his plan to permanently privatize Medicare in 2011, and each new bill he introduces is a variation on the original plan. Essentially, those who qualify for Medicare would instead be provided a voucher to be used as a subsidy for a private health insurance — which is ironically very similar to the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance subsidies (Ryan has voted for the ACA’s repeal on numerous occasions).

The Kaiser Family Foundation reviewed Ryan’s original proposal and made several assessments that should be alarming to Medicare patients. Among proposals like raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67 instead of 65, it asks seniors to contribute a much larger share of their fixed incomes toward healthcare. It also repeals the section of the Affordable Care Act that allows the federal government to negotiate prescription drug prices for Medicare patients.

“Under the proposal, a typical 65-year-old retiring in 2022 would be expected to devote nearly half their monthly Social Security checks toward health care costs, more than double what they would spend under current Medicare law,” Kaiser wrote in its summary of the report. Kaiser also cited a Congressional Budget Office review of Ryan’s proposal, citing how much seniors would be expected to pay for healthcare costs in a private health insurance plan as opposed to Medicare:

According to the CBO analysis, the total cost of providing health care benefits (premium and other costs) to a typical 65-year old in a private plan would be about $20,500 in 2022. The government would contribute $8,000 or 39 percent toward the total cost, and the remaining $12,500 would be paid by the beneficiary. The CBO projects that out-of-pocket costs for the typical 65-year old would be more than twice as large under the proposal than under traditional Medicare ($5,630) in 2022, because the cost of providing benefits is greater under private plans than under traditional Medicare.

The higher out-of-pocket costs under the Ryan plan is particularly problematic under the current payment structure for seniors who depend on their earned Social Security benefits as their sole source of income. In their analysis, Kaiser found that for the average senior who receives just $2,130 per month in Social Security benefits (using 2022 figures, which is when the Ryan plan would take effect), a retiree would have to pay $1041.66 of that income for their healthcare.

While Speaker Ryan argues that the motivation behind his proposal to privatize Medicare is done to save federal money over the long term, Kaiser pointed out that the Congressional Budget Office’s math paints a different picture. According to the CBO’s analysis, private health insurance subsidies would actually be far more costly than simply continuing the Medicare program as is:
While private plans may be able to achieve lower utilization through tighter cost and care management practices, the CBO believes the total costs of providing a similar benefit package would be higher under private plans than Medicare, and that the differential between the costs under traditional Medicare and the costs under private plans would widen over time.
During his campaign, Donald Trump vowed to not alter Medicare or Social Security. According to Forbes, Trump has vowed to “save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts.” However, at least one member of Trump’s team has stated the opposite, making the President-elect’s position on the longstanding healthcare program ambiguous.

Trump’s ambiguity on changing Medicare into a privatized system may be the one check on Paul Ryan as the new Congress prepares to gavel in next year. Ryan has stated he plans to write his Medicare privatization plan into a budget reconciliation bill — a procedure that circumvents any potential Democratic filibuster.

How Trump's healhcare plan would have killed 50,000 Americas

Daily Kos,  2015 - Last December, the administration announced that Obamacare programs to improve hospital safety have resulted in 50,000 fewer preventable deaths since 2010. Because good news on Obamacare travels very slowly, the report didn't get a lot of attention. Not until President Obama included that news in his speech marking the fifth anniversary of Obamacare's signing. That warranted enough attention for the Washington Post's fact checker to get around to fact checking, and it turns out that, yeah, it's true, and in fact, might be actually understated.

Largely relying on more than 30,000 medical records, the study looked at how many fewer patient-related problems had taken place in hospitals—the study calculated 1.3 million fewer incidents over three years—and then used that to determine how many lives might have been saved. In general, the researchers used mortality estimates from other research.

For instance, pressure ulcers, which result from a lack of blood flow to the skin because of sustained pressure, are estimated to result in additional 72 deaths per 1,000; meanwhile, adverse drug events result in an additional 20 deaths per 1,000. Higher costs are involved, too, with estimated of $17,000 for each pressure ulcer and $5,000 for drug events. So overall the study estimates $12 billion in health care costs were saved in addition to the 50,000 lives. […]

The numbers might seem large, but the research seems solid, according to experts we consulted, and it is based on a review of an extensive database. The results likely reflect work that predated the ACA but at the same time the ACA has spurred even greater cooperation among hospitals. Since the president is using a figure more than a year old, it is likely understated—unless, of course, the interim number for 2013 turns out to be overstated.

Trumps live up to promise to take US business out of China. . . Just one little problem

Daily News, UK- Donald Trump has pledged to bring long-lost American manufacturing jobs back from China. But he may be too late – even for products that bear his family name. A Chinese company that makes shoes for his daughter’s fashion line is moving production to Africa, where labor is much cheaper.

The billionaire tycoon has frequently accused China of stealing US jobs through unfair trade practices and currency manipulation, while simultaneously relying on the country to make Trump-branded goods. But the kind of work that goes into making such products may never return to America, says the president of major footwear producer Huajian Group. Zhang Huarong, speaking in his office in the southern factory hub of Dongguan, said: ‘Some manufacturers can’t even survive in China any more.’

His company has made about 100,000 pairs of Ivanka Trump-branded shoes over the years, according to spokesman Liu Shiyuan. In August it filled an order for 20,000 pairs, just weeks after Trump accepted the Republican nomination, with a speech in which he vowed to bring jobs back to the US. Trump said he planned to impose a 45 per cent tariff on Chinese-made goods.

Mr Zhang said he can hire five Ethiopians for the price of one Chinese worker. That is why the company is building a ‘light industrial city’ shaped like a woman’s shoe in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, he said.

What you can learn from vote recounts

Palmer Report - Even as Wisconsin officials say they’re preparing for a statewide recount of the 2016 vote totals after third party candidate Jill Stein raised enough funds to cover the cost of it, the nation is left to wonder whether it might result in Hillary Clinton being named the winner of the state. But before the recount has even begun, evidence of either gross negligence or foul play has been exposed in three Wisconsin precincts – which had resulted in quite a number of phantom votes given to Donald Trump – and the vote totals have been revised accordingly.

The story goes like this: after Wisconsin posted its voting totals, various internet users who looked at the numbers noticed the same discrepancy. Three precincts in Outagamie County were each claiming that more people had voted in the presidential race than had voted at all. That’s not possible, of course. So after it became a minor online controversy, those precincts each revised their totals. The result: more than a thousand imaginary votes for Donald Trump came off the board from those three precincts alone, as first noted by Dan Solomon of Fast Company.

Here’s the explanation which local officials offered to an ABC News affiliate to explain the discrepancy: “In order to give election returns to the Outagamie County Clerk’s office as quickly as possible the Chief Inspector added together the votes from the election machine tapes. An error was made while keying the numbers on the calculator during this process resulting in an incorrect number of votes reported on Election night.”

But for this to be believed, one would have to accept that the same honest error was made in three precincts – and that in all of them, Donald Trump was a huge beneficiary of that math error. Moreover, Hillary Clinton’s vote totals didn’t change at all in these three precincts. It was simply a matter of three precincts padding Donald Trump’s totals with imaginary votes that they now acknowledge never really existed.

Maine; A different Somali story

I first realized something different about Maine when I was in a Washington DC cab driven by a Somali. He asked me where I lived and I told him Maine which led him to ask, "How's the cab business in Portland?" I knew exactly why he asked it, but was surprised that he knew how many Somali cab drivers there were in Maine's largest city. Then I learned that Maine had gained a friendly reputation among Somalis, especially Lewiston

Meanwhile, Donald Trump said some nasty things about Maine's Somalians, including blaming them for an increase in crime. In fact, he was 180 degrees off base.

Boston Globe - In Lewiston, where an estimated 7,000 Somalis live, police said that crime is going down, not up.

“The Somalis have not caused any increase in crime. They’re integrated here in our city,” the acting police chief, Brian O’Malley, said. “The Somalis come here because they want somewhere safe and good schools to raise their kids, and that’s what Lewiston has.”

Crime in the city fell 17 percent in 2015 compared with the year before, continuing a steady, downward trend, O’Malley said.

At least 12,000 Somali refugees are estimated to have migrated to Maine following a horrific civil war in their East African homeland. Many settled first in cities such as Atlanta before moving to Maine to take advantage of more affordable housing and other services.




Maine Beacon - A new report from the Fiscal Policy Institute and the Center for American Progress examines how well refugees from four key groups are integrating into American society.

One finding is that Lewiston is a prime example in New England of the positive effects of Somali integration.

David Dyssegaard Kallick, a senior fellow and director of the Immigration Research Initiative at the Fiscal Policy Institute, says about one in 12 immigrants arriving in the U.S. comes here as a refugee.

“Sure, they need some help to get started,” he states. “When they first come to the United States, they come from some of the most horrific situations around the world.

“But when you look at the long term, people become integrated, they start to get jobs, they own their own homes, they learn English – you know, they become Americans.”

Kallick says one refugee group is playing a particularly important role in breathing new life into cities like Lewiston: “Somalis, around Lewiston especially, have really been part of revitalizing the economy there, helping to stabilize what’s otherwise been population loss,” he states. “And I know that they’ve found jobs in some of the Lewiston factories, for example. So, I think that’s one real standout within New England.”

Times Argus - Roughly 1,000 Somali refugees who had been resettled elsewhere in the U.S. began relocating to Lewiston of their own accord from February 2001 to August 2002.

“That’s unplanned, unprogrammed, ‘here we are’ relocation,” Deputy City Administrator Phil Nadeau said. “Considering the size of our community, that’s a large relocation happening is a short amount of time.”

The migration was attributed to Lewiston having a low crime rate, a good quality of life and cheap housing. Studies provided by Nadeau rejected claims it was because of Maine’s generous welfare benefits, noting that many came from states that were equally or even more generous.

It wasn’t a smooth process. At one point, Lewiston’s mayor wrote an open letter to the Somali community asking them to discourage additional Somalis from coming, which prompted a white supremacist group to hold a rally in the city.

There was also a fear that public assistance — administered on a municipal level in Maine — would be overwhelmed. While many Somalis started out on public assistance, Nadeau said they moved out ,and in 2015 Lewiston spent the same amount in public assistance — about $1 million — as it did circa 1991.

“If you adjust for inflation, what we spent in ’90-’91, in 2015 dollars, it was $2 million,” he said.

The migration continued, and by 2011, the Somlai population of Lewiston was estimated at 5,000. The city — which totals roughly 36,000 people — also began to take in refugees and asylum-seekers from other nations.

Fifteen years later, Nadeau said Lewiston’s current condition indicates the newcomers integrated successfully.

“Many news organizations, many academics, have talked about us because they believe what we’re doing is good work,” he said. “Do I personally believe it? You betcha. I’m very biased ... but it’s defensible because other people are saying it about us.”

Stanley Delorm, spent time in Lewiston as district manager of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company before moving away. He returned to the area — he lives in the mountains outside of town — about five years ago.

“I lived here from ’81 to ’86,” Delorm said. “You probably saw half a dozen blacks. The other day, when I was down on the main street, I saw 50 black people and probably one white one. I gotta tell you what I heard about them — the young children are probably the best in the school.”

Delorm drove by some massive industrial buildings.

“These were all shoe factories, years ago,” he said. “Some are apartment houses now. Some are vacant. They’re thinking about using some for other things. They’ve torn some of them down.”

He turned onto Lisbon Street, a downtown area with businesses including a bike shop, a smoke shop and a Halal grocery.

“Used to be, most of these stores were empty,” he said. “That big three-story building was full of pigeons, no windows.”..

Indeed, business owners and city officials alike describe the city as undergoing a “renaissance.” While the renaissance coincided with the arrival of the refugees, Nadeau said it was not because of the refugees, but rather a concerted development effort that was already underway.

Even if the refugees were not part of how Lewiston got to where it is now, Nadeau said they were an important part of where the city is going.

“Lots of these people are working in jobs around the community ... they’re all contributors,” he said. “Every time they take up residence in an apartment downtown — that had a pretty high vacancy rate — that’s economic development.”

With an aging population in Maine Nadeau said immigration is vital.

“We need these younger demographics to fill the jobs,” he said. They’re part of something that was well on its way when they got here. They are going to be a part of something really important. If they hadn’t gotten here, we might be having a really different discussion about our future and our ability to fill jobs.”

Nadeau said the refugees did have a visible impact in the downtown area.

“It’s not every storefront on Lisbon Street (occupied by Somali-owned businesses) ... but it’s noticeable,” he said. “It’s important because these storefronts might not otherwise have ever been filled.”

One of those Lisbon Street storefronts is The Mogadishu Store. Roadwork was underway right outside it t. The shelves inside were mostly stocked with relatively familiar ingredients like lentils, tea and spice mixes, but once cooler held packages of ground camel meat.

The store also does a brisk takeout trade in samabusas — Somali meat pies not immediately distinguishable from Indian samosas.

Farhiya Mahamud, daughter of the owners, said when her family first arrived in 2002, her parents took entry-level jobs.

“(Her father) was a professor in Somalia,” she said. “He had a Ph.D. in chemistry. When he came here, he had to do college all over again because they didn’t recognize the African credentials. He wound up working at CVS as a clerk. My mom was a janitor at the high school.”

Down the street and around the corner from the Mogadishu Store is Simones Hot Dog Stand. Owner Jimmy Simones was celebrating his 43 anniversary with the family business.

Simones he said he started work there the day after he finished high school. He was the third generation of Simones to sling hot dogs at the restaurant, which was founded in 1908.

“As you can see, we have a lot going on, a renaissance going on,” Simones said. “(The Somalis) contributed — no question about that. It took them a while to get acclimated, but they’re learning. We get along well with everyone. They’re our customers.”

Simones recalled when the Somalis began arriving.

“The apprehension was, where are we going to put all these people?” he said. “Where are they going to live? We didn’t have the housing stock. We’re building more new units and, more and more, they’re buying their own places.”

James Gibney,Bloomberg, 2015 - When they arrived, they found a city back on its heels. Lewiston’s population had dropped by 10 percent in the 1990s, its downtown had never recovered from the closure of mills and the businesses they supported, and jobs were scarce. In a city with two of Maine's poorest census tracts, a swelling contingent of welfare-dependent non-English-speaking immigrants traumatized by war and violence didn’t exactly promise an economic miracle. Nonetheless, they brought new life to downtown -- new restaurants and shops, businesses, even a mosque. Many found jobs in and around Lewiston, and for those who didn’t, their welfare payments still helped the local economy.

More importantly, they grew and rejuvenated Lewiston’s population. That’s critical for Maine, a state whose demographics are a slow-motion economic disaster. As the Maine Department of Labor’s chief economist has noted, Maine’s unenviable status as the oldest state in the union has less to do with a lot of seniors than a lot of Baby Boomers who didn’t have many kids.

That affects everything from the labor force to school and university enrollments. By one estimate, Maine has to attract at least 3,000 new residents annually for the next 20 years to sustain its workforce, in addition to keeping its existing youngsters from moving away.

As a result of Lewiston’s African influx, since 2002 the number of kids in its schools has risen by 10 percent. If that’s a burden, it’s one that nearby communities might like to have: The school population for the rest of Androscoggin County has fallen by 15 percent.

At one level, Maine’s zany, Tea Party-steeped governor Paul LePage understands that his state needs more people to thrive. "We have more people in Maine dying than being born," he said last year.

But that was in remarks reiterating his opposition to abortion. His administration has sought to strip asylum seekers of general assistance, even though federal law prohibits them from working while their applications are pending. And he has regularly blamed "illegals" for everything from welfare fraud and crime to the spread of disease -- positions whose spirit Lewiston's current mayor has echoed.

Lewiston's director of economic and community development told the Boston Globe this summer that the unemployment rate among Somalis is only slightly higher than the state rate of 4.7 percent. And it boasts the lowest crime rate of Maine's cities.

What's real, abiding and understandable is the kind of culture shock that comes when an established, tight-knit community is deluged by newcomers. Lewiston's overwhelmingly white, Catholic, Franco-American inhabitants were themselves victims of ordinances banning French in local schools until only a few decades ago.

Injecting African Muslims into their midst is a huge challenge for both sides, especially in a state with so little diversity to begin with...

As one Somali college graduate leaving Maine for a big-city university in another state said, "It's exhausting … being Somali and living in Lewiston because it's not just limelight, it's kind of like a shining, beaming spotlight that goes with you wherever you go."

That challenge of integration and adjustment faces communities across the United States, whether Somalis, Guatemalans, or -- eventually, perhaps -- tens of thousands of Syrians. Meeting it will require not just more federal and state support, but greater understanding on all sides, from refugee organizations that take more time to consult with local stakeholders to officials who resist the political temptation to scapegoat new arrivals for old problems..

Lewiston’s polyglot high school soccer team, with players like Abdi Shariff-Hassan, Maulid Abdow and Noralddin Othman, just won the State Soccer Finals. Go Blue Devils -- and don't leave Maine!