Political MoJo

Dylann Storm Roof Identified as Suspected Gunman in Charleston Mass Shooting (Updated)

9 people were killed in the shooting at a historic black church.

| Thu Jun. 18, 2015 10:27 AM EDT

Update, 11:30 am EST: Dylann Storm Roof was reportedly arrested in Shelby, North Carolina, according to multiple news sources.

The FBI has reportedly identified Dylann Storm Roof as the suspected gunman behind the mass shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday. Police released a flier Thursday morning with details of the suspect in the attack:

The shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church killed nine people, six women and three men, including the church's pastor Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

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The Ten Dollar Bill Is Getting a Much-Needed Makeover

A woman will finally appear on paper US currency.

| Thu Jun. 18, 2015 9:48 AM EDT

Ladies—we have finally made it! On to money, that is. (I mean, sure, Sacagawea is on the dollar coin or whatever, but we're talking real-deal-paper.) The Treasury Department announced Wednesday that a redesigned $10 bill will feature a woman alongside Alexander Hamilton, who has been on the note since 1929. 

Who will actually be featured on the bill remains to be seen, but Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will ultimately make the decision. The new $10 bill will debut in 2020, the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. 

The news comes just about a year after nine-year-old Sofia wrote to President Obama asking why there weren't any women on money in the United States and included a list of potential contenders that included his wife, Michelle. He responded saying he thought it was "a pretty good idea." The letter spawned a campaign called Women on 20, which launched petitions and created media to convince the president to put his money where his mouth is (literally).

It's unclear if the decision was influenced by the campaign, but soon we will find out if any of their proposed female icons (the final-round votes on their website left Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, and Wilma Mankiller) made the cut.

Walmart Uses 22 Shell Companies to Hide an Incredible Amount of Money in Luxembourg

The European tax haven hosts no Walmart stores but helps the retailer avoid major US taxes.

| Wed Jun. 17, 2015 5:04 PM EDT

Overseas tax evasion by American corporations has become a political hot button of late: It haunted Mitt Romney in 2012, spurred President Barack Obama last year to crack down on so-called inversions, and has since been seized upon as a 2016 campaign issue by Hillary Clinton. American companies now have an estimated $2.1 trillion in untaxed profits stashed overseas, big sums of which belong to Apple, General Electric, and Microsoft.

Walmart is also a major overseas tax dodger, according to a new report from Americans for Tax Fairness, a liberal-leaning think tank and advocacy group. The world's largest retailer has stashed $64 billion worth of assets in Luxembourg, Europe's smallest and most notorious tax haven. These assets—including cash and the ownership of real estate holdings around the world—are worth more than Luxembourg's entire gross domestic product. If they were liquidated and sprinkled around, it would amount to more than $100,000 per acre in this tiny country of 1,000 square miles that lacks a single Walmart store. Walmart has so much wealth in Luxembourg, in fact, that it could pay several times over to plaster the entire country in Nexus Granite Self-Adhesive Vinyl Floor Tiles, which sell at Walmart for $8.99 per box.

Since 2011, Walmart has transferred more than $45 billion in assets to a network of 22 shell companies in Luxembourg, the report says.

In fact, most Luxembourgers can afford flooring that's considerably more posh. A primary source of the luxe in this city-state of some 500,000 people is its corporate tax rate. Between 2010 and 2013, Walmart reported paying less than 1 percent in tax to Luxembourg on $1.3 billion in profits. Walmart also generates $1.5 billion worth of tax deductions in Luxembourg each year by making "phantom interest payments" to its home office in the United States, according to Americans for Tax Fairness. These benefits may explain why, since 2011, Walmart has transferred more than $45 billion in assets to a network of 22 shell companies in Luxembourg, the report says.

Walmart disputed the report's findings: "This is the same union-supported group that regularly issues flawed reports on Walmart to promote their agenda rather than the facts," the company said in a statement to USA Today. "This latest report includes incomplete, erroneous information designed to mislead readers." But the retailing giant did not go into any further detail.

UPDATE 6:00 p.m. PST: In an email to Mother Jones, a Walmart representative detailed the company's objections to the report:

When calculating total assets, this calculation incorrectly includes intercompany assets, primarily investment in our wholly-owned subsidiaries and intercompany loans which both eliminate on consolidation.  The methodology is flawed and based upon statutory reports prior to intercompany eliminations which occur during consolidation.

As disclosed in our last form 10K (footnote 14), the Walmart International segment has total assets after intercompany eliminations of $80.5 billion, the vast majority of which are retail store buildings, fixtures, inventory and distribution facilities physically located in the countries where we serve customers.

Goldman Sachs to Summer Interns: Don't Stay in the Office Overnight

Goldman Sachs Group Inc has told its summer investment banking interns not to stay in the office overnight in a bid to improve working conditions for its junior staff.

| Wed Jun. 17, 2015 3:49 PM EDT

By Olivia Oran

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Goldman Sachs Group Inc has told its summer investment banking interns not to stay in the office overnight in a bid to improve working conditions for its junior staff.

The move, according to company sources and confirmed by a Goldman spokesman, illustrates how Wall Street banks are seeking to curb excessive hours worked by young employees who see internships and entry-level jobs as a chance for a lucrative investment banking career.

Goldman has told its new crop of summer banking interns they should be out of the office between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m. during the week.

Goldman and other banks have taken steps over the last several years to encourage junior employees, known as analysts and associates, to take time off in a profession notorious for all-nighters and 100-hour work weeks.

The moves came after the death of a Bank of America Corp intern in London in 2013 fueled concerns over working excessive hours. It was later revealed the intern died of natural causes.

Soon after, Goldman told its junior bankers to take Saturdays off and also formed a task force to address quality of life issues.

Bank of America said at the time it would recommend junior employees take off a minimum of four weekend days per month.

Wall Street summer interns are typically college juniors who work as analysts and business school students who serve as associates.

Goldman has more than 2,900 summer interns this year.

Goldman ranked as the top worldwide M&A adviser last year, according to Thomson Reuters data. The bank advised on 449 deals with a total value of $983.9 billion.

 

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

Here's the Latest Evidence of How Private Prisons Are Exploiting Inmates for Profit

A new study finds some private prisons doling out infractions and lengthening sentences more than public prisons.

| Wed Jun. 17, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

The for-profit prison industry sells itself as a cost-effective option for cash-strapped states, but according to a new study from the University of Wisconsin, privatized prisons are keeping inmates locked up longer in order to boost profits.

Researcher Anita Mukherjee studied eight years* of data from Mississippi, which has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, and found that private prisons there doled out twice the amount of infractions against inmates, lengthening their sentences by an average of two or three months. The extra time, Mukherjee found, adds up to an increase of about $3,000 in additional costs per prisoner. Mukherjee also noted that inmates housed in private prisons were more likely to wind up back in the system after being released—despite industry claims of lower recidivism rates.

The study, which compares length of stays in private and public prisons, is not the first to highlight strategies undertaken by the private prison industry to raise returns for stockholders. Last year, Christopher Petrella, a researcher at the University of California-Berkeley, accused the Corrections Corporation of America of including provisions in its contracts with governments to keep the most costly inmates—those with health issues—from being transferred to its prisons. Through open records requests, Petrella found there were 14 different exclusion criteria, including disabled or elderly inmates, those who were HIV-positive, or anyone with "sensitive medical conditions and/or high risk diagnoses."

Today, the $5 billion private prison industry houses close to 20 percent of federal inmates.

Looking specifically at California prisons, Petrella highlights how health expenditures are among the largest costs, second only to security, and account for 31 percent of the overall budget. But, private prisons set up contracts that say they only will house the youngest, healthiest—and cheapest—prisoners.

These details, Petrella writes, failed to make their way into a Temple University cost analysis often cited by the industry as proof that privatization produces cost savings. The economists behind the study were funded by three of the largest prison companies in the United States—a fact they failed to disclose when the study was first published.

Other studies have had similar findings: An analysis by the Arizona Department of Corrections in 2011 found that most prisoners were no less costly when housed in private prisons, and that some cost up to $1,600 more each year than those in public prisons. A cost analysis by the University of Utah in 2007 showed cost savings from private prisons were minimal at best.

Between 2000 and 2010 the number of inmates serving sentences in private prisons doubled. Today, the $5 billion industry houses close to 20 percent of federal prisoners and about 7 percent of state prisoners, and private prisons are increasingly being used as immigration detention centers.

*The time period of the data has been corrected.

Ben Carson Barely Has a Campaign and He's Still Winning

I know, I know—it's early.

| Tue Jun. 16, 2015 1:17 PM EDT

Ben Carson's presidential campaign is in chaos. His deputy campaign manager quit to return to his farm. His general counsel just went on a safari. His campaign chairman left almost as soon as Carson announced his candidacy to work on a pro-Carson super-PAC—one of three outside outfits supporting Carson's run, while at the same time competing with each other for money and volunteers. Carson, meanwhile, is continuing to travel the country giving paid speeches—an unusual move for a candidate.

He's also leading the entire Republican field, according to the most recent poll of the race from Monmouth:

Monmouth University

It's early—the first meaningful votes won't be cast until January. But Carson's strategy of not really campaigning hasn't hurt him yet. He's actually jumped four points in the polls since his non-campaign began.

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Donald Trump Is Running For President and It's Going to Be So Hilarious

Hahahahahaa.

| Tue Jun. 16, 2015 11:46 AM EDT

Here's his announcement:

Jeb Bush Named His Dog After His Brother (No, Not That One)

Mitt Romney had Seamus. Jeb Bush had Marvin.

| Tue Jun. 16, 2015 6:05 AM EDT
Marvin the dog
From a 1998 Jeb Bush Campaign Ad C-Span

When it comes to naming new family members, the Bush dynasty isn't particularly creative. There are at least three Georges, two Barbaras, and a couple of Prescotts in the family. Apparently this sort of limited imagination also applies to John Ellis "Jeb" Bush (father to a George Prescott and another John Ellis Jr.). When he was given a black Labrador a year before winning his first election as Florida governor, in 1998, Jeb opted to call the dog Marvin, after his least-famous little brother. (Perhaps this was revenge for Marvin's role in ensuring there is only one surviving photo from Jeb's 1974 wedding. As the official wedding photographer, Marvin accidentally loaded his camera with film previously used at a Frank Zappa concert.)

Marvin the dog made several appearances in Bush campaign ads, and at one point even had his own chat room (remember those?) on Jeb's campaign website when he was running for governor. But Marvin wasn't always as cooperative as the Bush children, who also featured prominently. As Bush explained in a recent Washington Post story about his former campaign advisor Mike Murphy:

"We were doing a family bio ad, the family was having a picnic, along with our beloved dog Marvin. Marvin didn’t follow the script and jumped on the table and destroyed the neatly staged picnic." Bush said Murphy "turned lemons into lemonade" and created "a real and funny" spot, "one of the better ads of its kind I've seen."

Here's the full ad:

Poor Marvin isn't around for any cameos in Jeb's presidential campaign. He expired in 2006 at the age of 11, just two days before Bush signed into law "doggie dining" legislation, allowing canines in Florida restaurants. "Now, man's best friend can enjoy Florida's fine dining too," Bush said at the time. Judging from his picnic performance, Marvin might have relished the opportunity more than most.

Contributing GIFing by AJ Vicens

Chill Out, GOP: Medical Marijuana Laws Won't Turn America's Teens Into Stoners

A new study finds few links between the legalization of medical pot use and teens lighting up.

| Mon Jun. 15, 2015 9:05 PM EDT

Concerned parents and conservative lawmakers, fear not: Laws legalizing the use of medical marijuana won't be your child's gateway into drug use, according to new research published on Monday.

By now, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of medical marijuana. The peer-reviewed study in the Lancet Psychiatry found that legalization of medical marijuana at the state level does not increase recreational pot use by teens.

Eight researchers, headed by Dr. Deborah Hasin, an epidemiology professor at Columbia medical school, analyzed the marijuana use of more than 1 million kids. The random sample was selected from respondents to Monitoring the Future, a national census that has surveyed thousands of teens about their behaviors and values annually for the past 24 years.

The team compared pot use by teens before and after their states legalized medical marijuana and did not find a significant change in use pre- versus post-legalization. Adolescent use in states where medical marijuana is legal is higher, but the study's authors point out that this disparity can be deceiving: The same states already had higher adolescent marijuana use before legislation was passed. The fact that teenage pot-smoking stayed consistent after legalization suggests that there is no causal relationship between legal medical marijuana and teens lighting up, write the authors. If anything, fewer kids are using weed: Last year, a different Monitoring the Future study reported that teen marijuana use has been trending downward since 2014. 

The Lancet study also found that after states made medical marijuana legal, there was a two percent decrease in pot use among eighth graders. This might be because "eighth graders had more modifiable attitudes and beliefs about marijuana, and were less likely to view marijuana as recreational after states authorized its use for medical purposes."

But as attitudes and laws regarding marijuana continue to evolve, so might adolescent use, the authors write, encouraging researchers to conduct additional studies over time. 

In 2015, laws to legalize medical marijuana use have failed in 17 states. So, this debate is far from over, but if this research is any indication, it may be time to put the youth corruption angle to rest.

Document Reveals CIA May Have Violated Its Own Policy Against Human Experimentation

| Mon Jun. 15, 2015 6:22 PM EDT

The CIA's use of waterboarding and other forms of torture in recent years may have violated one of the intelligence agency's own rules regarding human experimentation, according to a recently declassified CIA document.

Document AR 2-2, titled "Law and policy governing the conduct of intelligence activities," was obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the American Civil Liberties Union and published on Monday by the Guardian. Dating back to 1987, but still in effect today, the document prohibits the CIA from conducting research on human subjects without those subjects' informed consent. Physicians and human-rights experts interviewed by the Guardian said the CIA may have crossed the line into human experimentation by requiring doctors to be present during the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" of its torture program, in part to ensure that detainees had the physical resiliency to withstand further abuse. It seems highly unlikely that detainees who were subjected to waterboarding, rectal feeding, and mock executions consented to participate in those procedures.

According to the ACLU, other sections of the document govern CIA activities including surveillance of Americans, contracts with academic institutions, and relations with the media. For a full analysis, check out the Guardian's report, or read the document below (see page 18 for details on human experimentation). And if you can't quite remember the shocking details of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report last December on CIA torture, watch a refresher here, courtesy of John Oliver and Helen Mirren.