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The Justice Department is breathing new life into the Eric Garner case.

According to The New York Times, FBI agents tasked with investigating the case have been replaced with agents from outside of New York, a decision that could propel the stalled case forward.

Garner’s death at the hands of Staten Island police in July 2014—made infamous by a video showing Garner being placed into a chokehold and saying, “I can’t breathe”—fueled national protests over police brutality against black men. A medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, but the Richmond County grand jury decided not to indict the officers that December. That day, the Justice Department decided to charge the individual officers.

Since then, the case has reportedly been slowed by disagreements over whether the officers violated Garner’s civil rights. Prosecutors in Brooklyn oppose the charges, while the Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C., says the video clearly shows evidence of a civil rights violation.

While this shake-up could move the investigation forward, precedent does not bode well for those seeking justice on Garner’s behalf. Most recently, Baltimore State’s Attorney General Marilyn J. Mosby dropped the remaining charges against officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray, after three of the six officers were acquitted.

March 29, 2017

Britpop was bad.

Twenty-three years after Blur’s Parklife, Britpop doesn’t need another takedown, or commemoration, or really anything more said about it. Which makes Pitchfork’s list of the 50 Best Britpop Albums an odd document: Why now? Does anyone in the world need to be reminded of the ultimate mediocrity of Oasis, or the fact that Blur’s best work was actually in the 2000s, or the existence of Suede?

The answer may just be existential. Since being bought by Condé Nast, Pitchfork has continued its stylistic evolution. Its reviews have gotten sharper and less irritating and the site has published some truly outstanding features, but it’s also leaned into more questionable, click-driven content like the completely baffling and extraneous “50 Best Indie Albums of the Pacific Northwest” and the culturally damaging “Here Is the Scandalous Father John Misty Interview You’ve Been Waiting For.” This is, of course, what digital publications do.

Pitchfork knows that its lists—many of which are good!—prime the pump. Could they have waited until the 25th anniversary of Parklife? Probably! But that would mean that Britpop’s waning influence would have been waning for two more years.

Anyway, back to Britpop. Part of the weirdness of the list is that 50 whole albums stretches things way too far. Including The Bends as a Britpop album is a pretty great neg of Radiohead, even if it would have been better if The Bends had been beaten out by either of Oasis’s two not-terrible albums. (The fact that Oasis is perhaps the least charismatic band in rock history is not addressed by Pitchfork. Neither is their strange devotion to parkas—they’re weirdly depicted wearing trenchcoats in the Sgt. Pepper-ish art accopmanying the feature.) Morrissey has not one but two albums in the top 50! While “Tomorrow” sounds like Morrissey doing Britpop, it also sounds like Morrissey, who is not Britpop—this is definitely a category error.

The accompanying playlist does a decent job arguing that Britpop was more than a marketing gimmick for Britain’s fading glory, Union Jack-themed merchandise, and the Glastonbury tourism board, but it still struggles to make the case that Britpop was a genre and not an irritating mix of shoegaze flange and power pop songcraft.

The other problem is that most of the music is bad. I was watching the video for Cornershop’s annoying “Brimful of Asha,” only for Deep Blue Something’s “Breakfast at Tiffanys” to autoplay when the song finished—as if YouTube really wanted to make it clear that “Brimful of Asha” was a bad song. Ash sounds like if the Ramones had frontal lobotomies; you can hear Coldplay being born in the Verve’s depthless self-importance; and a surprising number of these bands sound like the Goo Goo Dolls. If Anton Newcombe, the insane frontman of the mediocre Brian Jonestown Massacre, had founded the band in Surrey instead of San Francisco, he would have released a string of #1 records and live in a giant penthouse apartment in Kensington, instead of doing whatever it is he’s doing now.

There are some highlights. Elastica’s first album rules and so does most of Blur (though Blur doesn’t get really good until after Britpop was buried in a shallow grave). Oasis’s popularity makes sense when put in the context of the mediocrity of mid-90s music. And when Pulp, the British LCD Soundsystem, are good, they are really fucking good.

Sleeper also remains underrated. But that doesn’t change the fact that Britpop sucks.

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The Trump Organization is planning to expand its hotel empire, which surely is just a coincidence.

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that President Donald Trump’s company is readying a “nationwide expansion,” including a second hotel in Washington, D.C.:

Representatives of the Trump Organization, now run by the president’s adult sons, have inquired in recent months about converting one of several boutique, medium-sized hotels in upscale neighborhoods in and near downtown and reopening it under the company’s new Scion brand.

Unlike the luxurious Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, which Trump and his family own, the more affordable Scion hotels would be owned by other developers who would pay the Trumps’ company for licensing rights and management.

The head of the Trump Organization’s hotel division told the Post that he’s signed “over 30” preliminary agreements for similar licensing deals around the country, suggesting the Trump brand name might not be as commercially toxic as some reports have suggested.

A second D.C. hotel would give Trump even more opportunity to personally profit by doing business in the nation’s capital. The existing Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue is raising ethics concerns for providing paying guests—including foreign diplomats—with proximity to the president, who makes routine visits. Though Trump turned over management of the Trump Organization to his adult children, he is still the owner, and thus would profit from the planned Scion expansion.

As this latest news proves, Trump’s rapid ascent in politics has been good for business. “Donald Trump Jr. said in an interview recently that he familiarized himself with other markets—and potential partners—while on the campaign trail for his father,” the Post reported. “The sons have said they are minimizing contact with their father except to provide basic updates on the business.”

Those “basic updates,” however, include quarterly financial reports about the company—so President Trump will know exactly how well his self-enrichment scheme is going.

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The Mercers will spend millions to try to save Trump’s presidency.

Bloomberg reported this morning that the Mercer family, the cat-loving billionaires who helped get Trump elected to the White House, are reaching into their deep, deep wallets to try to bail Trump out. (If you want to know more about the Mercers, Jane Mayer’s latest is a must-read.) Making America Great, the non-profit run by Rebekah Mercer, the Mercer daughter dubbed “First Lady of the alt-right,” is reportedly spending $1 million in TV ads and $300,000 in digital campaigns to boost Trump. According to Bloomberg, they are focusing their money in D.C., along with “ten states Trump carried in the presidential election where a Democratic senator is up for re-election in 2018.”

The ads run through his purported accomplishments: the new job numbers, reducing EPA regulations, Keystone XL, and withdrawing from TPP. Health care, of course, is not mentioned.

With an impressively low approval rating of 36 percent, the president needs all the help he can get. It only looks like it’s going to get worse for the biggest boy in the land—the hole that the administration has dug with Russia is getting deeper, not helped by Devin Nunes’s latest bungles. And, staring down the barrel of a potential government shutdown next month, Trump might have to stall on plans to build the wall, his other big campaign promise to his voters.

The Mercers have their work cut out for them. But don’t underestimate the power of literal bags of money. After all, last time the Mercers invested in politics, they pulled off the biggest dark money swindle this country has seen and put Trump—along with Mercer buddies Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway—into the Oval Office.

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It’s amazing that Britain is going to spend the next two years doing this crap.

Theresa May, keeper of one of the best chains in the rap game, formally began Brexit on Wednesday by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The divorce proceedings between Great Britain and the EU must now end in two years. “This is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back. Britain is leaving the European Union. We are going to make our own decisions and our own laws,” May said.“We are going to take control of the things that matter most to us. And we are going to take this opportunity to build a stronger, fairer Britain—a country that our children and grandchildren are proud to call home.”

This, of course, conveniently overlooks the fact that young Britons voted overwhelmingly—by a 3-1 margin—to remain in the European Union.

Immediately after the surprise vote to leave the European Union in July, there was some hope that those who wished to remain in the EU would be able to ultimately prevail and stop the divorce. But that never came to pass (to be fair, neither did the recession many predicted).

Nigel Farage, the living embodiment of every imaginable British stereotype (particularly the colonial ones), is happy and that’s never a good thing.

Despite the hopes of May and Farage, leaving the EU will be a costly process, sucking up valuable resources that could be spent in less self-destructive ways. The list of things that must be done is daunting, including fashioning a whole new immigration system and negotiating a new treaty with the EU. It will also be a lengthy one—two years is a long time to continuously punch yourself in the face.

It’s tempting to feel superior in moments like this, but Brexit will theoretically be over on March 29, 2019. We’ll have to wait another 20 months for our version to Brexit to (maybe) end.

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Devin Nunes’s defense of Trump might lead to an ethics investigation.

At a press conference last Tuesday Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said, “First, I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions, the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition. Details about persons associated with the incoming administration, details with little apparent foreign intelligence value, were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting. Third, I have confirmed that additional names of Trump transition team members were unmasked. And fourth and finally, I want to be clear, none of this surveillance was related to Russia, or the investigation of Russian activities, or of the Trump team.”

These words, and follow-up comments in which Nunes confirmed the existence of foreign surveillance warrants, revealed classified information. As such, they seem to put Nunes at odds with the rules of the House Intelligence Committee. Citing legal experts, the Daily Beast notes that Nunes might have run afoul of rules stating, “The Committee on Ethics shall investigate any unauthorized disclosure of intelligence or intelligence-related information.”

If Nunes does in fact have to answer to an investigation, that could intensify the push from members of both parties to have him recuse himself from the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with the Russian government during the last election.

March 28, 2017

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Uber’s first diversity report confirms what we already know: It’s bro heaven.

The ride-sharing company has been in extended damage control mode. Its reputation has taken a steady beating in recent months for workplace harassment and corporate espionage charges, not to mention the apparent (and potentially lethal) failure of its self-driving vehicles. But the company’s diversity report, released Tuesday, does little to dispel the image of the company as a white male–dominated bro-zone. It isn’t a surprise that a company whose CEO once called it “Boob’er” (because it helped him get dates) would not be able to transform its culture overnight. Still, the numbers illuminate how pervasive its diversity problem is.

Before we can even get to the numbers, the report foreshadows how its efforts might go south. The names of the “employee resource groups” tasked with addressing diversity concerns appear to burden the very people most affected by Uber’s lack of diversity. UberHUE (for black diversity and inclusion), Los Ubers (for Latino and Hispanic employees), UberABLE (for employees with disabilities)—you get the picture. If this is the beginning of efforts to transform the company culture, then perhaps these names should also be sent to the chopping block.

Now for the numbers: Uber’s global tech leadership is nearly 90 percent male, and in the U.S. it is 75 percent white. It isn’t much better across the board, as men hold a staggering 85 percent of tech jobs all over the world; in the U.S., just 1 percent of its tech workforce identified as black and 2 percent as Hispanic. Men hold more than two-thirds of the jobs in the U.S. workforce alone.

True to its macho roots, the company’s new human resources officer spun the company’s travails to The New York Times in blindingly aggressive terms: “Every strength, in excess, is a weakness.” There was no word, of course, on the diversity numbers of Uber’s massive driver fleet, which the company does not count as its employees.

Mark Wilson / Staff

Appalachia is trying to diversify its economy. Trump isn’t helping.

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) announced today that it has invested a further $2.4 million to support economic diversification projects in its service area. According to an official press release, ARC has now invested $75.5 million to help the region transition from a coal-dominated mono-economy to a more robust economic environment.

ARC could do more if it was properly funded. From the press release:

Since March 2016, when ARC first announced funding availability through the POWER Initiative, the Commission has received more than $280 million in funding requests for ideas to revitalize Appalachia’s economy.  With funds made available to date, the Commission has been able to fund only one-quarter of these proposals.

These funds help local diversification projects, often started by grassroots environmental activists determined to help their communities survive the death of coal. And that death is inevitable, despite Trump’s executive order today, which he claims will bring coal jobs back. 

The order won’t save coal. The industry has been in decline since World War II due to a combination of factors that include competition from other energy industries and automation. The latter problem isn’t likely to disappear; in fact, it’s probably going to get worse. Coal is reaching the end of its poisonous life, and Trump’s so-called “Energy Independence” order effectively sentences Appalachia to more poverty. 

It also sentences the region to more environmental degradation: The order rolls back environmental regulations that banned the development of coal mines on public land.

As Virginia Senator Mark Warner tweeted earlier this afternoon, there is another way for Trump to help miners: 

If miners are that important to him and to the GOP, they’d get behind the Act—and fund ARC instead of threatening to kill it. But Trump doesn’t care about miners, and neither does the GOP. They care about coal companies, they care about profit, and they care about using these people as political props. The Energy Independence order will destroy the communities ARC is trying to save. 

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Fox News is making a habit of racist attacks on Maxine Waters.

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly mocked the California congresswoman on Tuesday during a Fox & Friends segment about remarks she had made against President Donald Trump on the House floor. As footage showed Waters talking earnestly about the dangers Trump poses to democracy, O’Reilly mugged for the camera in a split-screen, patronizingly mouthing “that’s right” and “right on.” He pumped his fist and smiled smugly. Then, when the clip ended, O’Reilly declared, “I didn’t hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig.”

The “wig,” of course, is Waters’s hair. Co-host Ainsley Earhardt challenged O’Reilly for “going after a woman’s looks,” but it only got worse from there.

“I love James Brown,” O’Reilly said, “but it’s the same hair James Brown—the godfather of soul—had. Whatever it is I just couldn’t get by it.”

Perhaps feeling defensive, he then went on a condescending riff about how Waters is “a sincere individual—whatever she says she believes. She’s not a phony, and that’s old school. We’re giving Maxine a break here.”

Hardly. O’Reilly may have had playful intent—he professed to love Waters before the segment ended—but it’s totally disrespectful. (Update: O’Reilly has reportedly apologized.)

This isn’t the first time Fox News has used racism to mock Waters. In 2012, The Five co-host Eric Bolling said this about her: “Congresswoman, you saw what happened to Whitney Houston. Step away from the crack pipe. Step away from the Xanax.”

Donald Trump eats salad?

At the White House press briefing today, Sean Spicer delivered what was clearly a rehearsed quip to respond to questions about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. “If the president puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that’s a Russian connection,” Spicer asserted.

His joke fell flat for a variety of reasons. First, it’s hard to imagine Donald Trump eating salad, given his generally unhealthy diet. Second, in trying to underscore the point, he became belligerent and rude to reporter April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks. “Report the facts!” Spicer commanded. “I’m sorry that disgusts you. You’re shaking your head.” While Spicer tried to joke it off, it’s almost as if this whole Russia story is hitting close to home.

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The White House says it’s “not familiar” with the economic impacts of climate change.

The whole reason President Donald Trump is releasing a wide-ranging executive order today to dismantle a bunch of America’s climate change policies is because he says it will be good for the economy. On a call with reporters Monday night to discuss the executive order, one unnamed senior White House official said Trump is “not going to pursue climate or environmental policies that put the U.S. economy at risk.”

But when this official was pressed with the fact that climate change poses grave economic risks of its own, he froze. “I’m not familiar with what you’re talking about,” he said, challenging the reporter to show him the research. Here’s the full exchange:

REPORTER: What about all the scientists who are saying climate change is going to have adverse economic consequences—things like rising sea levels, more hazardous hurricanes—how do you address those economic arguments?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, you’ll have to talk to those scientists.  Maybe I can talk to you afterward.  I’m not familiar with what you’re talking about.  But again, the President’s policy is very clear about addressing—making sure we’re addressing the economy, providing people with jobs, and we’re making sure that EPA is sticking to its core mission.

REPORTER: Are you saying you’re not aware that scientists are concerned about rising sea levels or more violent storms might impact the economy—

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would want to see the research.  Sure, that would be good.  Show it to me.

Think about this for a second. The Trump administration is unraveling the best chance we have at slowing human-caused climate change, solely because he says it will improve the economy. But Trump’s advisers have apparently not considered how climate change’s impacts on agricultural productivity, human health, and property value will hurt the economy. Hell, they’re not even “familiar” with the idea that it might.  

This isn’t just some environmental talking point: Huge public companies regularly file risk disclosures saying climate change threatens their bottoms lines. Big insurance companies like Allianz, Liberty Mutual, and SwissRe warn the government must prepare for climate-fueled extreme weather events to avoid passing costs on to them. In the 2014 report “Risky Business,” bigwigs like billionaire Michael Bloomberg and former Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson warn of dire economic consequences if warming isn’t tackled. By 2050, it says $106 billion worth of coastal property could sink below sea level, while crop yields could be reduced by up to 70 percent in some states because of extreme heat.

For a presidential administration that is basing its climate policy on the idea that it’s good for the American economy, these seem like ridiculous things to not be “familiar with.”