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Nominee Samuel Alito and aide, with beaming Martha behind, during his 2006 Senate confirmation hearings.

Shame, Shame, Shame: Martha-Ann Is An Ungodly Piece of Work

Amidst an ever-more toxic, loopy MAGA world, it turns out fascist-flag-flying, puerile-grudge-holding, venomous avatar of angry-white-lady privilege Martha-Ann Alito fits right in. In new undercover recordings, the bigoted wife of SCOTUS miscreant Sam Alito implausibly sounds worse than he is. She whines, "I have to look at the Pride flag for the next month," boasts of her deeply vindictive Nazi roots, and vows, "You come after me, I’m gonna give it back to you." Sweet Jesus these are ghastly people.

Oblivious of their own ghastliness, MAGA lickspittles were nauseatingly happy to welcome their 34-felon leader for a "pep talk" in his first visit to the capitol since he tried to burn it down. After they serenaded him with "Happy Birthday," he reportedly rambled like a "drunk uncle": He called Milwaukee, site of this year's GOP convention, "a horrible city," and claimed one of Nancy Pelosi's four "wacko" daughters suggested, "If things were different, Nancy and I would be perfect together" - to which one daughter, Christine, swiftly responded, "Speaking for all 4 Pelosi daughters – this is a LIE. Trump is unwell, unhinged and unfit" to hold office. Cringey Mike Johnson fawned over His Majesty's visit: “He said very complimentary things about all of us. We had sustained applause. He said I’m doing a very good job. We’re grateful for that.”

Meanwhile, the Grifter-In-Chief sends out endless hyperbolic money pleas - "I Am A Political Prisoner!" "Haul Out the Guillotine!" - that George Conway dubs "astonishing to behold...There does not seem to be any depth to which the Trump campaign will not sink." In response to his whining, Ted Lieu lists the legal status of multiple Trump cronies - campaign manager, political adviser, lawyer etc - "Felon" - and notes, "It is not the fault of the DOJ that Trump surrounded himself with criminals." Also, morons: See shrieky Klan Mom and energy expert MTG, who at a recent rally squawked to the ignorant crowd, "You think gas prices are high now?! Just wait till you're forced to drive an electric vee-hick-ull!" Stunned, bovine pause, followed by loyal "BOOO!" and "NOOO!" to which she lifts her hands in the triumphant air. "Exactly!" she exclaims. "America is sick of it!"

Then came Martha-Ann, whom one astute political observer deems "a straight-up piece of shit." Recently, she and Justice (sic) Alito have faced a firestorm over insurrectionist-and-Christo-fascist-themed flags - nothing to see here - they flew at two of their who-knows-how-many homes; with his usual grace, Sam then quickly threw his wife under the flag-flying bus. Now, thanks to audio secretly recorded by liberal filmmaker Lauren Windsor, posing as a Christian conservative at the annual Supreme Court Historical Society dinner, we know Martha-Ann clearly deserves her fate. Windsor had already posted audio of him declaring the country must return to "a place of godliness," and for that to happen, "One side or the other is going to win" - never mind all that quaint malarkey about equal, impartial, dispassionate justice before the law.

A few days later, Windsor posted the audio of Martha-Ann "unfurled," a vengeful, bitter, unhinged screed evincing what one observer called "a more catty Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf vibe." It also bore so much haughty, may-I-speak-to-the-manager entitlement many suggested she's "out-Karened all the Karens...We need to give Karens a break and pass the torch to Martha-Ann." First reported by Rolling Stone, Alito responded to Windsor's faux sympathy about media coverage of the flag issue with, "It's OK, because if they come back to me, I’ll get them." Bewailing, "I have to look across the lagoon at the Pride flag for the next month," she launched into a furious tirade about all the flags she plans to fly, she told her husband, "when you are free of this nonsense" - a time, we admit, we likewise look forward to.

For years, Martha-Ann has reportedly feuded with other D.C. elites who found her too much of a theocratic nutjob and right-wing ideologue even for them: "It's like you turned National Review into a single person." Her animus runs deep and long: She's nursed a two-decade grudge against a WaPo style reporter who once trashed her outfit, and she allegedly spit on a neighbor who cited their political differences. Somehow, it all comes down to flags. "You know what I want?" she spat to Windsor. "I want a Sacred Heart of Jesus flag. I'm putting it up and I’m gonna send them a message every day...I designed a flag in my head. This is how I satisfy myself. It’s white and has yellow and orange flames around it. And in the middle is the word ‘vergogna.’ ‘Vergogna’- in Italian it means shame. V-E-R-G-O-G-N-A. Vergogna. "Shame, shame, shame on you."

What would Jesus do? Maybe not tell a stranger at a dinner party "there is no negotiating with the radical left," the "feminazis (can) go to hell," and it's time to overturn democracy because they "have to look at a rainbow flag for 30 (days) in a year at one of their houses." Then again, Jesus was Palestinian, not German. "Look at me," she orders Windsor. "I’m German. I’m from Germany. My heritage is German. You come after me, I’m gonna give it back to you. There will be a way they will know. God - you read the Bible. Psalm 27 is my psalm. Mine. 'The Lord is my God and my rock. Of whom shall I be afraid?' Nobody." In the audio, it's unclear if she clicks her jackboots together at the end. What is clear: "The Nazis played the long game and got one of their own installed on the Supreme Court...They are every damn thing they say their enemies are."

"They feel, they don't think," says Alito of those who dare to support abortion or same-sex marriage as she vows vengeance on them by flying flaming flags she designs to "satisfy myself." Of her bonkers "vergogna" rant, Windsor says she "definitely did not see that coming." But she dismisses "pearl-clutching" critics of her covert recording, arguing Alito is a public figure who "gives a window" into the view of one of five theocratic extremists on a Court "shrouded in secrecy" and stubbornly defying accountability in the face of million-dollar ethical lapses. "I am a fan of accountability," she says. "I think (if) people in positions of power...refuse to be held accountable, it warrants taking measures you might not otherwise take (to) force a conversation about what’s at stake." "Fascists," says one pundit, "should never be allowed to rest comfortably among us."

The most important thing in his life - his husband and their kids - "only exists by the grace of a single vote on the Supreme Court," notes Pete Buttigieg. Given their "unbelievable amount of power," it's only reasonable to expect justices to "enter into those enormously consequential decisions that shape our everyday lives with a sense of fairness." Not, of course, today, with a right wing SCOTUS - toss in other right-wing judges, state and federal lawmakers, DeFascist governors, school boards and grievance-laden, take-no-prisoners others intent on doing everything they can to upend decades of progress, impose their hates and fears on the rest of us, and usher in a Christian theocracy to enable their "side" to "win." Joan Walsh on the ugly ravings of Martha-Ann Alito: "She brings vergogna - shame - upon her family and the Court."

smoke billowing from factories behind river

'People Are Dying': Air in 'Cancer Alley' Louisiana More Toxic Than Previously Thought

The presence of a dangerous chemical in the air of southeast Louisiana's "Cancer Alley," which has a substantial Black population, is far greater than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated and exceeds safe limits, a study published Tuesday found.

The levels of ethylene oxide, exposure to which can cause lung, breast, or other cancers, are nine times higher than the EPA estimated, the study, which was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, shows. Ethylene oxide is a gas used in plastic production and in the sterilization of medical equipment. Long-term exposure is exceptionally dangerous: The EPA regards it as unsafe, due to cancer risk, at a level above about 11 parts per trillion (ppt) in the air.

The new study found that the gas' presence averaged about 31 ppt in Cancer Alley, and was far higher in certain locations within the industrial corridor, which runs alongside the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to New Orleans. In each of the census tracts the researchers studied, the level of the gas was higher than the EPA had estimated for that area, in most cases significantly, with a median discrepancy of about 21 ppt.

"We expected to see ethylene oxide in this area," Peter DeCarlo, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University and an author of the study, toldThe Guardian, noting that it was "worrisome," especially for children. "But we didn't expect the levels that we saw, and they certainly were much, much higher than EPA's estimated levels."

Concentrations of ethylene oxide could be much higher "inside the fenceline" of petrochemical plants—areas which couldn't be studied—where workers are "getting much, much higher concentrations over the course of their day," DeCarlo toldGrist.

People in Cancer Alley are nearly twice as likely to get cancer as other Americans, and ethylene oxide accounts for most of the known carcinogenic risk there, roughly 68%, if EPA estimates are correct. "The fact that so much of the environmental risk in this area seems to come from a single chemical is remarkable," the study authors wrote.

DeCarlo said this is why the authors deemed it important to study the amount of ethylene oxide in the air there. However, he cautioned that ethylene oxide is far from the only problem.

"The reality is people aren't just breathing ethylene oxide, they are breathing a whole soup of chemicals," he told The Guardian. "When you start to add everything up it becomes a much more problematic picture."

The risk to human health is likely not limited to facilities that are emitting ethylene oxide, as the researchers found plumes of gas that were miles long. East Ascension High School in Gonzales, Louisiana, is about five miles from an ethylene oxide hotspot, the study notes.

In 2021, United Nations experts called for an end to environmental racism in Cancer Alley, and the organization's special rapporteur on the issue of human rights called the area a "sacrifice zone" the following year. In January, Human Rights Watch released a report on systemic injustice there.

Sharon Lavigne, the founder of Rise St. James, a community organization in St. James Parish, said the findings were a "step in the right direction" but must lead to accountability and change.

"These monitors are good, but in the meantime, people are dying," she toldGrist.

Earlier this year, the EPA announced new ethylene oxide rules that could cut Louisiana emissions of the gas by nearly 80%—"the first time that federal regulations for chemical plants have been updated in decades," Gristreported in April. Cancer Alley had been among the places that EPA Administrator Michael Regan visited on his 2021 "Journey to Justice" tour. Yet the new study may lead to calls for further action.

"The EPA's new rule was necessary but should only be the start of how we begin to make things right here," Heather McTeer Toney, who leads a Bloomberg Philanthropies campaign to end petrochemical plant expansion, told Grist. "I'm hopeful to see levels go down, but the data suggest we have a long way to go."

Sarah Anderson

'We Should All Be Angry' That Corporations Spent Trump Tax Windfall on Buybacks: Expert

An economic policy expert told the Senate Budget Committee on Wednesday that Americans should be outraged that large corporations funneled their massive gains from the 2017 Trump-GOP tax law into stock buybacks, further enriching executives and wealthy shareholders while skimping on worker pay.

"Whether you were for or against the 2017 tax cuts, I think we should all be angry that corporations took their tax windfalls and spent a trillion dollars of it in 2018 on stock buybacks instead of on worker wages or innovation," Sarah Anderson, director of the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, said during a Senate Budget Committee hearing titled, "Making Wall Street Pay Its Fair Share: Raising Revenue, Strengthening Our Economy."

Watch Anderson's testimony:

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) noted in an analysis earlier this year that during the first four years after former President Donald Trump's tax cuts took effect, the country's largest corporations collectively spent $2.72 trillion repurchasing their own shares—more than they spent "on investments in plants, equipment, or software that might have created new jobs and grown the economy."

In written testimony submitted to the Senate Budget Committee for Wednesday's hearing, Anderson pointed to data from the Congressional Research Service showing that U.S. corporations spent $1 trillion total on stock buybacks during the first year of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which took effect in 2018. That year, U.S. billionaires paid a lower effective tax rate than working-class Americans for the first time in the country's history.

"S&P 500 firms alone spent $806 billion [on buybacks], a massive jump from the $519 billion they spent repurchasing stock in 2017," Anderson wrote. "Spending tax-cut windfalls and other profits on stock buybacks siphons resources from worker wages, R&D, and other productive investments that stimulate long-term growth. Analysts have documented the association between buybacks and worker layoffs, as well as reduced capital investment and innovation and wage stagnation."

In a Wednesday op-ed forCommon Dreams, Labor Institute executive director Les Leopold pointed out that John Deere, for example, has spent $12.2 billion on stock buybacks over the last two years alone while simultaneously slashing hundreds of jobs and offshoring production.

Leopold blasted the practice as "a blatant form of stock manipulation that was illegal until deregulated by the Reagan administration."

"For too long, Wall Street lobbyists have wielded excessive power to shape our tax code."

Wednesday's hearing was held following fresh reports that congressional Republicans are gearing up to slash taxes for the rich and large corporations even further if they seize control of the Senate in November and Trump—the presumptive GOP presidential nominee—wins another four years in the White House.

Anderson urged senators to use the looming expiration of some provisions of the 2017 tax law as an opportunity for reforms that target corporations that pay their CEOs excessively, tax Wall Street speculation, and discourage stock buybacks. In her written testimony, Anderson noted that increasing the 1% excise tax on corporate stock buybacks to 4% would generate $238 billion in new federal revenue over the next decade.

"For too long, Wall Street lobbyists have wielded excessive power to shape our tax code in ways that allow this lucrative sector to pay far less than their fair share of all the public services and infrastructure necessary for a healthy economy," Anderson wrote. "Continuing the status quo—or returning to the pre-2017 tax code—will not be acceptable if we are to meet the public investment needs of our time and reverse our country's staggering economic and racial disparities."

Mick Mulvaney and Donald Trump

Top Former Trump Aide Mick Mulvaney Floats 'Revenge-a-Thon' Against Political Foes

"What's wrong with a little revenge?"

That's what Mick Mulvaney, former President Donald Trump's one-time acting White House chief of staff—who consumer advocate Ralph Nader once described as the twice-impeached Republican's "sadist-in-chief"—asked Tuesday in a Hillopinion column suggesting that there would be nothing unseemly if his ex-boss is reelected and decides to embark on a campaign of retribution targeting Democrats.

"Would any investigation by the next Trump administration, or by an assertive state attorney general, constitute 'revenge'? Or would it simply be applying the exact same standard to Democrats that they have applied to Donald Trump?" he asked.

"Here is my question: What is the difference between 'payback' or 'a revenge-a-thon' and simply applying the same standards to other elected officials that have now been applied to Trump?" Mulvaney wrote.

"Put another way: Now that Democrats in law enforcement have established a new standard for what justifies a criminal indictment of a former elected official or a current candidate for office, what is wrong with having Republican law enforcement apply those exact same standards to Democratic officials and candidates?" he added.

Mulvaney continued:

Don't get me wrong. I abhor the fact that the standard for pursuing government leaders has been lowered so dramatically. I cringe at what precedents Trump Derangement Syndrome is bringing to our politics and civic institutions. I am extraordinarily worried over the Machiavellian trails the left is blazing in order to 'get Trump.'

But they have set the standard now. They lowered the bar. It is now not only acceptable but praiseworthy to charge a former president of the United States with 34 felonies for a bookkeeping discrepancy of which he may not even have been fully aware.

It's not just the 34 felonies in connection with hush money payments to cover up alleged extramarital affairs for which Trump was found guilty last month by a New York jury his legal team helped select. The presumptive 2024 GOP nominee also faces 54 additional federal and state criminal charges over his alleged mishandling of classified documents—including at least one file related to a foreign nation's nuclear capabilities—and his role in trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election and fomenting the January 6 Capitol insurrection.

Trump argues that he should be shielded by presidential immunity from charges in the election cases. A ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court—to which he appointed three of the six right-wing justices—is forthcoming.

Last week, a Georgia appeals court paused proceedings in the election interference case against Trump and other defendants until an appellate panel determines whether the prosecuting district attorney should be disqualified for an alleged conflict of interest.

Trump has attempted to brush off last month's conviction by disparaging the prosecution and jury and declaring that the "real verdict is going to be November 5 by the people," a reference to Election Day.

The former president also raised eyebrows last week by threatening to imprison political opponents including the president, First Lady Jill Biden, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Last November, Trump was accused of using Nazi rhetoric when he vowed to "root out" those he described as "radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country" if he's elected this year.

Abortion rights supporters demonstrate outside the U.S. Supreme Court

Rights Defenders 'Relieved' But 'Not Celebrating' Supreme Court Abortion Pill Ruling

While welcoming the U.S. Supreme Court's unanimous decision to preserve access to mifepristone, a medication commonly used for abortion care, rights advocates on Thursday also stressed that the six conservative justices who reversed Roe v. Wade are no allies to reproductive freedom.

"We are relieved by this outcome, but we are not celebrating," said Destiny Lopez, acting co-CEO of the Guttmacher Institute. "From the start, this case was rooted in bad faith and lacking any basis in facts or science. This case never should have reached our nation's top court in the first place and the Supreme Court made the only reasonable decision by leaving access to medication abortion using mifepristone unchanged."

"Mifepristone is safe, effective, and essential."

"Mifepristone is safe, effective, and essential," Lopez continued, citing Guttmacher data that two-thirds of known U.S. abortion patients last year used medication to end their pregnancies. "Even with this baseless challenge defeated, we must remain vigilant. The anti-abortion movement is ruthlessly pursuing its end goal of banning abortion nationwide."

Two years after Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health OrganizationoverturnedRoe, "abortion is banned in 14 states and severely restricted in many more," she noted. "In the face of relentless attacks, policymakers at all levels need to keep pushing forward expansive and protective policies that ensure everyone can access abortion care using the method that best suits their needs.

The court agreed to take Food and Drug Administration v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine in December and heard arguments in March. The new opinion, written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, concludes that the anti-choice groups that were trying to cut off access to the abortion pill across the country lacked "standing to challenge FDA's actions regarding the regulation of mifepristone."

Justice Clarence Thomas penned a concurring opinion—as he did for Dobbs, when he suggested the court should also reconsider rulings that affirmed the right to use contraceptives, overturned a state law that criminalized consensual sexual activity between adults of the same sex, and enabled LGBTQ+ couples to legally marry nationwide.

The dismissal on standing "is a powerful affirmation of what we have always known: mifepristone is a safe and essential medication, and there is no legitimate medical or scientific reason why access to mifepristone should be limited," said Dr. Jamila Perritt, a Washington, D.C.-based OB-GYN who leads Physicians for Reproductive Health.

"We fought tirelessly to ensure access to mifepristone because of its critical role in reproductive healthcare and its importance in expanding abortion access for our community members, especially those living at the intersections of systemic oppression disproportionately harmed by abortion bans and restrictions," Perritt explained.

However, that fight is far from over. Like Lopez, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project director Jennifer Dalven emphasized that "we are relieved the Supreme Court didn't take this bait, but unfortunately we know that this is far from the end of the line."

"Although the court refused to allow these particular people to bring this case, anti-abortion politicians are waiting in the wings to attempt to continue pushing this case before an extremist judge in Texas in an effort to deny people access to medication abortion care," she said, calling out District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, the presumed Republican nominee for November.

While Trump has bragged about his role in reversing Roe—he appointed three of the court's six right-wing justices—Democratic President Joe Biden has campaigned on his support for reproductive rights. Like the advocates, he welcomed Thursday's ruling but also warned of "Republican elected officials' extreme and dangerous agenda to ban abortion nationwide."

With the mifepristone case settled—for now—rights defenders are shifting their focus to another forthcoming decision.

"Today, the Supreme Court did the bare minimum by rejecting this case on standing and allowing mifepristone to remain FDA-approved and without new restrictions. However, with the case returning to the district court, the fight is not over," said Planned Parenthood Federation of America president and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson. "As we breathe a sigh of relief for now, we cannot forget that the court is deciding another case about abortion this term."

That case, Dalven noted, "will determine whether politicians can force doctors to withhold emergency room care from their patients while they suffer severe, life-altering pregnancy complications."

"These cases show the extreme lengths politicians will go," she added, "to prevent people from getting the reproductive healthcare they need."

Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters gather outside of the White House

Thousands Protest Gaza Genocide in 'Red Line' White House Rally

As the Israel Defense Forces on Saturday killed over 200 more Palestinians in the Gaza Strip while rescuing four hostages taken by Hamas on October 7, thousands of anti-war protesters descended on the White House in Washington, D.C.

The rally marked not only eight months of the war but also called out U.S. President Joe Biden for his seemingly empty threat to cut off American arms and diplomatic support for the Israeli military campaign, which has killed more than 36,800 people and wounded over 83,600 in Hamas-governed Gaza since October.

Biden threatened to end U.S. support for Israel's war—which has led to a genocide case before the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court prosecutor to seek arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant—if the IDF attacked Rafah, calling it a "red line."

However, when Israeli forces began assaulting the southern Gaza city to which over a million Palestinians had fled and seized the border crossing with Egypt, further limiting the flow of desperately needed humanitarian aid, the White House claimed the actions didn't amount to crossing what critics called "the Biden administration's ever-shifting red lines."

Protesters in D.C. on Saturday held signs that said, "Genocide is our red line" and "Israel bombs, your taxes pay," The Washington Postreported. According to the newspaper:

Aiya, a George Washington University student and a leader of GW Students for Justice in Palestine, said the student activism has "really lit a fire under the Free Palestine movement, because it has pushed the bounds of what we here in the United States and the diaspora are willing to sacrifice." Before police shut it down last month, hundreds of GWU students set up a pro-Palestinian encampment—one of numerous throughout the country.

Aiya, who did not share a last name for privacy reasons, said students wanted Gazans to know they are "not alone."

"We say at campus protests, 'We will not rest till you divest,' and we mean that. We have been out here tirelessly," Aiya said. "I mean, how could we tire when we see the people of Gaza endure through literally hell on Earth?"

The protesters chanted, "From D.C. to Palestine, we are the red line," and held a red banner around the White House as a symbol of Biden's claims, which some referenced directly when detailing their reasons for joining the demonstration.

"The intention is to draw a red line where Biden won't draw one when it comes to Israel's genocide in Gaza, and say we as the people are drawing the red line today to say enough is enough," Nas Issa of the Palestinian Youth Movement toldNBC News. "It's time for an arms embargo, and it's time to end this."

Agence France-Presse also spoke with participants critical of the Biden administration for supporting the Israeli war effort as it mediates cease-fire negotiations alongside Egypt and Qatar.

"I no longer believe any of the words that Joe Biden says," explained Zaid Mahdawi, a 25-year-old protester from Virginia whose parents are Palestinian. "This 'red line' in his rhetoric is rubbish... It shows his hypocrisy and his cowardice."

Multiple protesters—including some who voted for Biden in 2020—told AFP and NBC that they won't cast ballots for the Democrat in November. None of them signaled support for former President Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, but some said they may vote for third-party or Independent candidates, who lack the support needed to beat the two major party contenders.

Polling and the "uncommitted" campaigns during state primaries have shown that Biden backing Israel's war is costing him votes. Bend the Arc: Jewish Action and the NAACP delivered similar warnings this week, with the former's CEO writing that "U.S. support for continued violence in Gaza is putting American safety and U.S. democracy in danger."

In response to the Saturday protest, Biden campaign spokesperson Seth Schuster said that the president "believes making your voice heard and participating in our democracy is fundamental to who we are as Americans."

"He shares the goal for an end to the violence and a just, lasting peace in the Middle East," Schuster added. "He's working tirelessly to that end."

While Biden was in France on Saturday for a state visit with French President Emmanuel Macron and the D-Day anniversary, a Secret Service spokesperson toldThe Hill that in anticipation of protests, "additional public safety measures including anti-scale fencing have been put in place near the White House complex."

Biden said in France that "I want to echo President Macron's comments welcoming the safe rescue of four hostages that were returned to their families in Israel. We won't stop working until all the hostages come home and a cease-fire is reached."

The White House put out a statement along the same lines—which, as the anti-war group CodePink highlighted, also did not recognize the hundreds of Palestinians killed and injured in the IDF operation at Gaza's Nuseirat refugee camp.

Speaking at the D.C. rally, CodePink East Coast organizer Krys Cerisier said that "we stand side by side with struggles across the globe to tell everybody in the White House that we can see them. We can see them for what they are, and that is war criminals, war criminals who deserve to be held accountable for the countless genocides, the countless wars, and the countless crimes they have committed against Black and brown people across the globe."

"We say no to war. We say no to bombs. We say no to mines, to planes, to tanks! We say no!" Cerisier declared. "We say yes to education! We say yes to food—to care for the community! But we say no to being led by people who only care about funding war."