By Robert A. Vella
While President Trump continues his systematic assault on the health and welfare of the American people particularly against minorities and the poor, Republicans are paying a price for defending him. Those costs are very real, but are often intangible or difficult to see. Today’s post offers further insight into their internal struggles. Across Europe, most notably in Germany and Italy, protests have broken out against the rise of far-right extremism, inaction on climate change, and the commercialization of Black Friday.
The assault on public health and welfare
A multimillion-dollar federal study on toxic chemicals in drinking water across the country is facing delays because of a dispute within the Trump administration, according to several people involved in the study or who have knowledge of the process.
The dispute has implications for more than half a dozen communities where drinking water has been heavily contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Concerns about the chemicals have exploded nationally in recent years, following decades of PFAS use in products including non-stick cookware, water-resistant clothing, food packaging, carpets and military firefighting foams. Scientists say significant delays could limit the effectiveness of the study.
The unregulated chemicals are known to exist at some level in the drinking water of tens of millions of Americans, with one estimate placing the number as high as 110 million. The chemicals are also the subject of “Dark Waters,” a film released in November starring Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway.
Three proposed rule changes by the Trump administration could cause millions of poor people to lose access to food stamps and decrease the size of the benefit for millions more.
Over the past year, the Department of Agriculture proposed three changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP or food stamps. The new rules create stricter work requirements for program eligibility, cap deductions for utility allowances and “reform” the way 40 states automatically enroll families into SNAP when they receive other forms of federal aid.
A study by the Urban Institute released this week examined the three rules in combination for the first time and found that 3.7 million fewer people would receive SNAP in an average month, 2.2 million households would see their average monthly benefits drop by $127, more than 3 million others would see an average drop of $37 per month, and 982,000 students would lose access to free or reduced lunches.
The price of defending Trump
Former Republican congressman Charlie Dent said Thursday some of his former colleagues in the House of Representatives have privately told him they are “absolutely disgusted and exhausted by the President’s behavior.”
Dent told CNN’s Ana Cabrera on “Newsroom” that House Republicans are standing with the President at the moment because of base pressure, but said “they resent being put in this position all the time.”
“Moving from one corrupt act to another,” Dent said. “I mean those types of head-exploding moments are just I think infuriating these members and I think they’d like to step out but they just can’t because of their base at the moment.”
A prime chairmanship is poised to come open in the Senate next year. The problem? No GOP senators seem to want it.
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) is set to retire in approximately a month, creating an opening atop the Senate Ethics Committee, a behind-the-scenes panel responsible for enforcing standards of behavior for senators and their staff and investigating potential violations of federal law or the Senate’s rules.
Protests across Europe
VERONA, Italy—Thousands of people packed a central square of this city Thursday night in the latest rally by self-styled “sardines,” a grass-roots protest movement that is targeting Italy’s rising far-right politician, Matteo Salvini.
The sardines want to prevent the possibility that Mr. Salvini’s nativist League party could take power in Italy. Their strategy is to organize quiet flash mobs that cram the piazzas of Italian cities, like the eponymous fish. Their gatherings have disrupted Mr. Salvini’s own campaign efforts to win over Italian towns, one piazza at a time. There are almost 40 sardine protests planned across Italy in the next few weeks.
People from different walks of life gathered Thursday in Verona carrying handmade placards depicting colored, even sparkling, sardines. Their main complaint is against the climate of hatred that they say Mr. Salvini is fostering in the country.
Germany’s far-right AfD party is poised to rejuvenate its leadership on Saturday at a congress hit by massive protests, with its increasingly influential radical wing seeking to tighten its grip on the group.
The anti-migrant party’s extremists have the upper hand after electoral gains in eastern regions in September and October that have caused widespread domestic and international alarm.
Underlining the polarising effect the party has on Germany, thousands of protesters gathered outside the congress hall in the city of Braunschweig in a noisy demonstration against what they call a racist party.