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Senate Republicans agree to vote on gun control: Democratic senator

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US Democratic Senator Chris Murphy ended a blockade of the Senate after nearly 15 hours on Thursday, saying Republicans agreed to hold votes on measures to expand background checks and prevent people on U.S. terrorism watch lists from buying guns.

Democrats stalled Senate proceedings on Wednesday in a bid to push for tougher gun control legislation following Sunday’s massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and spoke on the Senate floor through out the night.

Republicans, who currently have a 54-person majority in the Senate, have over the years blocked gun control measures, saying they step on Americans’ right to bear arms as guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.

“When we began there was no commitment, no plan to debate these measures,” Murphy, of Connecticut, said during the 15th hour of the filibuster early on Thursday.

He said Democrats were given a commitment by the Senate’s Republican leadership that votes would be allowed on two measures on preventing gun sales to people on terrorism watch lists and expanding background checks.

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“No guarantee that those amendments pass but we’ll have some time to … prevail upon members to take these measures and turn them into law,” Murphy said.

With Republicans and the National Rifle Association gun lobby under pressure to respond to the massacre, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would meet with the NRA to discuss ways to block people on terrorism watch or no-fly lists from buying guns.

The Senate had began discussions on legislation to ban firearm sales to the hundreds of thousands of people on U.S. terrorism watch lists. The Orlando gunman, who carried out the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, had been on such a list.

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Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged senators on Wednesday to offer ideas on how to prevent another attack like the one in Orlando.

Late on Wednesday Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said negotiations “were little more than a smokescreen by Republicans trying to give themselves political cover while they continue to march in lock-step with the NRA’s extreme positions.”

If Congress was to pass a gun control measure, it would mark the first time in more than 20 years that lawmakers agreed on how to address the hot-button issue. A ban on semi-automatic assault weapons, such as the one used in Orlando, had gone into effect in 1994 and expired 10 years later.

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(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Writing Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Bill Trott)


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Trump’s tax law threatened TurboTax’s profits — so the company started charging the disabled, the unemployed and students

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The 2017 tax overhaul vastly expanded the number of people who could file simplified tax returns, a boon to millions of Americans.

But the new law directly threatened the lucrative business of Intuit, the maker of TurboTax.

Although the company draws in customers with the promise of a “free” product, its fortunes depend on getting as many customers as possible to pay. It had been regularly charging $100 or more for returns that included itemized deductions for mortgage interest and charitable donations. Under the new law, many wealthier taxpayers would no longer be filing that form, qualifying them to use the company’s free software.

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Trump’s packed Supreme Court backs ‘forced arbitration’ that bars workers from taking abusive bosses to court

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Corporations are rapidly rendering sexual harassment, race and gender discrimination, life-threatening workplaces and wage theft immune to employee legal action.

They achieve this by forcing the vast majority of non-union private-sector workers to sign away their rights to go to court or use class or collective arbitration. Instead many millions of workers are being forced to forgo these efficient legal ways to resolve issues and to file individual arbitration claims.

A new report from the Economic Policy Institute and the Center for Popular Democracy says that by 2024 more than 80% of non-union private-sector workers will find courthouse doors chained shut by forced arbitration clauses that ban lawsuits and collective actions. (EPI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank created in 1986 to press the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions.)

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Corporations can legally put carcinogens in our food without warning labels — here’s why

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A recent study by the Environmental Working Group revealed something horrifying: Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the popular weedkiller Roundup, was present in 17 of the 21 oat-based cereal and snack products at levels considered unsafe for children. That includes six different brands of Cheerios, one of the most popular American cereals.

I've written before about the limits of corporate free speech when it comes to public safety, but on that occasion I discussed this insofar as it involved corporate-sponsored climate change denialism. Yet here we have something more tangible, more direct: The safe glyphosate limit for children is 160 parts per billion (ppb), yet Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch has 833 parts per billion and regular Cheerios has 729 ppb. While the potential risks of glyphosate are fiercely debated, many scientists believe that it is linked to cancer.

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