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WATCH: ‘Morning Joe’ panel explains how despair drives voters to heroin — and Trump

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On today’s Morning Joe, commentator Steven Rattner highlighted a Pennsylvania State study exploring the link between deaths from drugs, alcohol and suicide and the election of Donald Trump. And no, it’s not that everyone who voted for Donald Trump is on “heroin,” Joe Scarborough made sure to point out.

The idea that economic despair in rural areas propelled Donald Trump to the Presidency and is fueling the country’s opioid epidemic is not new: as Slate pointed out, it’s been observed by reporters like Chris Arnade on the ground, who noted “Wherever I see hope exiting, I see Trump and drugs entering.”

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But the study explored the concept more methodically, looking at regions with rising rates of “deaths of despair” and comparing voter turnout for Donald Trump and Mitt Romney. They found that areas suffering higher rates of drug and alcohol related deaths favored Donald Trump over Mitt Romney,  particularly in New England and the Industrial Midwest. Trump outperformed Romney in 79.5 percent of the counties with higher rates of drug and alcohol-related deaths than other counties in the region, according to the study.

Of course, the paper merely proves correlation—and perhaps turnout for Mitt Romney, who hardly stirred passion among non-wealthy voters, might not be the best measure for comparison. Still, researchers note a clear relationship between economic distress, drug and alcohol abuse, and Donald Trump’s election.

“These findings reflect larger systemic economic and social problems that go far beyond drug and alcohol abuse and suicide. In many of the counties where Trump did the best, economic precarity has been building and social and family networks have been breaking down for several decades,” the researcher notes.

It’s not clear how Donald Trump plans to address these problems, but so far it doesn’t look promising.

The President-elect is stacking his administration with veterans of Goldman Sacks, not the most obvious champions of rural America.  His drug policy platform appears limited to “build a wall” to keep out heroin—an odd strategy since the far deadlier opioid Fentanyl comes from China. Also, state-sanctioned murder: Trump has praised Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte, who unleashed literal death squads on alleged drug dealers and users.

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Closer to home, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Justice, is a hardened drug warrior who’s still harping on marijuana. Sessions has also criticized bipartisan criminal justice reform, particularly clemency for nonviolent drug crimes—even though the drug war is as destabilizing to poor families and communities as addiction itself.

Watch the segment below:

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After Trump: No free pass for Republicans — they own this nightmare

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With the impeachment inquiry leveling up this month as public hearings begin, and with an election that might actually be the end of Donald Trump now less than a year away, the campaign to let Trump's Republican allies — even the most villainous offenders — move on and pretend this never happened is already underway.

This article first appeared in Salon.

Sadly, the clearest articulation of the let-bygones-be-bygones mentality has come from a Democrat — unsurprisingly, former Vice President Joe Biden.Biden, who is still, somehow, the frontrunner in Democratic primary polling, spoke at a chi-chi fundraiser on Wednesday, and dropped this pearl of wisdom: "With Donald Trump out of the way, you’re going to see a number of my Republican colleagues have an epiphany."

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Elections 2016

As climate crisis-fueled fires rage, fears grow of an ‘uninhabitable’ California

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As activist Bill McKibben put it, "We've simply got to slow down the climate crisis."

With wildfires raging across California on Wednesday—and with portions of the state living under an unprecedented "Extreme Red Flag Warning" issued by the National Weather Service due to the severe conditions—some climate experts are openly wondering if this kind of harrowing "new normal" brought on by the climate crisis could make vast regions of the country entirely uninhabitable.

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Elections 2016

‘A profound emoluments clause violation’: Andrew Napolitano slams Trump’s hosting the G7 at Doral

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In the wake of acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney's announcement this Thursday that next year's G7 summit will be hosted at President Trump's Doral golf club, Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano pointed out that Trump would be violating the emoluments clause if he were to go through with the move.

At the outset of the segment, Fox Business Network anchor Neil Cavuto said that the announcement is "effectively saying the president has given himself this contract."

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