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The shutdown hasn’t stopped Trump from secretly dismantling our government

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While much of the federal government is shut down, some government services are excepted because they are “performing emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property or performing certain other types of excepted work.” Those who do the excepted work in a shutdown agency are what is known as “essential” workers.

The Trump administration has expanded the definition of “essential” to just about any government service that would cause the public great discomfort (and therefore affect Trump’s poll numbers)—like tax refunds or air passenger transport.  Exceptions are also made when the administration’s favorite industries face hardship as a result of the shutdown. For example, federal employees who work to support the onshore and offshore oil and gas drilling industryforest management (timber sales) and the mortgage industry have also been deemed “essential” after their lobbyists complained about how the shutdown was harming their business.

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The White House has apparently decided that pretty much anything the Chamber of Commerce wants is ‘essential.’

Now, the White House has apparently decided that pretty much anything the Chamber of Commerce wants is also “essential.” The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)—the overlord of all government regulatory activity—is supposed to be shut down. But OIRA somehow mustered enough essential employees to protect the “property” of the administration’s main supporters by approving OSHA’s final “electronic recordkeeping” rollback.  We don’t know exactly what it looks like (although we can guess) because the Federal Register is closed down, which means they can’t publish it officially.

You may recall that last month, OSHA rushed the regulation over to OIRA months ahead of schedule for its (normally) three-month review. OSHA had proposed to drop the part of the regulation that would have required certain employers to send detailed information on injuries and illnesses into OSHA on an annual basis.

The OIRA review was also rushed, finishing in just six weeks, half the allocated time — despite the fact that the agency that was doing the review was supposedly shut down for four of those six weeks. In fact, the work was apparently so important and so urgent that OIRA didn’t even have time to schedule or even respond to a request by the AFL-CIO for a so-called “12866 meeting.”  These meetings are authorized under Executive Order 12866 (which governs OIRA review of regulations) “in order to ensure greater openness, accessibility, and accountability in the regulatory review process.” I guess during a government shutdown, non-essential things like openness, accessibility and accountability go down the same drain as things like paying employees for their work.

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Now in the past (when the good guys* ran OSHA and the White House) 12866 meetings were almost never denied, much less ignored. Also back in the old days, when there was a backup at the Federal Register, OSHA would just publish the “unofficial” draft on the agency’s website—respecting the public’s right to know what was coming down the line as quickly as possible. It was based on a quaint, antiquated concept called “transparency.” So far, however, there has been no notification on OSHA’s website.

So what does the new regulation say? No one knows for sure, but given the short time of review and the “essential” nature of any Chamber of Commerce desire, we can pretty much assume that the final regulation will look very much like the proposal. The requirement that detailed information on OSHA Forms 300 and 301 be sent to OSHA has likely been eliminated.

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And what was the rush? OSHA isn’t saying, but the general assumption is that OSHA wanted to get this out before the March 2 deadline for employers to send the 300 and 301 information into OSHA. OSHA suffered a significant legal defeat a few weeks ago in its attempt to dismiss a Public Citizen lawsuit. The court found that Public Citizen had grounds for suing the agency for violating of the Administrative Procedures Act which requires notice and comment rulemaking before suspending a rule’s requirements as OSHA was doing while it worked on the official rollback. And although that court case did not rule on whether the APA had actually been violated, it cast significant doubt on OSHA’s arguments—providing an additional incentive for OSHA to finalize the regulation before the March 2 deadline.

 *Full disclosure: I was one of the good guys.

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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‘Go back to Harlem!’: Florida woman has n-word laced meltdown after bumping black woman’s shopping cart

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On Saturday, the Atlanta Black Star reported an incident in Florida, in which a white woman screamed racial slurs at a black woman at a Publix supermarket in Miami after their shopping carts jostled each other.

After the woman allegedly banged into Nicki Johnson's cart, she refused to apologize, saying, "I didn't hit you with my cart, and f**k you,  you f**king n****r."

Johnson whipped out her cell phone camera, and began recording the incident, saying "You, why don't you call me a n****r again?"

"You thinking I'm sorry?" snapped the woman. "Let me tell you something, I don't have to call you anything. Get away from me, I will call security and there are surveillance videos. Get away from me!"

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‘I’m a nurse, what are you?’: Tennessee lawmaker humiliates anti-choice activists in brutal public grilling

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Anti-choice activists in Tennessee were unprepared for the grilling they got from a Democratic Party lawmaker when making the case for a bill that would outlaw abortion before many women knew they were pregnant.

One of the speakers in favor of the fetal heartbeat bill was Baptist Pastor Randy Davis, who was questioned by state Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis).

"How many women executive pastors do you have in your convention?" Robinson asked Davis. "Or senior pastors."

"None," Davis replied.

"So is it the same ideology that restricts access to women being able to lead a congregation that leads you all to support women not being able to make a medical decision about their body?" Robinson asked.

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2020 Election

Trump is doing everything he did in 2016 to get elected — and it’s failing this time: columnist

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On Saturday, Washington Post columnist Dan Balz wrote that President Donald Trump is relying on the same old bag of tricks that let him lurch blindly to a surprise victory in 2016 — but that that playbook is unlikely to get him elected again, let alone deliver sound domestic or foreign policy.

"After a week in which the threat of recession rocked global financial markets, his trade war with China showed no signs of progress and the government of Israel got into a nasty dispute with two members of Congress, President Trump went to bed Thursday night with other weighty issues on his mind. 'Great news,' he tweeted. 'Tonight we broke the all-time attendance record previously held by Elton John at #SNHUArena [Southern New Hampshire University] in Manchester!'" wrote Balz. "This is the frivolous mind-set of the president of the United States. Trump’s flurry of statements over the past few days have brought into focus once again something fundamental about him: He has little understanding of what it means to govern. He would rather tweet from the bleachers."

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