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Published: Thu, 21 Sep 2017 19:58:08 +0000

Last Build Date: Thu, 21 Sep 2017 19:58:08 +0000

Copyright: Copyright 2005 - Steal what you want
 



Study reveals Flint water crisis led to increased infertility and fetal death rates

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 17:35:00 +0000

Three years after the Flint water crisis, we are still learning the devastating impact that drinking poisoned water had on the city’s population. In addition to the outbreak of Legionnaires disease that killed at least a dozen people and sickened almost a hundred others, a new study reveals that the water crisis also affected fertility rates and fetal mortality. 

Fertility rates decreased by 12% among Flint women, and fetal death rates increased by 58%, after April 2014, according to research by assistant professors and health economists David Slusky at Kansas University and Daniel Grossman at West Virginia University. The pair examined vital statistics data for Flint and the rest of the state of Michigan from 2008 to 2015, zoomed down to the census-tract level.

That post-April 2014 time period is significant, because that's when — in an effort to save money — the city of Flint switched from water supplied by the city of Detroit to using the Flint River as a drinking water source, without adding needed anti-corrosives to the water. Lead levels in drinking water supplies spiked as a result.

While approximately fifteen local and state officials have been charged for their role in the water crisis, no one has actually gone to jail. And there are currently no plans to charge Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R). This is the problem with a greedy, capitalist society that values profit over people. In a country as plentiful and resource rich as the United States, politicians can compromise clean drinking water in an effort to save money and poison an entire city. And years later, no one is held accountable. Meanwhile, the damage for Flint residents is long-lasting. 

There is no safe level of lead in the body, but the impacts of lead are considered most severe on the developing brains and nervous systems of children and fetuses. It can lead to lower intelligence, behavioral problems and diminished life achievement, according to researchers. And the damage is irreversible; it cannot be undone. [...]

Babies born in Flint were also nearly 150 grams lighter than in other areas, were born a half-week earlier and gained 5 grams per week less than babies in other areas examined over the time period.

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Midday open thread: Register voters next Tuesday; SF, Oakland sue oil companies over rising seas

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 19:01:21 +0000

Today’s comic by Ruben Bolling is White supremacist president offended by being called white supremacist:  Join others next Tuesday, Sept. 26, to register hundreds of thousands of people on National Voter Registration Day • Preet Bharara finds a new gig: Preet Bharara, whom President Donald Trump fired as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, is joining CNN as a senior legal analyst, POLITICO has learned. Bharara was known for his media savvy on the job in Manhattan, and since leaving office in March he has amassed nearly 440,000 Twitter followers. He also recently launched a podcast, “Stay Tuned With Preet.” On Wednesday’s episode, Bharara recalled how Trump initially requested he stay on as U.S. attorney shortly after the presidential election, and he also described his growing unease as the president-elect — and later president — broke with protocol by calling him directly on the phone. • It’s the 20th anniversary of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial: It is a sight to see this time of year: Three nurses surrounding a dying soldier, somber bronze figures nestled among eight willow oak trees turned autumn gold. To the passing tourist, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial might be just another photo opportunity. To Diane Carlson Evans, a former Army nurse, the women’s memorial is a testament to a nine-year struggle for recognition. Going up against Congress, three federal commissions and two existing Vietnam War memorials, Evans led a nurses’ campaign for a memorial on the Mall next to her “brother soldiers.” This Veterans Day, she will gather around the memorial with her sister nurses to honor its 20th anniversary. • Coming expiration of Trump’s Muslim travel ban could allow Supreme Court to avoid ruling on this matter of executive authority. •  • An Activists’ Calendar of Resistance Events • Indivisible’s list of Resistance Events & Groups • Fatalities from Mexico quake reach 250 as rescuers continue searching for survivors: The name “Frida Sofía” trended on Twitter on Wednesday as the country was captivated by what the media and authorities said was the imminent rescue of a girl trapped in the rubble of a collapsed school. But Frida Sofía was not the name of the girl rescuers were trying to pull from the rubble of the Enrique Rébsamen school. All students with that name at the school were accounted for, Mexican broadcaster Televisa – which focused heavily on the school site – reported Thursday morning. The girl’s parents also had not been located, according to public education secretary Aurelio Nuño. “Frida Sofía” trended again on Thursday, though the tweets were tinged with rage as Mexicans railed against the country’s big broadcasters for peddling false hope as the country dug out from the two massive earthquakes in less than two week. • San Francisco, Oakland sue oil companies over damages from rising seas: The suits, filed separately in Superior Court in San Francisco and Alameda County and announced Wednesday, claim that a slate of oil, gas and coal producers not only caused the heat-trapping gases that drove sea level rise but knowingly did so, a challenge akin to litigation against big tobacco companies in the 1990s. Both cities are asking the companies, which include Bay Area-based Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Shell and BP, to pay billions in compensation for past and future flooding, coastal erosion and property damage resulting from climate change. • NRDC: Climate Alliance states show what real leadership looks like: In a forceful show of climate leadership, Governors Andrew Cuomo (NY), Jerry Brown (CA), and Jay Inslee (WA) and former Secretary of State John Kerry came together in New York City Wednesday as part of Climate Week to celebrate the progress and growth of the U.S. Climate Alliance, the bipartisan coalition that has grown to 14 states dedicated to meeting the Paris agreement climate goal. The coalition was founded by Cuomo, Brown an[...]



The GOP's worst-case scenario on Graham-Cassidy is still totally possible

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 17:45:26 +0000

Want to know what the wild card is in the GOP's dead-sprint to a vote is? The P-word. Yep, the parliamentarian, who's sort of a like a congressional referee, still has to rule on which parts of the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill are valid based on the whether they are directly related to the budget. It was the Senate parliamentarian, for instance, that told Republicans they only had until September 30 to repeal health care with a simple majority.

But now the parliamentarian will be weighing in on the Graham-Cassidy bill's most critical element: whether states can waive the Obamacare provision that requires insurers to cover certain essential health benefits (EHBs) and prevents them from jacking up prices for people who have pre-existing conditions. It's the bill's entire reason for being. When Sen. Lindsey Graham says they are trying to give "flexibility" back to the states, what he means is the federal government would give states the power to allow insurers to limit their coverage and price gouge people with pre-existing conditions in order to make overall coverage cheaper. But guess what? That provision might not even be allowable, which would completely upend the nature of the bill. The Washington Post's Greg Sargent writes:

Some health policy analysts think there’s a decent chance that the parliamentarian will strike those deregulatory features under the Byrd Rule, because they don’t have a direct budgetary component. Daniel Hemel of the University of Chicago, for instance, points out that a very similar feature was struck from a previous GOP repeal bill and thinks it should — and very well may — happen again. [...]

I asked Hemel what the consequences of this would be, and he emailed:

“Without the waiver provision, Graham-Cassidy is a totally different bill. It doesn’t provide states with flexibility, but it still takes away a lot of money. This would change the terms of the debate entirely — and would do so just a few days before the senators cast their final votes.” [...]

Nicholas Bagley of the University of Michigan agrees and adds that this would mean that a primary selling point for the bill would vanish: It would no longer meaningfully offer the states “flexibility” and would no longer constitute the “federalism” that supporters have extolled.

If this were to happen, the bill would become a virtual monster in the eyes of Republicans—keeping all of Obamacare's protections in place while simultaneously failing to lower costs and yet still  sucking billions of federal dollars away from the states. Honestly, it's hard to imagine who would vote for that and there's a good chance we would never know because it's equally as hard to imagine Mitch McConnell bringing it to the floor.

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Republican healthcare bill is a recipe for chaos times fifty

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 17:01:26 +0000

If it’s put into place smoothly and with no delays or problems, the healthcare repeal bill Republicans are trying to force through the Senate would cut funding and weaken protections for tens of millions of people. And that’s the best-case scenario, because “if it’s put into place smoothly” is a helluva big if. When Massachusetts chose to pass its own healthcare law back in 2003, it took four years to get it running. Graham-Cassidy would give states about two years:

“The answer is absolutely no,” said Jon Kingsdale, who ran Massachusetts Connector, the system that matched Massachusetts residents with health insurance, and is now a public health professor and a consultant. “That’s not enough time for most states to figure it out.” [...]

“In some ways, a clean slate is much more complicated than very discrete decisions,” said Larry Levitt, an executive vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health research group. Mr. Levitt described the challenges facing states under this legislation as “formidable.”

In contrast with an earlier bill from Mr. Cassidy, which offered a default option for uncertain states, there is no backup plan in the bill. The Obamacare coverage programs would disappear everywhere in 2020, and any state unable to make a plan and submit an application would be ineligible for the new grant funding. If a state succeeds in obtaining the funding but doesn’t have a functioning new system on Jan. 1, 2020, consumers and markets would be thrown into chaos.

Even the insurance companies don’t want it:

“The bill contains provisions that would allow states to waive key consumer protections, as well as undermine safeguards for those with pre-existing medical conditions,’’ said Scott P. Serota, the president and chief executive of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. “The legislation reduces funding for many states significantly and would increase uncertainty in the marketplace, making coverage more expensive and jeopardizing Americans’ choice of health plans.”

America’s Health Insurance Plans was even more pointed. The legislation could hurt patients by “further destabilizing the individual market” and could potentially allow “government-controlled single payer health care to grow,” said Marilyn B. Tavenner, the president and chief executive of the association. Without controls, some states could simply eliminate private insurance, she warned.

Another Obamacare repeal bill?! It’s time to jam the congressional phone lines again. Call your senator at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to vote NO on any repeal bill. (After you call, please tell us how it went.)

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Trump's reckless, dishonest, myopic blustering on Iran agreement weakens U.S. national security

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 16:24:57 +0000

With a blast of bombast, Donald Trump made clear once again this week that he wants to dump or renegotiate the Iran nuclear agreement—known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—which he calls “an embarrassment to the United States.” He also says he has already made up his mind about what to do, but he’s not telling anybody what he has decided. And he seems to mean not anybody. 

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters that UK Prime Minister Theresa May asked Trump if he would tell her what he had decided, but he wouldn’t. Hardly surprising since Tillerson himself hasn’t been told, saying"He has not shared that with anyone externally." He said that Trump will announce his decision "when he thinks it is useful to let you know." White House chief of staff John Kelly, who reflected the feelings of lots of Americans when he publicly face-palmed during Trump’s grotesque speech to the United Nations Tuesday, seems to know. But while he is signaling his feelings regarding his boss’s oratory in other ways, he’s not talking about what may be coming on Iran.

The twisted reality we now live in has spurred the nation’s chief diplomat to consider himself “external” when it comes to major matters of U.S. foreign policy. 

The response to Trump’s bluster and enigmatism has been highly critical. For instance, Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said all parties to the agreement are in compliance, including Iran, and "There is no need to renegotiate parts of the agreement because the agreement is concerning a nuclear program and as such is delivering." Yukiya Amano, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Iran is complying with the agreement, noting that that nation “is now subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime.”

What the agreement has done is close off pathways to an Iranian nuclear weapon for the immediate future and open the door to improved relations. Since signing, Iran has dismantled two-thirds of its uranium enrichment centrifuges, plugged its plutonium-producing reactor with concrete, exported more than 20,000 pounds of uranium, put a cap on how much uranium can be enriched to the level needed for research reactors, shipped away its spent fuel, and allowed highly intrusive international inspections. 

All of this doesn’t matter to the regime squatting in the White House. 

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Passing Graham-Cassidy could be a disaster for vulnerable House Republicans in swing districts

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 16:29:06 +0000

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday that House Speaker Paul Ryan told him to his face, "If you pass it, we pass it." It's still not clear Senate Republicans will make it to 50, but even if they do, it's no done deal in the House either and, frankly, Ryan hasn't proven to be much of a vote counter. The biggest problem? The version of the GOP healthcare bill that cleared the House earlier this year did so by just four votes, and the Senate's current bill deals a major financial blow to states that house 45 districts represented by Republicans who are either considered vulnerable or being targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The Washington Post does the math:

That’s a total of 22 GOP-held seats currently rated as vulnerable by Cook Political Report that are in states that would lose billions in federal funding under Graham-Cassidy. Adding in the seats that the DCCC is targeting beyond those, and you get a total of 45 targets in these 11 states.

When the Republicans’ previous Obamacare repeal passed the House in May, 20 Republicans voted no, as the measure passed by just a four-vote margin, 217-213. Thus, if all those Republicans vote no on Cassidy-Graham, it would take only a shift of a handful of Republican yes votes to halt Cassidy-Graham, should it reach the House floor.

And consider this: Fully 16 vulnerable House Republicans voted "yes" on the last GOP bill but may think twice about the cuts Graham-Cassidy inflicts on their states. Check them out below.

  • Knight (CA)
  • Issa (CA)
  • Denham (CA)
  • Royce (CA)
  • Walters (CA)
  • Rohrabacher (CA)
  • Faso (NY)
  • Tenney (NY)
  • McSally (AZ)
  • Frelinghuysen (NJ)
  • Roskam (IL)
  • Bost (IL)
  • Lewis (MN)
  • Paulsen (MN)
  • Curbelo (FL)
  • Poliquin (ME)
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Graham-Cassidy gives Republican 'moderates' a chance to show what their principles are ... or aren't

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 16:02:24 +0000

Talk of Republican moderates typically involves someone being played for a sucker, as the party’s efforts to repeal Obamacare show off. Time after time, we see a Republican senator make what looks like a principled stand against their party … until caving on the final vote, having been bought off by a concession a fraction the size of their original objections. Was the so-called moderate played for a fool by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s arm-twisting and Donald Trump’s attack tweets, or was the media played for a fool by a performance of Reasonable Moderate Standing Up to Their Party that was rigged all along? Whatever the answer, the rush to pass Graham-Cassidy shows off just how fake the whole thing is.

On the past failed Obamacare repeal bills, several Republicans extracted concessions that supposedly justified their yes votes. West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito and Ohio’s Rob Portman got $45 billion in opioid funding that wasn’t going to make up for the gutting of Medicaid expansion, but they could pretend to have gotten a win. But, Alice Ollstein reports:

This time around, with a bill that includes even deeper cuts to Medicaid and no additional opioid funding, Capito refuses to say how she will vote and Portman has said he is “open” to the proposal.

When asked by TPM whether Portman is attempting to negotiate the same funding boost and whether that will influence his final vote, Portman’s office would only say: “The senator is reviewing the proposal and getting feedback.”

Cynical but safe money is on Capito and Portman voting for Graham-Cassidy without any opioid funding added. Meanwhile, the Republicans who did follow through and stand up to their party last time wanted some stuff going forward—like having bills go through regular order rather than being rammed down their throats. Will John McCain do an about-face and decide regular order isn’t so important to him after all, or will he live up to his own hype? Will Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski continue to stand firm even as the pressure their leadership is putting on them builds? There’s even less in Graham-Cassidy for all these people than there was in previous votes, so if they go along with McConnell and Trump, they’ll be telling us a lot about where principle ranks in relation to partisanship.

There is only one way to stop Trumpcare: Republican senators must pay their political price by having constituents mad at them. We need you now, more than ever to make calls. Call your senator at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to vote NO. (After you call, please tell us how it went.)

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27 companies publicly support Paris climate accord, but donate millions to GOP group undermining it

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 18:33:03 +0000

Twenty-seven companies that urged the Trump regime to stick with the Paris Climate Accord also contributed a total of $3.3 million to the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) that has worked assiduously to dump President Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan. That plan was designed specifically to reduce greenhouse emissions from U.S. power plants in 2030 by 32 percent over 2005. It’s the key U.S. government effort to help meet the emissions goals of the nonbinding Paris accord. And it’s in limbo. This is how the 27 companies that urged the Trump regime not to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord divided their donations to the Republican and Democratic attorney generals associations. The Republican group has been highly active in trying to dump the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan that would cut greenhouse emissions. The excuse from the companies that responded to investigators from the Center for Public Integrity who revealed the contributions? It’s just politics. They said they had also contributed to the Democratic Attorneys General Association. In other words, all that cash was just pragmatism on their part. Uh-huh. The center’s Rachel Leven and Jamie Smith Hopkins write: But campaign finance experts countered that business officials can influence policy without writing a check to decision-makers like attorneys general—advocating their policy positions through lobbyists, for example. Because these businesses have said climate action is a priority, making political contributions that can work against that goal puts their reputations or even revenues at risk, these experts said. "I don't doubt that their public statements about the Paris climate agreement are sincere but it matters that when it actually comes down to how they spend their money, they're giving to politicians that have almost the exact opposite goal," said Daniel Weiner, senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice's Democracy Program, which advocates for campaign finance reform. "It doesn't mean that they're actually lying, but it does lead one to wonder how strong their commitment to fight global warming actually is. While RAGA has, of course, engaged in other activity, the center’s reporters note that the Clean Power Plan, which requires states to come up with methods of reducing emissions from fossil-fuel power plants within their boundaries, has gotten “an outsize share of energy” from Republican attorneys general. Along with a handful of Democratic AGs, the Republicans have sued the Environmental Protection Agency over the plan in a case that is slowly winding its way toward the Supreme Court. The court itself ruled 5-4 in early 2016 that the plan should be on hold until a lower court ruling on it is decided. Indeed, on RAGA’s list of achievements on its website: convincing the court "to halt implementation of Obama's signature climate change initiative."  Levin and Hopkins found that only two of the 27 companies had openly challenged the Clean Power Plan. Several others have supported it strongly, with Google and Microsoft going so far as to file legal arguments against the lawsuit the Republican AGs had launched. And yet those two contributed nearly $400,000 to RAGA. Worst of all among the 27 was SolarCity, the nation’s largest provider of residential solar panels. The morning the Supreme Court stayed the Clean Power Plan, SolarCity’s stock plummeted. That ought to have delivered a clear message. Yet just three months later, the company contributed $20,000 to RAGA, giving nothing to the Democratic Attorney Generals Association. Perhaps that was just stupidity. But it sure wasn’t evidence of sincerity. [...]



Sean Spicer's notebooks offer another window into Trump for Special Counsel Robert Mueller

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 14:21:39 +0000

Reports this week that Paul Manafort was under surveillance before, during, and after his six months as chair of Donald Trump’s campaign show that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has access to information showing how the relationship between Trump and Russia evolved over an extended period. According to a report at Axios, there’s another potential long-term source of information for Mueller.

Former colleagues of Sean Spicer tell Axios that he filled "notebook after notebook" during meetings at the Republican National Committee, later at the Trump campaign, and then at the White House.

It’s seems unlikely that Spicer jotted down “and then Trump told us all we were working for Putin,” but the notebooks do provide a good check on dates, attendance, and topics of discussion. 

One White House official told me: "People are going to wish they'd been nicer to Sean. … He was in a lot of meetings."

Asked by Axios reporter Mike Allen to comment on the story, Spicer had a succinct reply.

"Mike, please stop texting/emailing me unsolicited anymore. … From a legal standpoint I want to be clear: Do not email or text me again. Should you do again I will report to the appropriate authorities."

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Sorry, Sen. Cassidy: Experts say it's you, not Jimmy Kimmel, who's wrong about your healthcare bill

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 14:35:14 +0000

Sen. Bill Cassidy’s response to being called out by Jimmy Kimmel was, as Kimmel put it in his Wednesday night monologue (video below), to “pull the all comedians are dummies card” by smarming “I am sorry he does not understand.” Too bad for Cassidy Kimmel really does know what he’s talking about—and has the benefit of being able to tell the truth. 

But experts say that Cassidy and Graham’s bill can't guarantee those protections and that Kimmel’s assessment was basically accurate because of the flexibility the bill gives states to set up their own health care systems. For example, health insurers could hike premiums for patients with pre-existing conditions if their states obtain waivers from Obamacare regulations — as Kimmel said. [...]

"Kimmel did not overstate the impact," [Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families director Joan] Alker said. "If Graham-Cassidy becomes law, there is no guarantee a child born with a congenital heart defect will get the coverage they need. It would depend on where they live, but even states with good intentions would struggle to protect children with the massive cuts to Medicaid included in this bill."

Cassidy insisted that what Kimmel “does not understand” is that Graham-Cassidy would mean “more people will have coverage,” a claim the Washington Post fact checker gave three Pinocchios because “the consensus is that his funding formula makes his claim all but impossible to achieve.”

Cassidy’s response guaranteed that Kimmel would come back at him—along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, Fox & Friends’ Brian Kilmeade, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie—but Kimmel also delivered some bad news, in the form of a report that call volume had not gone up in Sen. Susan Collins’ office after Kimmel urged viewers to call their senators. That’s a problem that needs fixing.

Quiet phone lines mean Republicans will think they can get away with this. LIGHT THEM UP. Call your senators at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to vote “NO” on any repeal bill. (After you call, please tell us how it went.)

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Voters hate Republican healthcare bills, but the donors who matter demand repeal

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 13:31:56 +0000

Republican healthcare repeal bills have been massively unpopular. Many of the members of Congress who’ve supported them have hidden out and refused to face constituents, while those who dared hold town halls were angrily confronted. Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski was hailed as a hero back home for her vote against repeal. But the Washington Post lets us know what really mattered to the Republican senators who are now, yet again, getting ready to vote for a massively unpopular bill. After they failed at their longtime campaign promise of Obamacare repeal:

... according to GOP senators and aides, Republicans faced an unrelenting barrage of confrontations with some of their closest supporters, donors and friends. The moments occurred in small gatherings that proved even more meaningful than a caustic town hall — at meetings with local business executives, at church, at parks.

They didn’t dare hold town halls open to all their constituents, but boy, they heard it from their donors. The GOP’s repeal bills might have had support under 15 percent in some polls, might have had less than half the support of Obamacare … but the hardcore base, the Republican donors and local bigwigs who your senator actually listens to and cares about? They were all worked up by Donald Trump’s tweets and angry that congressional Republicans had failed. And that’s why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying, again, to ram through a vote on a bill that few people understand but that has an awful lot in common with those earlier bills that voters loathed.

Thought Obamacare was safe? Think again. Republicans have revived their repeal effort and we must stop them. Keep calling your senators at (202) 224-3121 and tell them DON’T REPEAL OBAMACARE! (After you call, please tell us how it went.)

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Cartoon: White supremacist president offended by being called white supremacist

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 13:51:18 +0000

FOLLOW @RubenBolling on the Twitters and a Face Book.

JOIN Tom the Dancing Bug's subscription club, the Proud & Mighty INNER HIVE, for exclusive early access to comics, extra comics, and much more.

GET Ruben Bolling’s new hit book series for kids, The EMU Club Adventures. (”Filled with wild twists and funny dialogue” -Publishers Weekly)  Book One here.  Book Two here.

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'Our island destroyed' by largest storm in 90 years as flash floods continue across Puerto Rico

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 13:18:38 +0000

By any measure, Maria is a monster. It struck Puerto Rico with sustained winds of 155 mph and some areas reported gusts above 200 mph. Damage isn’t extensive, it’s near universal. With electricity out across the entire island, and cell service limited to a few areas, it’s difficult to even determine just how badly Hurricane Maria has pummeled Puerto Rico. But … it’s bad.

"Definitely Puerto Rico — when we can get outside — we will find our island destroyed," Abner Gómez, director of Puerto Rico's emergency management agency, told reporters on Wednesday as the storm engulfed the entire island. "The information we have received is not encouraging. It's a system that has destroyed everything it has had in its path."

Flooding in San Juan is described as “intense” and on Thursday morning, rain is continuing to generate flash floods across the island. In addition to punishing winds and a strong surge along the coast, Maria dropped more than a foot of rain on Puerto Rico in just a few hours. The continuing flash floods represent a deadly threat, with messages like this going out, and many people not in a position to hear.

This is a FLASH FLOOD EMERGENCY for Central Puerto Rico. This is a
PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS SITUATION. SEEK HIGHER GROUND NOW!

Images coming from San Juan have been both terrifying and heartbreaking.

"The San Juan that we knew yesterday is no longer there," Yulín said, adding: "We're looking at four to six months without electricity" in Puerto Rico, home to nearly 3.5 million people.

Some rescue and recovery forces from the continental United States had already deployed to Puerto Rico following the close passage of Hurricane Irma less than two weeks ago. But additional forces will definitely be needed.

Americans came together to support the victims of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma—which was as it should be. But the victims of Hurricane Maria, in both Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, are in far more desperate straits. This is an American tragedy that demands a massive American embrace and support for the affected areas.

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Trump claims Republican healthcare bill covers pre-existing conditions. False. Untrue. Fake.

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 12:36:20 +0000

Does Donald Trump even know what the latest Republican healthcare bill would do to people with pre-existing conditions, or is he lying about it? It’s like a Schrodinger’s lie—Trump is profoundly ignorant and it’s unlikely he knows what’s in the Graham-Cassidy bill, but he would certainly lie about it without thinking twice (or once, for that matter) if he did know. Either way, this tweet is false:

x

Here's reality:

 The bill wouldn't repeal the Affordable Care Act's rules about pre-existing conditions. But they might end up only existing on paper, the Kaiser Family Foundation's Larry Levitt said.

Graham-Cassidy doesn't let states waive the part of the Affordable Care Act that says insurers have to cover sick people. But it does allow states to opt out of several other ACA rules that can cause people with pre-existing conditions to pay more for their health care. Those provisions include:

  • The ban on charging sick people higher premiums than healthy people.

It’s the trick Republicans have been trying to play all along—claim that you’re protecting people with pre-existing conditions because insurance companies can’t say directly “we will not insure you,” but let the insurance companies charge people with pre-existing conditions so much that no one could afford coverage. We’re not denying you insurance, we’re just charging you $100,000 a year! Your pre-existing condition is totes covered! What a “great Bill.”

We haven’t won the battle to save health care yet. Republicans are STILL pushing to repeal Obamacare. Call your senators at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to vote “NO” on any repeal bill. (After you call, please tell us how it went.)

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Morning Digest: Party-switching GOP Gov. Jim Justice backs Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 12:01:35 +0000

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar. Leading Off ● WV-Sen: On Wednesday, MetroNews' Brad McElhinny reported that West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice told a group of lawmakers that he was supporting Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin's bid for re-election. Before early August, that probably wouldn't have been very exciting news. Justice is close to Manchin and last year, the senator endorsed Justice in the three-way Democratic primary; Justice also hired several of Manchin's advisers for his campaign. But just last month, Justice attended a rally with Donald Trump and announced he was joining the GOP.​ Campaign Action ​Manchin is running for re-election in a state that backed Trump 68-26, and he's going to need to win over a lot of voters who like Trump. Justice argued that, by re-electing Manchin, West Virginians would actually be helping Trump. McElhinny quotes the governor telling the room, "Now he may be a terrible person to y'all but Joe has been a friend of mine and I'm going to tell you this as straight up as I can be: Joe Manchin is becoming a very key, integral part with Donald Trump. And I'm going to take my read off of Donald Trump." Justice continued, "Joe Manchin is — and I know this — Joe Manchin is Donald Trump's liaison with the Democrats. And you want, and I want, what Donald Trump is trying to get done." It's unclear how much help Justice will be for Manchin. Justice, a coal billionaire, did very well as the Democratic nominee in coal country, an area that has abandoned Democratic presidential candidates but still is open to voting blue down-ballot. These are the type of voters Manchin is going to be seeking next year, and if Justice is still well-regarded in the region, his cross-party seal of endorsement could be a big help. However, that's a big if. While a recent poll from Repass and Research America Inc. gave Manchin a 51-34 approval rating, that same sample found the newly Republican governor with a weak 34-44 score. West Virginia doesn't get polled often, so we don't have other numbers to compare it to. But it's possible there just aren't many voters Justice could appeal to who already don't like Manchin. And as we've seen in the past year, Justice is an eccentric guy. If he really believes he's backing Manchin to help Trump, he may change course if Trump tells him to. Indeed, an unnamed person who was at the meeting tells Buzzfeed's Henry Gomez that Justice indicated he'd follow Trump's lead. Still, Republicans will be working hard to caricature Manchin as a typical Democrat who has lost his way in D.C., and the senator will be happy to echo Justice and define himself as a bipartisan figure. [...]



Cheers and Jeers: Thursday

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 12:15:04 +0000

From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE… The New Scarlet Letter Every morning when I wake up and get dressed, I can’t help but notice the seven-inch pale red scar running from my sternum to just below my belly button. I have another scar---two inches horizontal---on my upper chest. They’re a daily reminder of the emergency surgery I had last March that revealed a thriving cancer colony in my gut (happily removed), and the “mediport” that was my hookup for three months of chemo. They are also a daily reminder that I am now a walking pre-existing condition. Under the Affordable Care Act, I can look at those scars and feel grateful and relieved. Not just because I’m now cancer-free, but because when it returns (I have no doubt it will---before they were rooted out, those cancer cells were sending postcards to all their friends gushing about what sweet retirement property my insides have to offer) I know I won’t be price-gouged by the insurance vultures or denied coverage outright. Because it’s against the law. Thanks, Obama. Seriously---thanks, Obama! But. If this new Graham-Cassidy-Trumpcare bill Republicans are trying to ram through Congress passes next week, that could all change. My scars will instead become a daily reminder that these perfumed-hanky-sniffing grifters have put a guillotine blade above my, and your, and everybody else’s necks. Under Trumpcare, any state will have the blessing of the federal government to green-light the insurance vultures to let you suffer and die because you once had the unmitigated gall to seek medical attention at some point in the past. This is just one part of Trumpcare 4.0---yes, Lord Dampnut owns this just as much as Congress---that is unconscionably heartless. We know this because we have pre-existing memories of things like this and this. What Republicans will try to foist on our country next week smacks of domestic terrorism to me. Few people will be able to wake up every morning knowing for certain that their health insurance will do what they expect it to do if they need it. There’s no doubt that people will die because of the cruelty that’s been hastily stuffed in this bill. And for what? Purely political reasons. Tax cuts for the rich. A Koch brothers rim job. A chance to erase the signature achievement of the previous Democratic president who was a thousand times smarter and more compassionate than these stooges will ever be. A cheap check mark in the win column they can wave in front of the faces of the base they’re about to screw. The Affordable Care Act is working. If Republicans weren’t sabotaging it, it would be working even better. If they would huddle up with Democrats to work on improvements (like they were until Mitch McConnell forced them to disband this week), it could hum like a well-oiled machine. But no. Billionaires come first and fuck the rest of you. If Trumpcare 4.0 passes, our scars and our medical histories will once again become the modern-day scarlet letter---a flashing red light to Big Insurance that yours is an account that may be cut loose in the name of profits; a feature, not a bug, in Sens. Lindsey Graham’s and Bill Cassidy’s sick minds. (Cassidy should have his medical license revoked for stomping all over the Hippocratic oath. Ditto Tom Price.) These hacks don’t deserve this victory. America doesn’t deserve this deep dive back into the dark ages. Call your senators (202-224-3121 in DC, or their local office), especially if they have an “R” after their name, and give ‘em firm but polite hell. The only thing necessary for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing. And this sac[...]



Daily Kos Radio is ALL-NEW at 9 AM ET!

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 12:01:35 +0000

Happy Thursday! And happy Rosh Hashanah, too! (And my super-calendar also says it’s Peace Day, and that the first day of Muharram begins tonight!) I’m off to go dip everything I can in honey, but to ensure that you too can enjoy a sweet new year, I offer you this ALL-NEW, pre-taped episode of the show. It’s a big day on the Trump-Russia front, and we’re ready for it! Listen right here at 9:00 AM ET! Podcasts! They’re hip! They’re hot! Everyone’s got one! But Daily Kos has had one since slightly after that point at which you would have been able to say that we had one before it was cool. Only we do ours over a live stream, every weekday morning from 9-11 ET. So the news is as fresh as the morning dew! Delivered and interpreted for you by David Waldman, Greg Dworkin, Joan McCarter, and even Armando. We think you’ll like it so much, you’ll even help support its continued production, with monthly donations via Patreon, or one-time contributions via Square Cash. Not ready to face the world that early? Unsure whether you’re ready to donate your hard-earned cash? We’ve also got these handy-dandy record-o-matical things, like the one below, featuring our most recent LIVE show! At Daily Kos, it’s always free to try before you buy! (I think! Usually, anyway!) x YouTube Video YouTube | iTunes | LibSyn | Keep us on the air! Donate via Patreon or Square Cash Sorry, no penis weightlifting do’s and don’ts today. However, between David Waldman and Greg Dworkin, today’s KITM manages to address all other conceivable topics—with the exception of those David reserved for tomorrow’s KITM  Rosh Hashanah Special... Stay tuned! Norms! Donald Trump is the Normless President. Actually, his single issue, himself, reflects his supporter’s single issue, themselves. His “tone” indicates that focus to conservatives. Fury! As if what the public feels truly matters. It’s not just our opinion though, we need to win. Jimmy Kimmel has a right to be furious. Bill Cassidy doesn’t need to lie, it just helps. Republican Senators blow a Category 5 anal smoke hurricane. CBO? What’s a CBO? Chaos! Republican Plan B—destroy everything, anyhow. The Gop is closing off all exits. The Koch brothers are turning off their money spigot. She might have seemed heroic fighting alongside her daughter in the Cupcake Wars, but Kelly Roberts doesn’t have what it takes to be Ambassador to Slovenia: a transparent business record. Tom Price used to dislike fiscal irresponsibility, but then… Trump won’t shut up, but California hopes to censure him occasionally. Trump’s lawyers never know when to shut up, just like the boss. Michael Cohen, who has a Trumpian daddy-daughter thing, loves the news cameras too. People buying MAGA hats knew, deep down, their money would be paying Donald’s legal bills, but so did the big donors. Nearly a dozen cities are calling on Congress to impeach Trump over foreign emoluments. Someone figured out that the United States Coast Guard administers the charge card program for the Department of Homeland Security! The Free Telegraph is the new Republican fake news you’ll soon be seeing cited. The day a doctor’s husband leaves her and her house is burgled, she began research on saving women from cancer. (Thanks to Scott Anderson, who writes our summaries! Please help me pay him more!) Need more info on how to listen? Find it below the fold. [...]



Abbreviated pundit round-up: Blusterman's word war with Rocketman; defeat the right with left unity?

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 11:31:23 +0000

Trevor Timm at The Guardian writes—America gives $700bn to the military – but says healthcare is a luxury:

When Bernie Sanders released his much anticipated healthcare plan last week, countless pundits and members of Congress asked why the government should pass such a bill given its potential cost. Now that Congress on the verge of sending a record-setting $700bn Pentagon spending bill to Trump’s desk, you can bet those deficit scolds will be nowhere to be found.

On Monday evening, the Senate passed – in bipartisan fashion – a policy bill that set the parameters for military spending in 2018 that tops $700bn, including tens of billions in spending for wars Trump has been expanding in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. 

Amazingly, the bill far exceeds even the increase in spending that the Trump administration was asking for, and as the Associated Press reported, it would put “the US armed forces on track for a budget greater than at any time during the decade-plus wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Only eight senators voted against the bill – three Republicans and five Democrats. It passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority. Even in a time of hyper-partisanship, you can always count on Congress to come together and spend hundreds of billions of dollars to build weapons and bombs for killing people overseas, even as our infrastructure crumbles at home and thousands of people die each year without healthcare.

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Open thread for night owls: To avoid annihilation

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 03:01:10 +0000

John Carl Baker is a Mellon-ACLS Public Fellow. His writing has appeared in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the New Republic, War Is Boring, and elsewhere. At Jacobin, he writes—Averting Annihilation: These fears of nuclear apocalypse were on full display this week, as three full days of nuclear-tinged Trumpisms inspired half-serious jokes about our impending doom across social media. On Tuesday, Trump made his now-infamous comments about unleashing “fire and fury like the world has never seen” against North Korea. On Wednesday, in the preferred presidential medium of Twitter, Trump took credit for modernizing the nuclear arsenal — despite the fact that this process began under Obama and will take thirty years (and $1.2 trillion) to complete. Yesterday, Trump wondered aloud whether his initial comments about the DPRK weren’t “tough enough,” thereby ensuring the apocalyptic fervor continues for yet another news cycle. Trump is clearly capable of heightening atomic terror all on his own, but the media-fed dynamic he inhabits with Kim Jong-un, autocratic leader of the latest nuclear-armed state, exacerbates the situation even further. Between them, they’ve increased public fears of nuclear war like no set of national leaders since Reagan and Andropov. That said, it’s probably unfair to lay fully half the blame for this heated environment at the feet of Kim Jong-un and the North Korean government. After all, it’s difficult for experts, let alone laypeople, to separate out the real Jong-un from the omnipresent media caricatures tailor-made to reaffirm North Korea’s bogeyman status. This rich and racist tradition of foreign policy journalism drinks deeply of what Hugh Gusterson calls “nuclear orientalism” — essentially, the idea that our nuclear monarchs are calm and rational while those in the East are inscrutable, impulsive, and dangerous. [...] Any nuclear attack would be met by a devastating flurry of counter-strikes from the US, whose military resources — nuclear and otherwise — are so superior to North Korea’s that it’s rather silly to even compare the two. The DPRK nuclear weapons program is worrisome, but it exists because the government is terrified of regime change — an outcome Kim Jong-un has legitimate reason to fear, given US actions in Iraq and Libya. The real danger — the one that definitely exists right now — is that the two countries could unintentionally reignite the Korean War. The situation has been extraordinarily tense for months (remember the Carl Vinson episode in April?), and Trump’s bellicose comments are exactly the sort of thing that could turn a heated environment into, well, “fire and fury” in a heartbeat. If the president issues something that sounds like a threat, it might be interpreted precisely as such, pushing the other side to take preemptive action in anticipation of an immediate attack. [...] • An Activists’ Calendar of Resistance Events • Indivisible’s list of Resistance Events & Groups TOP COMMENTS • HIGH IMPACT STORIES QUOTATION “Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us."                 ~Justice William O. Douglas, Speech delivered to the Authors Guild Council upon receiving the Lauterbach Award, (Dec. 3, 1952)   TWEET OF THE DAY xTo be clear: "Y'all" is Natives asking that a child that was kidnapped & raped not be made into a kid's Halloween costume.  See those likes? pic.twitter.co[...]



In latest act of resistance, California announces lawsuit to block Trump's racist wall

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 17:13:36 +0000

Campaign Action

When it comes to the resistance against Donald Trump, it’s no exaggeration to say that California has been leading the way. For the state, it’s personal. California is home to the largest undocumented population in the nation, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. Since his poorly-attended inauguration, the Los Angeles Times reports that state leaders have introduced more than 35 bills and two dozen resolutions opposing Trump’s xenophobic agenda, including the most sweeping anti-deportation bill in the nation. Today, the state’s attorney general announced the latest action includes a lawsuit to stop Trump’s racist border wall:

The lawsuit set to be filed in federal court in San Diego will argue that the effort violates federal law and the Constitution by intruding on state authority, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.

"They're violating the Tenth Amendment and infringing on a lot of state laws, not just federal laws, that affect our state. At the same time, they're trying to do something that only Congress can do," Becerra told journalists in Washington in advance of an official announcement he plans to make in San Diego Wednesday.

Becerra said the suit will argue that federal officials are running afoul of the law by declaring the expansion of the border wall to be an emergency that justifies waiving environmental studies and usual contracting procedures.

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Trump makes nice with Senate Republicans for a hot second between temper tantrums

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 14:53:03 +0000

A few things stand out about a CNN article headlined “Trump privately tries to mend fences with Senate Republicans.” First, its very existence. Sure, every president is going to have a rocky moment or two with his party’s senators, but how often do we see the sheer number and variety of beefs as Trump has accumulated? He’s repeatedly attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, his nastiness toward John McCain is legendary, he feuded with Bob Corker after Corker was critical of his embrace of white supremacists after Charlottesville … the list goes on. The man has a lot of fences to mend, for some strange reason.

But the next thing that jumps out is that Trump himself isn’t the primary fence-mender. That duty is falling to his No. 2 guy, Mike Pence. Of the senators named in the article as having been attacked by Trump prior to fence-mending, Trump has invited Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski to lunch and spoken with Corker and McConnell. But Pence “has been in regular communication with” McConnell and talked to Corker long before Trump did. He’s also in touch with McCain and with McCain’s Arizona colleague Jeff Flake, who Trump has apparently not reached out to—and really how awkward would that conversation be, considering that Trump has talked up a primary challenge to Flake?

And you can’t help but think that Pence could have ulterior motives in keeping such great relationships with the very people who might, depending on the results of the special counsel’s investigation, end up voting on whether to remove Trump from office.

Finally, Senate Republicans really do see Trump as an unpredictable, tantrum-prone child:

"I think it's like a thunderstorm," Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said of his conference's relationship with Trump. "After a while it clears up, the sun comes out and everything is OK." [...]

Asked if he finds that kind of relationship acceptable, Cornyn said bluntly: "What choice do I have?"

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Giant settlement could rein in abusive student debt collectors

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 17:25:10 +0000

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is under constant threat from Republicans, but it just keeps doing its job, helping people who’ve been screwed by the financial industry. This week, the CFPB reached a proposed settlement with an abusive owner of billions in student debt. If a federal judge signs off on the settlement:

The creditor, the National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts, holds $12 billion in student loans that were originally made by banks. In Monday’s settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the trusts agreed to pay nearly $19 million in penalties and borrower refunds — and could be on the hook for millions in additional payments and forgiven loans. A debt collector that National Collegiate hired, Transworld Systems, will pay an additional $2.5 million.

The trusts “sued consumers for student loans they couldn’t prove were owed and filed false and misleading affidavits in courts across the country,” said Richard Cordray, the consumer bureau’s director.

That’s not a ton of money when you consider the amount of debt National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts holds, but the settlement doesn’t end there:

... the National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts must audit their book of more than $8 billion of loans, many of them in default, to prove they can document that they own each loan and that it's not too old to collect. Until it is complete, investors who own the bonds that contain those loans won’t receive any cash from borrowers, even those making steady payments. Instead, the money will go into an escrow account. [...]

According to the CFPB, [lawsuits] it examined were rife with irregularities: Some were filed well past the statute of limitations, others lacked paperwork establishing that the listed creditor actually had a right to collect, and many contained misleading statements. Debt collectors trying to process them, according to the bureau, were so inundated with paperwork that they had interns and mailroom clerks sign critical documents.

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Sickle cell patients fight for competent care and pain management amid racial bias in hospitals

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 16:14:36 +0000

Although there are persistent stereotypes that label it as such, sickle cell disease (a red blood cell disorder) is actually not a condition that only affects black people. While it is commonly found among people of African descent in the U.S., it is also found in Hispanics, Southern Europeans, people from the Middle East and India. There are, however, glaring disparities in how sickle cell patients are treated in the U.S. healthcare system—mainly due to the fact that the majority of sickle cell patients in the U.S. are black. In a country where racism and white supremacy are embedded into every structure, it is unsurprising that black sickle cell patients find it hard to get comprehensive and quality treatment. And, as a recent article by STAT shows, this is made even more complicated by the ongoing opioid epidemic. 

The U.S. health care system is killing adults with sickle cell disease. Racism is a factor — most of the 100,000 U.S. patients with the genetic disorder are African-American — and so is inadequate training of doctors and nurses. And the care is getting worse, sickle cell patients and their doctors said, because the opioid addiction crisis has made ER doctors extremely reluctant to prescribe pain pills. [...]

In hospitals, sickle cell patients are typically treated by generalists who know little about the disease and patients’ desperate need for pain relief. At one hospital, researchers found that sickle cell patients waited 60 percent longer to get pain medication than other patients who reported less severe pain and were triaged into a less serious category.

STAT-conducted interviews with 12 sickle cell patients in order to understand their experiences when seeking medical care. Many reported that they are often treated by doctors who know very little about the disease and the need for pain management among patients. They also shared that it is common knowledge among sickle cell patients that if you go to the emergency room for treatment, you may not leave alive. Failure to provide accurate treatment is a cause of early death among patients and speaks to the need for improved education and training for doctors and medical professionals.

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Is Mattis curtailing Pentagon press access so the man-child in chief doesn't see him on TV? Perhaps.

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 00:31:28 +0000

And now James Mattis joins the list of Trump officials attempting to shut out press coverage of his agency. Given that he is the secretary of defense and his "agency" is the Pentagon, this is a bit of a big deal.

Under Mattis, the Defense Department has become less transparent and publicly accountable than it has been in previous administrations, according to interviews with numerous reporters who cover the beat. The reporters requested anonymity, saying they feared that being quoted by name could lead to further loss of access.

You can tell what reporters think of Mattis when none of them are willing to go on the record criticizing him. The problem appears to be, and stop us if you've heard this one before, that Mattis both doesn't trust the press and wants to make damn sure nobody reports anything that could get him in trouble with his paranoid, hypersensitive nutcase of a boss.

“There is a growing perception by Secretary Mattis that the media is trying to pit him against the president and deliberately misinterpret the things that he says,” said the administration official.

The real problem is that no two members of the administration appear to ever be on the same page when asked about either the president's supposed position or his administration's supposed policies. But Mattis may indeed see reporters asking him to clarify just what the flying hell is going on, during any given day, as a “gotcha” question. He seems to be taking steps to avoid appearing on camera, as well, by having spontaneous off-camera "gaggles" with reporters rather than scheduled, on-camera briefings:

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Republican governors launch site designed to trick voters into thinking it's a media outlet

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 00:11:32 +0000

We were all distracted by the sheer terribleness of the Republican efforts to strip health insurance, and Republican efforts to specifically deport children, and Republican efforts to defend Trump's campaign team from being investigated as conspirators assisting the intelligence efforts of a foreign government. Then there were the Republican efforts to pack the courts by systemically nullifying the very same rules they used to block the last Democratic president from appointing judges to the seats now still open, and the Republican efforts to ignore blatant cash payments to Trump for his policy choices, and take-your-pick from the rest of it. While all that was going on the Republican Governors Association has been getting into the fake news business. And not in a small way, either:

The Republican Governors Association has quietly launched an online publication that looks like a media outlet and is branded as such on social media. The Free Telegraph blares headlines about the virtues of GOP governors, while framing Democrats negatively. It asks readers to sign up for breaking news alerts. It launched in the summer bearing no acknowledgement that it was a product of an official party committee whose sole purpose is to get more Republicans elected.

The effort is led by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who has had time to recover from his embarrassing performance as would-be presidential candidate and has now fully returned to his daytime duties of screwing everyday Americans in ways both small and petty.

The game plan here is relatively straightforward. The Republican Governors Association has created a "news outlet" under the nondescript "news outlet" name of Free Telegraph, one of those generic but geographically abstract names of the sort that a Macedonian teen might use to convince U.S. voters that their laptop computer is in fact a Super Credible News Outlet. The association did so in such a way as to intentionally obscure ownership of the site:

The website was registered July 7 through Domains By Proxy, a company that allows the originators of a website to shield their identities. [...] As of early Monday afternoon, The Free Telegraph’s Twitter account and Facebook page still had no obvious identifiers tying the site to RGA. The site described itself on Twitter as “bringing you the political news that matters outside of Washington.” The Facebook account labeled The Free Telegraph a “Media/News Company.”
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Because he was an Eagle Scout, media loves a white man who gunned down two black men in Louisiana

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 20:15:02 +0000

We’ve seen this story before: a black person is murdered by a police officer and the media becomes obsessed with finding out everything and anything about the victim’s background to justify that this person might somehow have been responsible for causing their own death. This is a phenomenon that is not age specific. Whether it’s 12-year-old Tamir Rice, 17-year-old Jordan Davis, 22-year-old Rekia Boyd, or 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, mainstream media consistently plays into the narrative that black people are thugs and criminals not deserving of life or humanity.

Conversely, white people, even when (or especially when) they are the perpetrators of crimes, are often portrayed with the utmost dignity and sensitivity. Of course, this isn’t necessarily true when they kill other white people. James Fields, the man who is charged with the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, is described as “misguided," “disillusioned,” and as “having trouble making friends.” 

But what is true is that when white people kill black people, all sorts of mental gymnastics take place to explain away what they’ve done and paint them as good and decent people. White police officers who kill black people are afforded the benefit of the doubt and are almost always acquitted because they were just “doing their job.” And white men who randomly kill black people are portrayed as “clean-cut Americans” (unless of course, those black people are in Charleston churches). 

On Sunday, 23-year-old Kenneth Gleason was arrested for shooting two black men in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His first victim was a homeless man. Two nights later, he shot another man who was minding his own business and walking to work. Yet the New York Post covered the story with a story titled: “‘Clean-cut American kid’ suspected of race murders.”

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Trump judicial nominee claimed 'Satan's plan is working' over lawsuit protecting transgender student

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 16:49:14 +0000

Donald Trump’s pick for a federal judicial seat in Texas labeled a lawsuit protecting transgender rights "Satan's plan" and extolled the virtues of the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy during two separate speeches in 2015. Jeff Mateer, who presently serves as First Assistant Attorney General of Texas, is nothing short of a fire-breathing homophobe. CNN's KFile writes:

In a May 2015 speech, titled "The Church and Homosexuality," Mateer discussed a Colorado lawsuit in which the parents of a transgender girl sued her school for preventing her from using the bathroom of her choice.

"In Colorado, a public school has been sued because a first grader and I forget the sex, she's a girl who thinks she's a boy or a boy who thinks she's a girl, it's probably that, a boy who thinks she's a girl," Mateer said in a video posted on Vimeo in 2015 and reviewed by CNN's KFile. "And the school said, 'Well, she's not using the girl's restroom.' And so she has now sued to have a right to go in. Now, I submit to you, a parent of three children who are now young adults, a first grader really knows what their sexual identity? I mean it just really shows you how Satan's plan is working and the destruction that's going on." [...]

In that same May 2015 speech, Mateer said that the Supreme Court decision allowing same-sex marriage could lead to what he called "disgusting" new forms of matrimony. [...]

Later that year in November 2015, Mateer lamented that states were banning gay conversion therapy at a conference hosted by controversial pastor Kevin Swanson, who preaches that the Biblical punishment for homosexuality is death.

Sounds like someone has issues. But if you're not already outraged by Mateer’s nomination, consider this:

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Details behind the raid on Manafort's house show that Mueller really is 'following the money'

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 19:00:47 +0000

A former federal prosecutor explains the complex nature of the statements made to former Donald Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort.

“If he’s been told that he’s a target—that he’s likely to be indicted—I think the way you interpret that is he’s likely to be indicted,” said Michael Zeldin, a former federal prosecutor who served as special counsel to Mueller when he was assistant attorney general in the DOJ’s Criminal Division.

The trick here is that there’s no trick at all. Those interpreting the pre-dawn raid on one of several homes owned by Manafort to be a tactic to get the man known as “the torturer’s lobbyist” to roll over on the rest of the Trump campaign are ignoring the more important point: The intention was to find information related to Manafort’s crimes and charge him.

In details provided by TPM, the warrant for searching Manafort’s residence included activities going back to 2006. That would certainly cover the period in which Manafort provided foreign money to a pair of U.S. lobbying firms, in violation of the law. But it would even more neatly proscribe the period, starting in 2006, in which Manafort made real estate purchases at three Trump properties.

According to a report by WNYC, Manafort has engaged in a series of curious real-estate deals over the past 11 years, all of which follow a pattern that law-enforcement experts say raises red flags. Between 2006 and 2013, the former Trump campaign chairman purchased three multimillion-dollar New York City–area properties in Trump Tower, SoHo, and Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Each home was purchased entirely in cash through various limited liability companies, and later transferred to Manafort. 

Manafort used these properties as collateral in still more mysterious real estate dealings, including a series of transactions that happened on the same day Manafort left the Trump campaign.

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What happened to the Jimmy Kimmel test? Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy happened, that's what.

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 20:12:26 +0000

Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, you remember, was the guy pinned down by Jimmy Kimmel as to whether or not the Senate was going to strip health care from American citizens in yet another ideological anti-Obama pout-fest, or was going to have a bare sense of decency about the whole whether our children live or die thing. He was the one who coined the term "Jimmy Kimmel test" in promising that no sir, he could never stomach doing such a thing. And then four months later he turned around and wrote a bill that strips even more people from health coverage. It’s a bill that targets children and adults with pre-existing conditions specifically. A bill that might as well be called the I Played Jimmy Kimmel Big Time, Didn't I Act of 2017. Around this time, his colleague Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was expressing concern about the rushed process and hasty drafting of Paul Ryan’s American Health Care Act. Four months later, Cassidy and Graham are the lead authors of what’s become the GOP’s final stab at repealing Obamacare. Their bill brazenly casts aside all of their previous doubts, featuring the most slipshod legislative process yet and no guarantees of adequate coverage whatsoever. And neither of them has bothered to explain to anyone why they changed their minds. That is indeed the kicker, isn't it? Cassidy was the guy vowing that stripping children with pre-existing medical problems off their insurance and leaving them to the wolves was a step too far, even for a Republican. And McCain best-buddy Graham was doing his usual Responsible Republican schtick—a schtick that never includes voting against the thing he's railing against, of course, only the part about making mewling statements on the Sunday shows—up until the point where he personally announced himself the point person for a new effort that would take the embarrassing scramble to pass any possible repeal bill the first time around and turn it into an even more secret, hurried, shambolic affair. Apparently Graham’s problem last time around is that the Senate waited for a CBO score to see just what effects the bill they were voting on would, once passed, have. He has now remedied that difficulty. There won't be such an accounting this time. So what's up with that? It's almost as if both Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham are shameless, unapologetic liars whose previous concerns were, to a word, mere posturing garbage. They got high marks for saying supposedly decent things on television—then voted for the bill anyway. When that bill failed they were so upset about the not-decent bill not passing that they hastily crafted a bill that did even more of the bad things, ditched the pretense of doing any of the ameliorating things intended to make the bill seem a fraction less cruel the last time around, and are now thumping the tables saying it's either this new, meaner, less encompassing, more destructive version or America will face socialism. Perhaps Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy were liars all along. Perhaps they wanted press for saying decent things they didn't believe. Perhaps they changed their mind when a few other Republican senators took the decency a bit too far and actually voted against the monstrous thing instead of just mewing about it, and have now decided that the time for pretendi[...]



Spotlight on green news & views: Autumn brings the cool; beware the EPA-calypse

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 22:31:15 +0000

This is the 527th edition of the Spotlight on Green News & Views (previously known as the Green Diary Rescue) usually appears twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Here is the Sept. 16 Green Spotlight. More than 27,775 environmentally oriented stories have been rescued to appear in this series since 2006. Inclusion of a story in the Spotlight does not necessarily indicate my agreement with or endorsement of it. OUTSTANDING GREEN STORIES SemDem writes—I had to tell her she could lose her job here if she said "Climate Change": “Here are three primary reasons Rick Scott has made things demonstrably worse for Irma and every other hurricane coming down the pike: 1. Not only does he ignore climate change risks and refuses any preparation, you are punished for even mentioning it. Miami, on its own initiative, has undertaken a roughly half-billion quest to raise roads and build storm water pumps. St. Petersburg hired a climate specialist to convince state officials and planners to work on combating the clearly visible impacts. However, most communities in Florida can't afford to make these preparations. A Florida coastal planning specialist said trying to adapt to our changing climate without state support is ‘like trying to have a team without a coach.’ With Trump in office, he said it's pretty much now damn near impossible. However, Rick Scott has gone waaaaaaaaaaay beyond denying climate change, and well beyond refusing to prepare.   You are not even allowed to utter the words. Right after Rick Scott’s election, the Office of General Counsel instructed all state agencies, via  conference call, that they could not use the following words in any official communication: Climate change; Global warming; Sustainability; Sea level rise.” Sylvanus Prince writes—The Daily Bucket: Fall's just around the corner: “Just a couple more days ‘till fall, Bucketeers!  Get your rakes and leaf mulchers ready. [...] I am tempted to say that fall is my favorite time of the year, but that would be less than truthful. I love all the seasons of the year pretty much equally. I love winter, although maybe not so much as when I was a kid and looked forward to the snow, and skiing, and building snow forts, and sledding and going snowmobiling. I love summer and getting out and hiking in the woods and taking nature and wildlife photos. I love spring and the return of the birds and watching the flowers and trees come back to vibrant life and bloom. However, it’s hard to beat fall if you’re in the right place at the right time.  Speaking of right place and time, here’s where I plan to go at the end of the month or around the first week of October:” [...]



DREAM Act is an economic boon, increasing U.S. GDP by up to $1 trillion over next decade

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 20:52:54 +0000

Campaign Action

Passing a clean, bipartisan DREAM so that undocumented youth can finally be eligible for a path to citizenship is not only morally right, it makes economic sense. According to new research from the Center for American Progress, the DREAM Act would add nearly $30 billion annually to the gross domestic product (GDP), and “because the gains from legalization grow each year, the cumulative increase in GDP over 10 years would be $281 billion.” With certain conditions, those economic gains will even reach up to $1 trillion over a decade:

Extrapolating from the immediately eligible and employed population to the entire population who may one day be eligible for the Dream Act—either when they age into eligibility or complete the educational requirements—the economic gains could be roughly 42 percent higher. Over a decade, this means the GDP gains from the Dream Act could be as high as a cumulative $400 billion. With the education bump, the gains could be as high as a cumulative $1 trillion.

“On a per capita basis,” notes the research, “passing the Dream Act would ultimately raise the average incomes of all Americans by between approximately $82 and $273, annually … while small, these are important, positive increases in the economic well-being of the population.” And it would fly in the face of Donald Trump and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III’s claims that immigrants hurt native-born Americans economically. It’s clear we need a clean vote on a bipartisan DREAM Act, and we need it now.

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Republicans can't sell their own healthcare bill, so they're fearmongering about Bernie's plan

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 18:40:28 +0000

Republicans have a problem. Their healthcare repeal bills have been hugely unpopular and faced strong opposition, while Obamacare has gotten more popular. So how can they sell yet another bill that would strip coverage from millions of people and take away protections everyone relies on? They think they’ve found their answer: They’re not talking about their bill. They’re not really talking about Obamacare. Instead, they’re talking about Bernie Sanders’ bill that’s unlikely to get a vote in Congress, let alone become law anytime soon.

The top sections of Republican National Committee talking pointsdon’t address the bill at all, focusing instead on declaring Obamacare to be in a state of collapse and turning the current debate into a binary choice with Sanders’ single-payer bill,” Gideon Resnick and Sam Stein report.

"Obamacare failed spectacularly and devastated the American healthcare system," the talking points read. "If we allow for a complete government takeover, hardworking families nationwide will face crippling tax increases, higher wait times, and worse care."

Obamacare has been doing fine—at least until Donald Trump had his administration start undermining it—and it could be doing better if Republicans were interested in improving the American healthcare system rather than in throwing sick people to the wolves. But Republicans don’t want people focusing on a law that is helping them. Probably the only thing Republicans want less than that is for people to focus on what Republican healthcare bills would do to their coverage. It’s much better, from the GOP standpoint, to use Fox News appearances and threatening videos to shift people’s attention to scare tactics about an extremely hypothetical bill that Republicans can block.

The fact that Republicans want to talk about a bill they can prevent from even getting a vote more than they want to talk about either the current law or their proposed law tells you everything you need to know.

We haven’t won the battle to save health care yet. Republicans are STILL pushing to repeal Obamacare. Call your senators at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to vote “NO” on any repeal bill. (After you call, please tell us how it went.)

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Trump campaign chair offered 'private briefings' on state of Trump campaign to Russian billionaire

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 21:24:52 +0000

It's Russia o'clock again—and perhaps at this point it would be more productive to ask if there were any top Putin-allied Russian businessmen the Trump campaign was not in contact with.

Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, according to people familiar with the discussions. [...]

“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” Manafort wrote in the July 7, 2016, email, portions of which were read to The Washington Post along with other Manafort correspondence from that time.

Under what circumstances a fabulously wealthy Putin-allied Russian billionaire might "need private briefings" about the state of an American presidential race, as detailed to him by none other than the campaign chairman of the Republican presidential candidate, is unclear. Very unclear.

Manafort's spokesman claims the effort was because the Russian owed Manafort for past work. Again, though, how being owed money by a Russian businessman might translate into the Russian businessman getting "private briefings" on the state of the presidential campaign Paul Manafort was running is unexplained.

Perhaps special counsel Robert Mueller has some ideas on that, or perhaps he doesn’t.

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Power out across a battered Puerto Rico, St. Croix damage 'far worse than Hugo'

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 20:12:49 +0000

The eye of Hurricane Maria has completed its pass across Puerto Rico, with the center of the storm now just northwest of the island. However, over half of Puerto Rico is still being lashed by hurricane force winds and the whole of the island is under a deluge of rain.

Rueters is reporting that Hurricane Maria caused widespread damage throughout Puerto Rico. Unlike Florida, where housing regulations after Hurricane Andrew meant that many areas of the state suffered little structural damage from the passage of Hurricane Irma, a large percentage of homes in Puerto Rico are lightly built of wood, often with tin roofs. The destruction of such homes can be expected to be universal. Even structures built to more stringent standards meant to withstand winds of 100 mph would not have been prepared for Maria. 

Power is out to the entire island.

Maria, the second major hurricane to roar through the Caribbean this month, was carrying winds of up to 155 miles per hour (250 kph), when it made landfall near Yabucoa, on the southeast of the island of 3.4 million people.

It ripped the roofs off buildings and turned low-lying streets into rushing rivers of debris knocked down by winds.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that 65 to 70 percent of all buildings on St. Croix were damaged as the building came under the punishing winds of Maria’s eye wall.

[Scott Peake, a storm tracker for the Weather Channel] described Maria as "far worse than Hurricane Hugo in 1989." Hugo was a Category 5 storm, and the recovery and rebuilding from that storm took St. Croix years.

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South Dakota GOP leader thinks it's funny to run over protesters, shares terrible meme on Facebook

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 17:45:09 +0000

Republicans seem to think that running over protestors with a car is a completely acceptable thing to do. Though the events in Charlottesville and the resulting death of Heather Heyer have shown us that white supremacists really do use this as a tactic to silence and kill people seeking racial justice, they still want to make it lawful to do so. Currently, there are six states that have introduced bills to protect drivers who run over protesters. And earlier this month, the GOP whip for the House of Representatives in South Dakota lost her day job after she posted a meme on Facebook supporting the act of harming protestors with a car.

A real estate company dropped its ties to a state lawmaker Tuesday night after she shared an image on Facebook depicting protesters being hit by a vehicle under the caption, "All Lives Splatter."

Keller Williams Realty of the Black Hills, where Rep. Lynne DiSanto was previously listed as an associate realtor, announced on Facebook that it was no longer associated with her.

Another group, Working Against Violence, Inc., said they were in search of another speaker for an upcoming event after DiSanto shared the image September 7, less than one month after a driver plowed through counter protesters at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring 19 others.

Let’s take this in—members of the GOP are now openly advocating assault and murder. This is completely vile and disgusting, but not entirely unsurprising. Fox News and The Daily Caller encouraged this kind of behavior by posting a video that circulated on their websites showing compilations of different videos in which protestors were being run off the road by drivers. Of course, they only advocate this action directed toward people they identify as liberals. It’s guaranteed they will likely defend the right of Trump supporters to protest wherever and however they please. 

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Barely 24 percent of congressional Republicans say they endorse funding Trump's racist wall

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 18:30:28 +0000

DHS has declared the US/Mexico border more secure than ever (thanks, Obama), but that hasn’t stopped Donald Trump from insisting that we still need a racist wall that Mexico will never, ever fucking pay for. Basically the only thing as unpopular as Trump and Trumpcare are hemorrhoids and the wall itself, a fact captured by USA Today in a recent survey of 534 members finding that barely 24 percent of congressional Republicans outright endorse funding this border monstrosity (though hemorrhoids wasn’t polled). “Only 69 of the 292 Republicans on Capitol Hill said ‘yes,’” USA Today found. “Among the rest, three Republicans said they oppose the money, several evaded a direct answer, and the rest simply refused to respond to the question”: The House approved $1.6 billion in startup funding as part of a broad national security spending package in July that included billions $658 billion for the Defense Department and $78 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The wall funding was tacked on to the bill at the last minute, and the legislation passed the House with the support of only five Democrats. Five Republicans voted against the bill. The Senate has not yet taken up the measure, and Congress has since passed a temporary spending bill to keep the government running for the next few months. That puts off until December a battle over the wall and other Trump spending priorities. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., indicated last week that they had struck a deal with Trump to move legislation offering safe harbor for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, and that the bill would not include funding for Trump's wall. “The overwhelming majority of congressional Republicans refused to take a stance on the wall funding when asked by USA TODAY. Most simply declined to participate in the survey or refused to even respond to queries.” Democrats, though, “were much easier to get on the record. Of the 240 Democrats in Congress, 133 answered the USA TODAY survey and nearly every one was a decisive “no.” For Democrats, Trump's wall—one of the defining themes of his campaign—was always an overly simplistic answer to the complex problem of immigration as well as an insult to Mexico and Latino Americans.” “Nearly” is good but doesn’t take into account the five Democrats—Georgia Rep. Sanford Bishop, Florida Rep. Charlie Crist, New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer, and Arizona Reps. Tom O’Halleran and Kyrsten Sinema—who did vote for border wall funding this past summer. This should be a no-brainer. Walls don’t work, border residents don’t want it, and all Democrats should oppose this racist monument to hate, one that will come at the expense of the U.S. taxpayer when it’s Houston and Miami we should be rebuilding, not Trump’s ego. [...]



EPA chief Pruitt diverts agents to protect him 24/7, cutting the time they spend probing eco-crimes

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 16:45:32 +0000

Back in May, Coral Davenport and Eric Lipton at the New York Times reported how Environmental Protection Agency-hating EPA chief Scott Pruitt was instilling a sense of paranoia in the agency’s offices. Among other things, they wrote that he required round-the-clock bodyguards to accompany him even when he was at EPA headquarters. Pruitt is the first chief in the EPA’s 47-year history to order bodyguards 24 hours a day. The agency response?

“None of this is true. It’s all rumors. [...]  It’s very disappointing, yet not surprising, to learn that you would solicit leaks, and collude with union officials in an effort to distract from the work we are doing to implement the president’s agenda.”

Turns out—surprise!—that it’s not only true, but it also mucks up the core mission of the agency that Pruitt has said he wants the EPA to return to. Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis at The Washington Post report Wednesday:

Scott Pruitt’s round-the-clock personal security detail, which demands triple the manpower of his predecessors at the Environmental Protection Agency, has prompted officials to rotate in special agents from around the country who otherwise would be investigating environmental crimes.

The EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance has summoned agents from various cities to serve two-week stints helping guard Pruitt in recent months. And while hiring in many departments is frozen, the agency has sought an exception to hire additional full-time staff to protect Pruitt.

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Republicans want you to think healthcare repeal is a done deal—don't be fooled, keep calling

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 19:02:04 +0000

On Tuesday, Senate Republicans pushed an air of confidence about their latest effort to strip millions of health care and demolish Medicaid as we know it. At a Capitol Hill press conference, Sen. Lindsey Graham, the lead author of the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill, predicted that it was Democrats—especially those representing red states—not Republicans, who would be squeezed by his new bill. But 24 hours later, the wheels are already coming off that show of momentum, with GOP leader Mitch McConnell’s spokesperson leaving an escape hatch on the vote they’re supposedly holding next week.  "It is the leader’s intention to consider Graham/Cassidy on the floor next week,” a spokeswoman said. McConnell has told colleagues he will only bring up the bill if it will succeed. The statement does leave some wiggle room to not proceed with a vote. It’s the wiggle room not the “intention” that’s the story. As reporters on the Hill note, the intended vote is a way for GOP leaders to pressure fellow Republicans into supporting the bill.  xMcConnell office saying they intend to vote on health care vote is way to to amp up the pressure on the undecideds over the weekend.— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) September 20, 2017 Meanwhile, Sens. Graham and Bill Cassidy aren’t making any discernible progress on persuading crucial votes, like those of Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and John McCain of Arizona. Another Obamacare repeal bill?! It’s time to jam the congressional phone lines again. Call your senator at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to vote NO on any repeal bill. (After you call, please tell us how it went.) [...]



NYT: Mueller has sought range of records that center Russia probe 'squarely' on Trump

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 19:20:17 +0000

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has asked the White House for records pertaining to some of Donald Trump's "most scrutinized actions" as pr*sident, including his firing of former FBI director James Comey and his Oval Office confab with Russian operatives in which he bragged that axing Comey had "taken off" the pressure of the Russia probe. The New York Times reports the requests suggest the investigation is “focused squarely on Mr. Trump’s behavior in the White House.”

In recent weeks, Mr. Mueller’s office sent a document to the White House that detailed 13 different areas that investigators want more information about. Since then, administration lawyers have been scouring White House emails and asking officials whether they have other documents or notes that may pertain to Mr. Mueller’s requests.

One of the requests is about a meeting Mr. Trump had in May with Russian officials in the Oval Office the day after James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, was fired. That day, Mr. Trump met with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, and the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak, along with other Russian officials. The New York Times reported that in the meeting Mr. Trump had said that firing Mr. Comey relieved “great pressure” on him.

But Mueller's just getting started. He also wants any documents related to the ousting of former Trump campaign aide and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, as well as the Trump Tower meeting last year between Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and a Kremlin-linked lawyer. Trump took it upon himself to personally craft the media response to that meeting, which was so inaccurate that the White House had to amend it several times.

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Midday open thread: Farmworkers get heat relief; science adviser nominees include science rejecters

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 19:11:26 +0000

Today’s comic by Matt Bors is St. Louis cops on the beat:  Donald Trump has 1,217 days in office if he manages to complete his term. • While EPA’s Pruitt keeps talking climate change, National Guard commander says it’s becoming more severe:  Climate change could be causing storms to become "bigger, larger, more violent," underlining the need to have a robust military response to disasters across the country, the top officer of the National Guard Bureau said Tuesday. "I do think that the climate is changing, and I do think that it is becoming more severe," Gen. Joseph Lengyel told reporters, noting the number of severe storms that have hit the U.S. in the past month. The general might want to take U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt aside for a chat on climate change and disasters: Pruitt sat down for two friendly interviews on Fox yesterday to tout his idea for a red team/blue team "debate" on climate. • Jake LaMotta, the real raging bull, dead at 95: Jake LaMotta, the tough-as-nails middleweight champion with the granite chin who was immortalized by Robert De Niro in the revered Martin Scorsese drama Raging Bull, has died. He was 95. [...] In preparation for the film, LaMotta schooled De Niro on the sweet science. "He would say, 'Hit me, don’t worry, don’t worry,' " De Niro recalled in a 2013 interview with Time magazine. "He was 55, but he was really tough. I didn’t realize until I got to his age [how hard it is to] still take a punch." • Mueller interviews his boss on Russia investigation: The Wall Street Journal reports Robert Mueller’s office has interviewed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about Trump’s firing of James Comey. “The interview, which occurred in June or July, presents the unusual situation of investigators questioning the person directly overseeing their probe. Mr. Mueller as special counsel has a good deal of independence, but he ultimately answers to Mr. Rosenstein, because Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation. The special counsel’s handling of the interview could be a sign that Mr. Mueller’s team doesn’t view Mr. Rosenstein as a central witness in its probe, as the deputy attorney general hasn’t withdrawn himself from overseeing it since that interview. A key witness would likely have to take such a step.” •  • An Activists’ Calendar of Resistance Events • Indivisible’s list of Resistance Events & Groups • Farmworkers finally getting some legal relief from the heat, but only in two states: With laborers harvesting in some of the hottest regions of the country, at least four  US farmworkers die from heat annually—20 times the rate in all non-military employees, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But such tragedies are preventable. Indeed, it was the death of 10 outdoor workers in 2005 that actually prompted California to institute a heat protection law. By mandating access to [...]



GOP aide on repeal bill: 'If there was an oral exam ... only two Republicans could pass it'

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 15:46:14 +0000

In public, Senate Republicans struggle to explain why they support Graham-Cassidy, the latest Obamacare repeal bill they’re pushing. In private, Republican lobbyists and aides are a lot more honest about the situation, as Sam Baker and Caitlin Owens of Axios found out:

"If there was an oral exam on the contents of the proposal, graded on a generous curve, only two Republicans could pass it. And one of them isn't Lindsey Graham," a senior GOP aide told Caitlin. [...]

"I am just in shock how no one actually cares about the policy any more," one GOP lobbyist told Caitlin. [...]

"You could do a post office renaming and call it 'repeal-replace' and 48 Republican senators would vote for it sight unseen," the GOP aide said.

These senators don’t know most of what’s in Graham-Cassidy, what they know isn’t good, and many of them either don’t care or they celebrate the harm they’ll be doing. Our job is to persuade them to care or to persuade them to fear for their electoral futures. 

There is only one way to stop Trumpcare: Republican senators must pay their political price by having constituents mad at them. We need you now, more than ever to make calls. Call your senator at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to vote NO. (After you call, please tell us how it went.)

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From cookouts to online fundraisers, communities are stepping up to help with DACA renewal fees

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 16:46:27 +0000

Campaign Action

As an urgent deadline approaches, private donors, community members and leaders, grassroots groups, national organizations, even entire states are stepping up to the plate to assist undocumented youth who are eligible for a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewal and need assistance with the $495 filing fee:

In Rhode Island, where an estimated 1,200 people are believed to be effected by the deadline, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced on Monday that she and a coalition of groups and individuals have commitments of $170,000 to pay renewal fees. Raimondo said the donors plan to pay the renewal fee of every eligible DACA recipient in the state.

“We’re not going to allow $495 to stand in the way of our neighbors’ dreams,” Raimondo said in a statement.

Other assistance funds created around the country range from individuals raising money online to pay their own fees to $9,000 raised by Charlottesville, Va., Family Action Fund through lunches to a $1 million fund established by Mission Asset Fund to help 2,000 DACA recipients.

“We sprang into action once we saw a small window of opportunity to help thousands of Dreamers to renew their protective status," said the group’s CEO, José Quiñonez. "The time to help these young people is now."

Due to Donald Trump cowardly ending of DACA, new enrollees are no longer being accepted. But for recipients who have work permits expiring between now and March 5, 2018, they can renew but must do it by October 5. For many young people working and going to school, raising nearly $500 can be difficult. But, there is good work being done to help.

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Iowa senator trashes 'substance' of healthcare bill but supports it because GOP 'campaigned' on it

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 17:27:29 +0000

It's official: Republicans don't care what's in the GOP healthcare repeal bill, how it will impact Americans, and they won't even answer questions on it. They're concerned about one thing and one thing only: 2018. Following on Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts’ assertion that doing nothing will have "a tremendous impact on the 2018 elections," Sen. Chuck Grassley offered his own cynical political calculus:

x

It’s unreal, actually. Grassley is flat-out admitting that there are numerous reasons Republicans shouldn’t advance the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill—not least of which is the fact that they have given zero consideration to how it will impact the insurance markets and the overall health care of Americans across the country. In fact, just off the top, he could offer up 10 reasons. But none of that matters. Who cares about “the substance of the bill”?

Republicans campaigned on this.

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Dozens of Trump rallies around the nation originated with Russian propaganda groups

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 16:47:05 +0000

Many Trump supporters who turned up to rallies weren’t obeying Russia indirectly through instructions passed on by Paul Manafort or … Donald Trump. According to The Daily Beast, many Dixie-humming Trumpers got their orders from Russia the old-fashioned way: directly.

The August 20, 2016 events were collectively called “Florida Goes Trump!”, and they were billed as a “patriotic state-wide flash mob,” unfolding simultaneously in 17 different cities and towns in the battleground state. 

These get-togethers were organized by a group calling itself “Being Patriotic.” The problem with these good citizens isn’t that they supported Trump, it’s that they weren’t. Citizens, that is. Or even in the United States. It now appears that the group was simply a front for Russian propagandists. And their events were not by any means restricted to Florida.

Being Patriotic had 200,000 followers and the strongest activist bent of any of the suspected Russian Facebook election pages that have so far emerged. Events promoted by the page last year included a July “Down With Hillary!” protest outside Clinton’s New York campaign headquarters, a September 11 pro-Trump demonstration in Manhattan, simultaneous “Miners for Trump” demonstrations in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in October, and a pro-Trump rally outside Trump Tower last November, after his election victory.  

Congratulations Pennsylvania coal miners. How was it taking orders from Moscow? 

Agitating for Trump rallies isn’t all that Russian teams did on Facebook. There were also numerous groups buying ads to support Trump. There was also an investment in fake accounts used to push false stories to other Facebook users. Facebook appears to have been a pre-built infiltration engine for Russia—ready, willing, and able to give access to Americans, and none too picky about who paid for its services.

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Graham-Cassidy tries to bribe Alaska Sen. Murkowski into a yes vote. Will it work?

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 17:05:55 +0000

The Graham-Cassidy insurance repeal bill is a piece of work, intentionally stripping health funding in Democratic-led states and handing it over to Republican-led ones in an effort to hide some of the damage the bill will be doing to those Republican states. This is to give cover to Republican senators voting for it despite the damage it will do. But that's nothing compared to the carve-out specifically for Alaska. On Tuesday evening, Robert VerBruggen of National Review noticed something odd: The financial projections produced by Sen. Bill Cassidy's office showed that, in 2026, his healthcare proposal would award each state almost precisely $4,400 in federal subsidy per "eligible beneficiary" — except Alaska, which would receive $6,500, or 48% more than everybody else. When reporter Josh Barro asked about it, noting that there was no apparent language in the bill that would explain special treatment for Alaska, the document came down, with the excuse that the numbers were being "revised"—but with an affirmation that there will be a special carve-out for Alaska. And maybe North Dakota. It's a complete mystery. Why the Alaska payout was (is?) there, however, is no mystery. It's there because Alaska, a mostly rural state with very high healthcare costs, will be particularly screwed by the Republican bill. It will be painful indeed, and that's why the Alaskan governor is blasting the bill and why would-be moderate Senator Lisa Murkowski is waffling mightily on it. The intent of the payout is to buy Lisa Murkowski's support. It will only work if Murkowski is more devoted to the Republican Party to her own voters, because even with the payout Alaskans themselves will suffer from steep spending cuts. It's a fig leaf for Murkowski to use to say she "tried her best" to screw her own voters, but none of the Alaskans losing their health insurance or struggling with rural hospital closures are likely to believe her. As for Sen. Graham, he seems to be now hinting that Murkowski indeed took the bait. He’s claiming there will be a vote on the bill “next week”—but since Senate Majority Leader McConnell has vowed he won’t bring it up unless Graham and Cassidy can deliver 50 votes, that means Graham is convinced either Murkowski or Sen. John McCain is now in his camp. Thought Obamacare was safe? Think again. Republicans have revived their repeal effort and we must stop them. Keep calling your senators at (202) 224-3121 and tell them DON’T REPEAL OBAMACARE! (After you call, please tell us how it went.) [...]



Bill Cassidy just won't stop lying about his healthcare bill

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 16:21:32 +0000

“This guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied right to my face,” Jimmy Kimmel said on Tuesday night. And on Wednesday morning, Cassidy did a lot more lying about his healthcare plan. He lied on CNN: “I’m sorry he does not understand,” Cassidy said of Kimmel. “Under Graham Cassidy Heller Johnson, more people will have coverage, and we protect those with preexisting conditions. States like Maine, Virginia, Florida, Missouri — there will be billions more dollars to provide health insurance coverage for those in those states who have been passed by by Obamacare, and we protect those with preexisting conditions.” He lied on MSNBC: “There will be more people covered under the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson amendment than are under status quo and we protect those with pre-existing conditions,” Cassidy said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” And the reality that Kimmel laid out so clearly—that Cassidy’s bill simply does not live up to the tests he set himself and will hurt a lot of people—remains:  That statement, similar to one Cassidy also made on CNN, is virtually impossible to defend. The Graham-Cassidy proposal, which Republicans are rushing to take up for a floor vote next week, calls for reducing federal spending on health care through two sets of changes. [...] As for Cassidy’s other claim, that his bill would protect people with pre-existing conditions, that’s not true, at least in the sense most people would understand it. The bill would very explicitly allow states to waive existing rules, which the Affordable Care Act put in place, prohibiting insurers from charging higher premiums to people based on their medical status. With that flexibility, insurers could make coverage prohibitively expensive for people with a variety of medical conditions, from diabetes to cancer. Cassidy wants to make his bill seem different from the wildly unpopular Republican bills that failed, but the only thing that’s really different is that this time, Republicans are up against a Sept. 30 deadline for repealing Obamacare and the pressure to get on board will be that much more intense. This bill will still gut the Medicaid expansion that’s gotten so many people the health coverage they need and it will still weaken protections for pre-existing conditions and essential health benefits and much more. He lies, he lies, he lies—and he lies in the service of harming millions of Americans. Another Obamacare repeal bill?! It’s time to jam the congressional phone lines again. Call your senator at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to vote NO on any repeal bill. (After you call, please tell us how it went.) [...]



Widespread opposition isn't slowing down the Republican push to kick millions off health coverage

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 15:08:59 +0000

Congressional Republicans are determined to pass their latest healthcare repeal bill despite widespread opposition and the fact that they know the bill is a load of garbage. The very same senators who plan to vote for the bill can't explain what's good about it. The organizations dedicated to just about any disease or body part you can think of oppose the bill. A group of 10 governors wrote Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling on him to ditch the bill, and to the four Republicans and one independent in that group, add criticism from Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu: “The Graham-Cassidy bill is not a solution that works for Maryland,” Mr. Hogan said. “It will cost our state over $2 billion annually while directly jeopardizing the health care of our citizens.” [...] Mr. Sununu said he could not support the Graham-Cassidy proposal because “New Hampshire could possibly lose over $1 billion in Medicaid funding between 2020 and 2026.” He said such a cost shift would be a particular problem for his state because “New Hampshire is proud of its tradition of not having an income tax or sales tax.” Here’s an insurance company CEO: “From a public policy standpoint, it is not a good piece of legislation,” Centene’s chief executive, Michael F. Neidorff, said in an interview. He urged lawmakers from both parties to work together to avoid passing a law before understanding its full impact. States may not be able to plan, given the uncertainty over their funding, he said. “You could end up with 50 different plans,” he said. “This is unlike anything I have ever seen,” Mr. Neidorff said. “They have to sit back and think through what they are doing.” “Let’s sit back and think through what we are doing” is not exactly the Republican Party motto circa 2017, though. And to the extent they have thought about what they’re doing with Graham-Cassidy, you know what? They like the harm they’re going to cause. Thought Obamacare was safe? Think again. Republicans have revived their repeal effort and we must stop them. Keep calling your senators at (202) 224-3121 and tell them DON’T REPEAL OBAMACARE! (After you call, please tell us how it went.) [...]



GOP senator won't answer question on pre-existing conditions, shouts over TV anchor instead

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 01:08:22 +0000

MSNBC anchor Katy Tur had one question for a Republican senator about the GOP's latest attempt to strip millions of healthcare coverage:

Can you guarantee the people of Wyoming that the costs associated with their preexisting conditions will not go up so much so that they will not be able to afford it? 

What Tur really should have asked was: How many times can you interrupt me in the course of a minute-thirty, Senator? The answer: As many times as necessary.

Wyoming Senator John Barrasso didn't like that question since it would have forced him to explain his rationale for supporting a bill that does just short of nothing to protect people with preexisting conditions from price-gouging insurers. So he didn't. He stonewalled and blathered on about Obamacare and how there would be "more money" coming into Wyoming under the new Cassidy-Graham bill. 

Tur tried a handful of times but couldn’t break through. Barrasso just kept talking and then shouting past her. At one point Tur had to break into teacher mode.

“Let me finish my question, and then you can answer,” she explained to Barrasso, because that’s how Q/A works.

Watch it below, but don’t go in expecting any answers—Republicans have no answers for the tough questions on their latest monstrosity. 

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Hurricane Maria lashes St. Croix, slams into Puerto Rico bringing wind, rain, and storm surge

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 14:54:25 +0000

Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico in the early hours of Wednesday near the southeast corner of the island, and at 10 AM AST the eye of the storm is near the center of the island as it continues a course to the northwest. Hurricane force winds now engulf San Juan, along with the eastern two thirds of Puerto Rico. All areas should expect to feel strong winds and driving rain before Maria completes its course over Puerto Rico.

Overnight, the eyewall of Maria crashed over St. Croix while carrying winds of 175 mph. The damage to the largest and most populous island in the US Virgin Islands has not yet been assessed, though individual messages report considerable damage. Storm surge at St. Croix was expected to be between 6 and 9 feet—a punishing amount for any island.

Maria began an eyewall reformation this morning, dropping the storm just below the edge of Category 5 status, but it still reached Puerto Rico with winds at 155 mph. It is, by any measure, the most powerful storm to strike Puerto Rico in almost a century and now remains a Category 4.

Buildings trembled as the storm battered San Juan and sent torn off pieces of metal barricades clattering along streets.

Broken windows, mangled awnings and gutters dangled haphazardly from buildings or were ripped off entirely. Toilets bubbled noisily and belched foul air as the hurricane rumbled through the city’s water and sewage lines.

Puerto Rico’s government worked diligently to provide shelters, and citizens appeared to follow both strict rationing rules and evacuation orders in advance of the storm. But the widespread wind, rain, and flooding make it difficult to say that any location is safe.

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Graham and Cassidy using how their bill hurts blue states as way to sell it to conservative senators

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 14:08:55 +0000

What makes the Graham–Cassidy attractive to Republican senators is threefold: First, its block grants to the states, so Republicans can claim to support federalism Second, they can tell their base that they are destroying Obamacare and Medicaid in one shot Third, it really, really hurts blue states, especially California and New York When asked about it in interviews, both Cassidy and Graham have made attempts to excuse that last part, claiming that the bill penalizes only states that have an “inefficient healthcare delivery system” or that the distribution of funds is somehow “fair.” But that’s true only if fair means working out a plan to specifically harm states that went along with the ACA’s Medicaid expansion.  Most states used the ACA’s funding to expand Medicaid; some Republican-run states, liberated by the Supreme Court’s decision to make the funding optional, did not. As a result, 14 of the 15 states that would stand to gain from block grants are run by Republicans; Democratic megastates including California, New York and Massachusetts would lose billions of dollars, a feature both Graham and Cassidy have talked up to conservatives. Get that? Hurting California, New York, and Massachusetts is a feature that the authors of the bill are using to sell it to conservatives—Sign here, kill Democrats. “No longer will four blue states get 40 percent of the money,” said Graham to Breitbart. “A state like Mississippi, they get a 900 percent increase. South Carolina gets 300 percent.” Those four blue states also have considerably more than 40 percent of the people participating in the current plan, something that could be changed by simply implementing the plan in more states. What Republicans have done is take the funding, including that from states that expanded Medicaid, then redistribute it across all states. The result is a plan that would reward the states that were deliberately cruel to their own people, by giving them the money taken from the states that tried to set up more equitable systems. It’s not just the Screw Blue Act, it’s the Screw You For Trying To Help Act. We haven’t won the battle to save health care yet. Republicans are STILL pushing to repeal Obamacare. Call your senators at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to vote “NO” on any repeal bill. (After you call, please tell us how it went.)   [...]