Posts Tagged ‘politics’

UK officials want to know if Russia meddled in the Brexit vote

October 25, 2017
They’ve asked Facebook to provide information on Russian-purchased ads.
NurPhoto via Getty Images

UK officials are wondering if Russia tampered with its Brexit referendum and they’ve now officially asked Mark Zuckerberg to look into whether Facebook possibly played a role, The Guardian reports. Damian Collins, the UK’s chair of digital, culture, media and sport committee sent Zuckerberg a letter saying that the committee was investigating fake news and wanted Facebook to provide them with any information it had on politically-divisive advertisements purchased by Russian actors.

In the letter, Collins said, “Part of this inquiry will focus on the role of foreign actors abusing platforms such as yours to interfere in the political discourse of other nations. It is for this reason that I am requesting that Facebook provides to my committee details relating to any adverts and pages paid for or set up by Russian-linked accounts.” Specifically, the committee wants to know if Russia-linked accounts purchased ads on Facebook, how much they paid to do so and how many times those ads or pages were viewed.

Facebook announced a few weeks ago that Russian groups purchased around $100,000 worth of ads used to spread fake news during the 2016 US presidential election and that around 10 million people viewed them. Those ads and related information have been handed over to congressional investigators. Following the US election and the reports that Facebook played a hand in the spread of fake news, the company made a concerted effort to minimize its impact on the French and German elections earlier this year.

Collins and the committee have asked that Facebook provide them with the requested information by November 7th.


The Dreamer Debacle — Another Trump Unforced Error? — Trump acted on DACA. Now it’s time for Congress to show heart and smarts on immigration

September 6, 2017

By Steve Cortes

Published September 05, 2017

White House discussing whether DACA deadline can be moved

Congress needs to act to reform America’s immigration laws, following President Trump’s announcement Tuesday that he is phasing out a program called DACA that allows 800,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children to remain here temporarily.

The president was right to say it is up to Congress to determine whether these immigrants, known as Dreamers, should be allowed to stay in our country. He explained that the Constitution does not allow the president the power to unilaterally change immigration law by executive order.

Under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which was created by an executive order signed by President Obama in 2012, the federal government allowed children brought to the U.S. in violation of the law to get permits so they could stay here legally for two years at a time, with the ability to renew their permits.

President Obama said he issued the executive order because Congress was deadlocked and couldn’t reach agreement to pass legislation to fix our badly broken immigration system.

Conservatives rightly assailed President Obama for assuming lawmaking jurisdiction, clearly usurping the constitutional authority of the Congress to pass laws.

Even more egregiously, Obama achieved nothing but talk regarding immigration reform when he entered office in 2009 with a solidly Democratic Congress. He instead waited for a politically opportune time before the 2012 election to waive his scepter like a king and pronounced DACA as an edict.

On the other side, many Hispanics and immigration advocates now correctly decry the threat of deportation facing Dreamers, who were brought to America by their parents and had no say in breaking our immigration laws.

Congress should show heart and smarts through a three-part law that would help the Dreamers and at the same give America a sound immigration policy that serves our nation’s best interests.

First, Congress must accede to the president’s insistence on a fully funded wall along our border with Mexico, which was clearly a foundational pillar of his 2016 victory. Our government has an obligation to secure our border.

Second, DACA should be turned from an unconstitutional executive order into a law. But is should also be phased out, so that no more immigrants can sign up for the program. It is one thing to allow people already protected by DACA to stay here. It is quite another to make this a permanent program that would incentivize never-ending violations of our immigration laws.

And third, the RAISE Act – supported by President Trump and sponsored by Republican Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Sonny Perdue of Georgia – should be approved by Congress. The legislation would transform our present chain-migration system based on relatives already in this country to one based on skills, so that we welcome the best and brightest of the world who also love our values.

Paradoxically, it is President Trump – so roundly and unjustly maligned by the mainstream media as anti-Hispanic – who stands uniquely positioned now to achieve this substantive immigration reform, and on “America First” terms.

President Trump has, amazingly, largely secured our border only months into office and empowered U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement to accelerate the deportation of dangerous criminal illegal aliens.

At the same time, the president clearly aches for the predicament of the Dreamers themselves. So he is in the best position to achieve a long-awaited solution to their uncertain immigration status.

Many DACA residents know no other country, speak English as their primary language, work legally and raise children who are American-born.

I disagree with some of my Team Trump brethren who believe these 800,000 residents should be “returned to sender” to their birthplaces. In my view, they comprise a totally different category than adults who willfully broke our immigration laws.

So Congress, I hope you enjoyed the August break that you didn’t deserve. Now get to work!

Steve Cortes is a Fox News contributor, former Trump campaign operative and spokesman for the Hispanic 100. For two decades, he worked on Wall Street as a trader and strategist.



The Dreamer Debacle

Cynical politics by both parties puts thousands of young adults in jeopardy.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks on immigration at the Justice Department, Sept. 5.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks on immigration at the Justice Department, Sept. 5. PHOTO: ALEX WONG/GETTY IMAGES

Updated Sept. 5, 2017 9:07 p.m. ET

President Trump is taking flak from all sides for ending his predecessor’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, thus putting some 800,000 young immigrants—so-called Dreamers—in legal limbo. Though the President and Barack Obama share responsibility for instigating the crisis, Mr. Trump and Congress now have an obligation to fix it and spare these productive young adults from harm they don’t deserve.


Mr. Trump was at his worst during the campaign when he assailed DACA as an “unconstitutional executive amnesty,” though to his credit he later evinced a change of heart toward these immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. The White House continued DACA despite legal misgivings. But in June, 10 GOP state Attorneys General presented an ultimatum: Kill DACA or we’ll sue.

They could make this threat because President Obama unilaterally issued the policy in June 2012 putatively because Congress failed to reform immigration, but the end-run was timed to galvanize his base before the election. He also knew that Dreamers have widespread public sympathy, including among Republicans who otherwise support strict immigration enforcement. He figured Republicans would harm themselves politically by opposing the compassionate policy and that a GOP successor couldn’t roll it back without a public backlash.

This was Mr. Obama at his most cynical, and it takes gall for him to scold Mr. Trump as he did Tuesday for making a “political decision” about “a moral question” and “basic decency.” Mr. Obama’s “political decision” to act as his own legislature teed up this moral crisis and created the legal jeopardy.

DACA allows undocumented immigrants under age 36 to apply for legal status and work permits, which can be renewed every two years. Applicants cannot have a serious criminal conviction. They must attend school, have a job, or serve in the military.

As America’s problems go, these young adults shouldn’t even be on the list. And it shows the Republican Party at its worst that the state AGs and Attorney General Jeff Sessions want to make this an urgent priority, rather than let Congress take it up when it has a less crowded schedule. They are pandering to the restrictionist right that is a minority even within the GOP.

But as a legal matter, they are right that Mr. Obama’s DACA diktat presents legal problems. The Constitution gives Congress the power to write immigration law, and issuing work permits confers a right that is the purview of the legislative branch.

The GOP AGs led by Texas’s Ken Paxton threatened to amend their lawsuit against the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), which Mr. Obama issued in November 2014. That sweeping order granted legal protections to four million or so undocumented immigrants and stretched far beyond any reasonable definition of prosecutorial discretion.

In 2015 the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed DAPA, holding that the order usurped congressional authority. The Supreme Court left the injunction in place last year. Mr. Sessions is probably right that DACA “is vulnerable to the same legal and constitutional challenges that the courts recognized with respect to the DAPA program.”

But DACA presents distinct humanitarian and economic concerns—as well as a government promise that carries a moral if not legal obligation. Unlike DAPA, which was never implemented, some 800,000 Dreamers have used DACA to reorder their lives.

The Obama Administration invited Dreamers out of the shadows and asked them to submit personal identification and records that could now allow the feds to track them down. These young immigrants have committed no crime and trusted the federal government to protect them. A study last year by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center found that 87% of DACA beneficiaries are employed.

They would no longer be able to work legally once their DACA permits expire. And if they forge work documents, they would become a deportation priority. Dreamers could be forced to return to a country where they have no family and may not even speak the language. Is deporting these people really how Republicans want to define themselves?


The White House seems to understand the terrible political optics, which is why it has tossed the issue to Congress. It plans what it calls “an orderly wind-down of DACA” rather than wait for a potentially disruptive court injunction. Current Dreamers whose permits expire over the next six months will be allowed to apply for renewals by Oct. 5, though no new applications will be accepted.

This gives Congress at least some time to enact the current Dreamer legalization process in a statute that is the proper legal path under the Constitution’s separation of powers. Mr. Trump signaled his willingness to sign such a bill on Tuesday when he tweeted, “Congress, get ready to do your job—DACA!” We hope he means it.

This will be a test of the sincerity of both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. Some Republicans like Iowa Rep. Steve King will oppose any DACA legalization as “amnesty,” and will want to load up a bill with poison pills that moderates and Democrats can’t abide. Many Democrats may also be more than happy to block legislation and use the Dreamers as a cudgel against Republicans next year.

An obvious bipartisan solution would trade authorizing DACA in return for additional border enforcement. But Republicans should also be prepared to send Mr. Trump a clean authorization to make good on the government’s moral obligation to these young people.

Appeared in the September 6, 2017, print edition.

Trump took a giant step toward truly legalizing the Dreamers

September 6, 2017

The New York Post

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing and outdoor

Even in our divided politics, it should be a matter of consensus that the president of the United States can’t write laws on his own.

That’s what President Obama did twice when he unilaterally granted amnesties to swaths of the illegal-immigrant population. The courts blocked one of these measures, known as DAPA, and President Trump has now begun the process of ending the other, DACA, on a delayed, rolling basis.

In a country with a firmer commitment to its Constitution and the rule of law, there’d be robust argument over how deal with the DACA recipients — so-called DREAMers who were brought here by their illegal-immigrant parents as children — but no question that Congress is the appropriate body for considering the matter, not the executive branch.

Instead, President Trump is getting roundly denounced by all his usual critics for inviting Congress to work its will. Obama came out of his brief retirement to join the pile-on. In a Facebook post, the former president said it’s wrong “to target these young people,” and called Trump’s act “cruel” and “contrary to our spirit, and to common sense.”

This is a lot of hyperventilating, even for a former president of the United States who must loathe his successor. Trump’s decision is a relatively modest way to roll back what is clearly an extra-legal act.

The president goes out of his way to minimize disruption for current DACA recipients. The administration will stop accepting new applications for the program but will continue to consider two-year renewals for recipients whose status is expiring between now and March 5.

This gives Congress a six-month window for its own solution before anyone’s status changes.

The proximate cause of the Trump decision was a threat by the attorney general of Texas and other states to bring a suit challenging the legality of DACA. Attention had to be paid because Texas and other states successfully got the other Obama unilateral amnesty, DAPA, enjoined by the courts.

In his post, Obama waives off the legal challenge. He says DACA is based “on the well-established legal principle of prosecutorial discretion.” He maintained the exact same thing about DAPA, and that didn’t save it in the courts, including the Supreme Court.

True prosecutorial discretion involves a case-by-case determination by authorities. Obama’s executive amnesties were sweeping new dispensations designed to apply to broad categories of illegal immigrants.

They didn’t involve simply deciding not to prioritize the deportation of the affected illegal immigrants, but the conferral of various positive benefits on them, most importantly, work permits.

This is clearly a new legal system for these immigrants, and in fact, President Obama once slipped and told an audience, “I just took action to change the law.” Prior to DACA, Obama repeatedly said that he didn’t have the authority to implement his own amnesty absent congressional action — before doing just that.

Now, Trump is giving Congress another chance. It has gotten out of the practice of legislating, but it isn’t hard to see the parameters of a deal: a codification of DACA, putting it on firm legal footing, in exchange for enforcement measures.

Whatever Congress arrives at, it will have more legitimacy than the jerry-rigged legislating of a president wielding a pen and a phone.

President Obama’s executive amnesties rendered the Left’s warnings about Trump during the campaign a little tinny. What was the worst a President Trump could do? Push for legislation and when it failed, impose it on his own? Obama had already done it, and neither the former president nor his supporters have second thoughts, yet warn hourly of Trump’s threats to our constitutional system.

President Trump has exercised his powers foolishly at times, but he’s never exceeded them. What Obama calls, pejoratively, the White House shifting “its responsibility for these young people to Congress,” is really just basic civics. Congress writes the laws, even on immigration.

FILED UNDER            

Marine Le Pen Wins French Parliamentary Seat, but Key Aides Miss Out

June 18, 2017

PARIS — French far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Sunday won a seat in France’s parliament, as did her partner Louis Aliot, but two of her top aides were eliminated in a night where her arch rival Emmanuel Macron’s party swept to power with a huge majority.

Florian Philippot, her righthand man in the National Front (FN), failed to win the seat he was fighting, and Gilbert Collard, another top adviser who was one of only two far-right lawmakers in the 2012-2017 parliament, lost his seat.

(Reporting by Andrew Callus; Editing by Leigh Thomas)

Steve Bannon and Scott Pruitt beat Kushner, Tillerson and Ivanka on Paris Agreement

June 2, 2017
President Trump sided Thursday with the members of his administration who wanted the U.S. to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and against influential voices who wanted him to stay or renegotitate it from within.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt had become a leading voice for withdrawing completely from the climate pact. He was the only Cabinet member to speak Thursday after Trump’s appearance in the Rose Garden.

Steve Bannon, White House chief strategist, was one of Pruitt’s top allies in the West Wing as factions battled internally over the future of the Paris accords. He sat in the front row as the president announced his decision.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had advocated for remaining in the deal, arguing the U.S. should not give up its seat at the table by exiting the deal. He was absent from the Rose Garden ceremony. Energy Secretary Rick Perry had voiced support for renegotiating the terms of the agreement, which Trump pledged to do Thursday — but in the aftermath of U.S. withdrawal, not as an alternative to it.

“So we’re getting out, but we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair,” Trump said at the White House. “And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine.”

Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter, and Jared Kushner, her husband and a top White House adviser, both reportedly pushed for Trump to remain in the deal. Neither attended Trump’s speech on Thursday, although the White House said their absence was not related to the fact that the president decided against their advice when it came to the Paris agreement.

Various White House aides and lawmakers had split themselves among the three camps as internal debates dragged on for weeks longer than initially anticipated. Twenty-two Republican senators — including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — sent Trump a letter urging him to ditch the deal last month.

Trump aligned himself with the conservative critics of the Paris Agreement in the end, consistent with his campaign promises last year. This group includes free-market activists who disapprove of resolving environmental problems through heavy-handed government regulations, Republicans from energy-producing states and climate change skeptics.

But in his remarks explaining his decision, the president said it all came down to “America first.”

“As president, I can put no other consideration before the well-being of American citizens,” Trump said. “The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States, to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers, who I love, and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories and vastly diminished economic production.”

Many of Trump’s arguments for ending U.S. participation in the deal drew heavily from the nationalist, populist wing of his administration.

“The rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris Agreement,” he said. “They went wild. They were so happy. For the simple reason that it put our country, the United States of America, which we all love, at a very, very big economic disadvantage.”

“A cynic would say the obvious reason for economic competitors and their wish to see us remain in the agreement is so that we continue to suffer this self-inflicted major economic wound,” the president continued. “We would find it very hard to compete with other countries from other parts of the world.”

That, Trump said, was unacceptable to him.

“No responsible leader can put the workers and the people of their country at this debilitating and tremendous disadvantage,” he asserted.

“The fact that the Paris deal hamstrings the United States while empowering some of the world’s top polluting countries should dispel any doubt as to the real reason why foreign lobbyists wished to keep our magnificent country tied up and bound down by this agreement,” Trump added. “It’s to give their country an economic edge over the United States.”

Trump then told the audience to applause, “That’s not going to happen while I’m president. I’m sorry.” He tied the accord to unfair trade deals and “lax contributions to our critical military alliance” as part of a broader pattern of the United States being outmaneuvered and cheated by foreign governments.

“At what point does America get demeaned?” Trump asked. “At what point do they start laughing at us as a country? We want fair treatment for its citizens, and we want fair treatment for our taxpayers.”

The president vowed to protect the coal country states that voted for him last year, protesting, “The current agreement effectively blocks the development of clean coal in America.”

“I love the coal miners,” Trump said at one point in an aside.

“And the mines are starting to open up, having a big opening in two weeks, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, so many places,” Trump said.

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” he declared. Critics pointed out that Trump actually lost Pittsburgh in November, but his win in Pennsylvania helped seal his Electoral College majority.

Trump will likely face pressure, even from inside his administration and especially his family, to show his commitment to environmental protection in other ways. He described himself as “someone who cares deeply about the environment” on Thursday.

But on the Paris Agreement, Trump listened to administration officials who advised him to keep a campaign promise and spoke up for a critical group of his working-class voters.

“We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore, and they won’t be,” Trump vowed. “They won’t be.”

Rich Retirees Are Hoarding Cash Out of Fear

May 17, 2017
While younger generations get poorer, older Americans can’t seem to spend it all.
By Ben Steverman
May 16, 2017, 4:00 AM EDT
 Image result for dollars, photos

There’s a time in everyone’s life to save. There’s also a time when you’re supposed to spend. That time is commonly known as retirement.

Millions of Americans aren’t doing that, however, which has put the U.S. in a perverse situation. Younger generations aren’t saving enough as their income slips further behind previous generations. Older Americans meanwhile sit atop unprecedented piles of assets built through stock market and real estate booms.

Yet these retirees, or at least the affluent ones, aren’t spending it. It turns out they’re afraid of the unknown.

A new study finds many U.S. retirees keep saving even after they’ve retired. The average American over the age of 60 cuts spending 2.5 percent per year, or about 20 percent over a 10-year period, according to an analysis of University of Michigan survey data by financial planning software company United Income. As a result, millions of Americans are living too frugally, said Matt Fellowes, United Income’s CEO 1 . On average and adjusting for inflation, retirees are entering their 80s richer than they were in their 60s and 70s.

Unsurprisingly, given the data, Americans are dying with more money than they used to, adding to the increasing inequality that flows from inherited wealth. United Income analyzed the estates of people who died between 2000 to 2002, and compared them with those who died between 2010 to 2012. Although the later group had just lived through a financial crisis and worldwide recession, their estate values were 130 percent higher.

“We have to get people comfortable with enjoying their retirement and spending their money,” Fellowes said.

Other studies have found affluent older Americans hoarding money. Last year, a studyin the Journal of Financial Planning found that the wealthiest fifth of U.S. retirees were spending 53 percent less than they could have. Meanwhile, the poorest 40 percent generally spend more than they safely should; the median retiree spent about 8 percent less than the safe amount.

Researchers looked at all the logical reasons why affluent retirees might be so tight-fisted, including the desire to leave an inheritance or worries about future medical needs. The big motivator turned out to be some version of fear they would run out of cash too early.

“We found that even in a worst-case scenario, they could have spent more,” said Texas Tech University Professor Christopher Browning, one of the study’s authors. “There have to be other explanations,” he said–reasons that aren’t rational.

One of those irrational reasons may be simple habit. Something strange happens when people retire, Browning says. All of a sudden, they’re not getting a regular paycheck, and that makes them scared to spend. Goals set before retirement are abandoned, along with pre-determined spending plans, because retirees are terrified see the balances on their retirement accounts drop even a tiny bit.

In all, American households and nonprofits were worth $93 trillion at the end of last year, according the U.S. Federal Reserve. That’s almost $300,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country. Of that, Americans held $25.3 trillion as retirement assets, according to the Investment Company Institute. That includes $8.4 trillion in defined-benefit pensions and $14.9 trillion in individual retirement accounts and 401(k)-style plans.

If the bulk of that money never gets spent, that’s a big problem. Set aside that the U.S. economy could use the boost. Studies show that active retirees live longer, happier lives. There are cheap ways to get out of the house, of course, but a little spending money gives retirees far more options for exercising, socializing, and traveling.

The situation for wealthier older Americans couldn’t be more different than that facing younger generations. A study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research last month found the typical American man who entered the workforce in 1983 earned up to 19 percent less over his lifetime compared with one who started working in 1967. (Women’s incomes rose over that period, but that’s because earlier generations of women earned very little money.) Based on more recent data for younger people who are still in the workforce, the authors wrote, “the stagnation of median lifetime income seems likely to continue.”

What can get rich elderly Americans spending more? One way is to reassure them they’re not going to run out of cash. Tools such as annuities and bond-ladders can turn a retirement account into a regular stream of income, mimicking a paycheck. Insurance products could also protect retirees against huge, late-in-life expenses from medical care—a dominant fear. Browning likes longevity insurance, an annuity that kicks in only if you live to 80 or 85. Other options are reverse mortgages or long-term care insurance.

Maybe the problem requires more creative solutions. Financial planners need to help retirees realize they have a “cognitive bias” that makes them too gloomy about the future, said United Income’s Fellowes. Survey data often show older Americans are less optimistic about financial matters then younger people. Fellowes analyzed the data further and found this optimism gap has been widening over the last four decades.

Even as retirees live longer, healthier lives, they’ve become more pessimistic about the economy, the stock market, and their own financial situation.

After a lifetime of saving, it requires some psychological gymnastics to start spending your nest egg. Browning’s suggestion is that financial planners urge their thriftiest clients to make big purchases–like a second home or a fancy car–before they retire, out of their pot of savings. The idea, he said, is “training people to spend.”

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US House to vote on Obamacare repeal bill on Thursday

May 4, 2017

The Republican majority of the House of Representatives believes it has enough votes to pass the repeal to the Senate. The bill allows states to opt out of a requirement to charge the healthy and sick the same rates.

USA Kapitol in Washington (Getty Images/AFP/S. Loeb)

Republicans in the US House of Representatives believe they have enough votes to pass a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, through to the Senate. A vote in the House is expected on Thursday.

“We will be voting on the health care bill tomorrow (Thursday) because we have enough votes,” said Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday, adding: “It’s a good bill.”

An earlier version of an attempted repeal died in the House in March after moderates and conservatives did not approve of the provisions that would do away with the Affordable Care Act of 2010. The big change with this new repeal is it allows states to opt out of forcing insurers to charge healthy and sick patients the same rate for health coverage.

The vote is expected to fall along party lines. No Democrats support the measure.

“House Republicans are going to tattoo this moral monstrosity to their foreheads, and the American people will hold them accountable,” said Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

While Republicans (GOP) hold a majority of the seats in the House, there are some who are unsure as to whether they should support the measure or not. The GOP can afford 22 defectors. An AP report said 19 Republicans opposed the bill.

Make or break for Republicans

US President Donald Trump, a Republican who railed against the Affordable Care Act during his presidential campaign, worked with House Republicans over the previous days to sway undecided representatives to vote for the measure. Republicans have urged the repeal of Obamacare since it became law. It is considered a make-or-break vote for Republicans.

Billy Long, a Republican representative from Missouri, was initially apprehensive about the bill, even while speaking with Trump, who is looking for his first major legislative victory since taking office in January.

“The president said, ‘Billy we really need you. We need you, man.’ I said, ‘you don’t have me,'” said Long, who eventually agreed to vote for the repeal after Trump promised to add a supplemental $8 billion (7.3 billion euros) that covers health costs for people in “high-risk pools.”

Uncertainty for insurance companies, patients

It is not clear whether the repeal will pass through the Senate, should the bill make it through the House.

Insurance companies such as Anthem Inc. and Aetna are uncertain about the future of their companies with the vote hanging in the balance. Aetna announced Wednesday said it would leave the Affordable Care Act individual insurance market in Virginia next year due to “growing uncertainty” and expected losses this year.

Congressional analysts said 24 million Americans would lose health insurance under the GOP-backed bill by 2026. The American Medical Association (AMA), AARP and other consumer groups oppose the measure. The AMA said in a statement the changes sought by Long and other uncertain Republicans “tinker at the edges without remedying the fundamental failing of the bill – that millions of Americans will lose their health insurance as a direct result.”

kbd/bw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

So much for President Steve Bannon: Did Jared and Ivanka orchestrate the downfall of Trump’s key adviser?

April 6, 2017


With Jivanka’s rise and Bannon’s ouster from the National Security Council, maybe the apocalypse can be delayed

So much for President Steve Bannon: Did Jared and Ivanka orchestrate the downfall of Trump's key adviser?
(Credit: AP/Andrew Harrer/Evan Vucci/Gerald Herbert)

A week or so ago I noted that Jared Kushner, the son Donald Trump never had, seemed to be taking on a lot of new projects. Since then there has been a flurry of reporting on his burgeoning portfolio, including the news that Kushner is the administration’s new point man on China in anticipation of the important visit from Chinese leader Xi Jinping this week. But just as he weirdly decided to take a ski vacation during the administration’s most important legislative battle a couple of weeks ago, Kushner inexplicably decided to take a trip to Iraq this week with the chairman of the joint chiefs and Keith Schiller.

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Wait — who’s Keith Schiller? I can tell you:

View image on Twitter

Joining Jared Kushner in mtgs w/ Iraqi officials: @KeithSchiller45, a renowned Middle East expert (JK! he’s actually Trump’s ex-bodyguard).

Meanwhile, Trump has installed his daughter Ivanka in an official government position that allows her to participate in all the meetings with foreign leaders — the ones in which she’s already been participating since the transition. According to reports from the meetings, unlike her father the president of the United States, Ivanka even does some advance preparation. Foreign delegations are grateful to learn that someone in the president’s confidence can skim a briefing paper.

On Wednesday the White House announced that Steve Bannon, the president’s other right hand man, would be stepping down from his outrageously inappropriate membership as a principal on the National Security Council. Bannon tried to spin it as a normal event, even even the right’s designated distraction-goblin of the moment, Susan Rice. From the New York Times:


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“Susan Rice operationalized the N.S.C. during the last administration,” Mr. Bannon said in a statement, referring to President Barack Obama’s national security adviser. “I was put on the N.S.C. with General [Michael] Flynn to ensure that it was de-operationalized. General [H.R.] McMaster has returned the N.S.C. to its proper function.”

Image result for susan rice, photos

Mr. Bannon did not explain what he meant by “operationalized” or how his presence on the committee had ensured it would not be.

His allies put out a different story: He’d actually been put on the principals committee to keep an eye on Flynn, and now that the latter is gone it was no longer necessary. There was no explanation as to why this took so long: Flynn’s been gone for nearly two months. In any case, the Times also reported that Bannon had threatened to quit over the demotion, so all these self-serving explanations ring more than a little bit hollow.

Bannon had been running a shadow NSC called the Strategic Initiatives Group, described as an internal White House “think tank,” that had been put together as an alternative to the traditional structures within the executive branch. It was seen as a terrible management idea, giving a back channel to a president who has no idea what he’s doing and exacerbating his already chaotic decision making. Evidently, that project has also been tabled, supplanted by Kushner’s shiny new “Office of American Innovation.”

Bannon stepping away from a national security role is undoubtedly a big relief to the rest of the planet, since he is an apocalyptic fruitcake who believes in a theory called the “fourth turnings” in which history happens in four-stage cycles of awakening and crisis. He claims that previous cycles in America were the Revolution, the Civil War, the Great Depression and World War II, and he believes we’re now in another one that started with the bank bailout in 2008. As the Huffington Post reported:

In Bannon’s view, we are in the midst of an existential war, and everything is a part of that conflict. Treaties must be torn up, enemies named, culture changed. Global conflagration, should it occur, would only prove the theory correct. For Bannon, the Fourth Turning has arrived. The Grey Champion, a messianic strongman figure, may have already emerged. The apocalypse is now.

“What we are witnessing,” Bannon told The Washington Post … “is the birth of a new political order.”

It’s unknown how much Donald Trump  bought into this daft worldview, or if he even understood it. We do know that he considered Bannon one of his most important advisers. This is a recent relationship born of the excitement of the campaign and the thrill of winning, however, so it’s not surprising that Trump might turn on Bannon when the going got tough. Now that the administration is suffering one humiliating defeat and embarrassment after another — and blaming the previous president or Hillary Clinton or even the GOP Congress isn’t working — Trump’s circle is narrowing to the only people he’s ever truly trusted: his family.

This turn of events was foretold by the people who know Trump better than anyone: his biographers. The late journalist Wayne Barrett, who wrote “Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth,” predicted that Bannon wouldn’t last. As Barrett told the New Republic:

A guy like Steve Bannon …  I don’t know much about the guy, so I could be completely misunderstanding him, but I think that’s a guy Trump uses up quickly. That’ll be a body he steps over.

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Timothy O’Brien, who wrote “TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald,” pointed out that Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani both lost favor for having high profiles. In that light, Bannon’s appearance on the cover of Time magazine may have sealed his fate. O’Brien told CNN’s Anderson Cooper:

Trump likes advocates and loyalists and people who advocate his viewpoint, but not people who get more air time and attention than he does. That’s been the kiss of death for anybody who is an adviser to him who’s not a family member.

Image result for Bannon’s on the cover of Time magazine, photos

‘Daily Show’s’ Trevor Noah: Steve Bannon Is the ‘Real President,’ Not Trump

O’Brien also had the Kushner rise pegged in January, when he participated in a Politico roundtable of Trump biographers:

O’Brien: At the end of the day, the two most powerful people in his White House, other than him, are going to be Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, and they’re going to have the final say on everything. And whatever Gary Cohn or Rex Tillerson or Gen. Mattis or Jeff Sessions or Steve Bannon has to say, it will all end up getting filtered through Javanka.

Michael Kruse: Did you just say “Javanka”?

O’Brien: Yeah. Other than those two, he won’t listen to anyone in a meaningful way, and he never has listened to anyone outside of his core group and family at the Trump Organization for decades, and that’s not going to change.

All the palace intrigue around this White House is so thick you never really know what’s happening or who has Trump’s ear. But all signs point to Javanka ordering the hit. The question now is: Who’s next?


Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as “Digby,” is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

American Civil War: One Hundred Fifty Years Ago Today, April 5, 1863: “English Pirate Ship” Seized in Liverpool (Picture)

March 29, 2017

Image may contain: ocean and outdoor

On April 5, 1863, Britain seized the Confederate Raider “Alexandra” in Liverpool.  She had been built at Liverpool with funding from the American Confederate States and was seized while fitting out. U.S. government officials representing President Lincoln in Britain worked hard to convince the government there not to side with the southern cause which supported slavery, something already abolished in England. She was not released until the following year.    She was again seized late in 1864 at Nassau, Bahamas, under the name Mary and held until the end of the Civil War.

“The English Pirate ‘Alexandra,’ Seized by the British Government at Liverpool”

Art:  Line engraving published in “Harper’s Weekly”, Volume    7 (January-June 1863), page 364.U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph


Marauders of the Sea, Confederate Merchant Raiders During the American Civil War

This is part three of a trilogy “Marauders of the Sea.”  Part one “Marauders of the Sea WW1” is here and Part three, “Marauders of the Sea WW2” is here.

07 October 2002

USS Kearsarge vs. CSS Alabama. 19 June 1864Long before Germany in both WW1 and WW2 turned the Armed Merchant Raider into an art form, eight Confederate warships aided by four tenders decimated the Union Merchant Fleet. Over a four year period commencing with CSS Sumter in 1861, they sank 110,000 tons of Union shipping. Fearful of losing their ships to these Marauders, US Ship Owners sold off another 800,000 tons of their ships to foreign interests, often at bargain basement prices, but the limited money in hand, was better than waiting for their ship to become another statistic, sunk by these Confederate Raiders.

The Blockade and Leaders
07 October 2002

Rear Admiral Raphael Semmes, Confederate Navy. ( 1809-1877 ) When the Civil War started, the North had but 35  Naval ships to cover 3000 miles of  Southern coastline. Only 6 days after Fort Sumter had fallen on the 13th. of April 1861, President Lincoln issued his declaration blockading Southern States from South Carolina to Texas, and then extended this blockade to Virginia and North Carolina.


CSS Sumter. 1861-1862. Captain Raphael Semmes
07 October 2002

[Image]This ship was a barque rigged steamer of but 437 tons, having a length of 184 feet, her beam, 30 feet, and she drew only 12 feet of water. In trials she made about 9 knots, and coal bunkers were fitted to enable her to steam for 8 days.

CSS Nashville. 1861-1862. Captain Robert B. Pegram
13 November 2002

CSS NashvilleThis Confederate Raider was constructed in 1853, to be a coastal trader and carry passengers, she was a fast 1,200 ton side wheeler, but like most side wheelers did not shine as a sailing ship.

CSS Florida. 1862-1863. Captain John Newland Maffitt. CSS Florida. 1864. Captain Charles M. Morris
18 October 2002

CSS FloridaThis ship was built by William C. Miller and Sons of Liverpool, and was the first contract negotiated by Captain James Bulloch as Naval Agent of the Confederate States. She carried the dockyard name of Oreto, by March 1862, the ship was ready for sea, an English crew was signed on to sail her as an unarmed ship, this arrangement was necessary to avoid any conflict with the neutrality regulations that obtained.   Captain John Newland Maffitt achieved much in only 8 months, captured 25 prizes, destroying another 19 ships and bonding a further 6. To this total must be added, another 22 vessels as the result of the activity of Lapwing, Clarence, Tacony and Archer, a remarkable 47 ships in all.

Alexandra. 1862-1863
18 October 2002

[Image]The impounding of the Alexandra and the trial were part of the change in attitude of Britain to the South, plus of course the Rebels were starting to also lose the land battles.


CSS Alabama. 1862-1864. Captain Raphael Semmes
03 November 2002

CSS AlabamaThe most powerful of all the Confederate Raiders, Alabama started her life at the Birkenhead shipyard of John Laird and Sons, known as keel No 290. 

CSS Georgia. 1863. Captain William Lewis Maury
14 November 2002

CSS GeorgiaOn the 1st. of April 1863, she cleared the Clyde, a very ordinary merchant ship, inspected, and cleared by British Customs. The Alar, a small ship usually engaged trading to the Channel Islands was used for transporting arms, ammunition, and after five days of hard work, Lieutenant William Maury commissioned CSS Georgia off the French port of Brest.

CSS Tallahassee. 1864. Captain John Taylor Wood
15 November 2002

CSS TallahasseeGiven her speed and low profile, broken up by two funnels and two sparsely rigged masts, the ship was ideal for running blockades, but left a lot to be desired as a raiding cruiser. Coal was necessary to drive the ship, and her design suitable for journeys of only 1,000 miles, hardly condusive to the role of long days/weeks at sea demanded from a commerce raider.

CSS Rappahannock 1863-1865. Captains. William P.A.Campbell. Charles M. Fauntleroy.
14 November 2002

CSS RappahannockMaury sent Lieutenant William F. Carter off to seek out suitable ships to purchase and convert, he quickly came up with a former British vessel, HMA Victor, retired as a gunboat by the British, and now used as a dispatch ship.  This ship carried six, 24 pounders, all mounted forward of her twin funnels, she had 350 horse power engine, was fast under steam, and her three square rigged masts only carried single top sails, again, essentially this ship was a steamship, not designed as a sailing vessel.

CSS Chickamauga. 1864. Captain John Wilkinson.
15 November 2002

CSS ChickamaugaNow, the sister ship to Tallahassee, Edith, became the new Confederate cruiser, CSS Chickamauga, with Lieutenant John Wilkinson being given command. He ran into all the same problems experienced by Woods, the ship had been a successful blockade runner, but did not have the qualities needed for success as a Raider, she was fast, but could only stay at sea as long as the coal supply held up.

CSS Stonewall. 1865. Captain T.J.Page.
16 November 2002

CSS StonewallAt the time of this sale, Denmark was at war with Prussia, by the time this ship was delivered, the war was over, and the Danes wanted to be rid of her. The Confederates did a deal, and on the 6th. of January 1865 she sailed out of Copenhagen with Captain T.J.Page in command, and met up with a steamer, City of Richmond off the French coast, she carried the remainder of the officers and crew, plus necessary supplies, up went the Confederate flag, and she was named CSS Stonewall.

CSS Shenandoah. 1864-1865. Captain James I. Waddell
13 November 2002

CSS ShenandoahWith Alabama sunk, Mallory again turned to Bulloch in England, on the 16th. of July 1864 he ordered him to find a suitable replacement for the most successful Raider ever operated by the Confederates, a tall order indeed.

Selected Bibliography

FDA Approves Drug for Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis

March 29, 2017

Genentech’s Ocrevus is first treatment for most severe type of MS

Genentech’s Ocrevus has been approved as a treatment for primary progressive MS, which affects about 15% of the estimated 2.3 million MS patients globally.

Genentech’s Ocrevus has been approved as a treatment for primary progressive MS, which affects about 15% of the estimated 2.3 million MS patients globally. PHOTO: PAUL SAKUMA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Food and Drug Administration approved a multiple-sclerosis drug called Ocrevus, the first treatment for the most severe type of the disease, known as primary progressive MS.

The medicine, from Genentech Inc., is generically called ocrelizumab. Primary progressive MS affects about 15% of the estimated 2.3 million MS patients in the world. The patients with this severe type have watched for years as more than a dozen other treatments have emerged for other MS patients. The FDA also approved the drug for the more common type of MS.

Genentech plans to charge $65,000 a year for the treatment, likely adding fuel to the debate over drug prices.

“This is an historic day for the MS community with the approval of the first-ever treatment for people living with primary progressive MS. This is a real game-changer,” said Cyndi Zagieboylo, president and chief executive of the National MS Society. “The National MS Society hopes this is just the beginning of the development of the next generation of treatments for MS.”

MS typically strikes people between the ages of 20 and 50, though it can begin far earlier, or as late as 75. Its course is highly unpredictable, hence the name of the more common form called relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, for which the drug also was approved. It can cause a wide range of symptoms, like loss of balance and poor coordination, fatigue and weakness. As the name suggests, it can go away and then flare up with little predictability.

The majority of MS sufferers do not become severely disabled or paralyzed, but many will need a cane or crutches, or even a scooter or wheelchair, to aid in mobility. There now are 14 different medicines that are generally called disease-modifying, because they aren’t cures. They include Avonex, Copaxone, Tysabri and others. These help to reduce central-nervous-system inflammation and reduce the number and severity of flare-ups.

However, as the name suggests, primary progressive MS follows a fairly constant course, either by sudden onset of symptoms and rapid decline, or through several years’ advance. “It’s just a steady worsening,” said Ms. Zagieboylo.

Ocrelizumab was developed for MS based upon many years of basic scientific work in the lab of Stephen L. Hauser, chief of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco and director of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences. Dr. Hauser also was the principal investigator in pivotal studies of the drug published in the New England Journal of Medicine in December.

The drug was a product of collaboration between Dr. Hauser’s team, other academic partners and scientists at Genentech, part of the Roche Group of Switzerland. Ocrelizumab interferes with a type of white blood cells that can course from the bloodstream into the brain, leading to inflammation in the myelin covering of nerve cells. Damage to the myelin sheath and to the underlying nerve fiber are key facets of the disease.

Write to Thomas M. Burton at

Appeared in the Mar. 29, 2017, print edition as ‘FDA Clears Drug To Treat Severe MS.’


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